Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Advantage of Being Evil

The US Marines have overrun all the towns in the Marja district of Afghanistan, and during the day they control them. But at night the Taliban slip back, and they are waging a campaign of intimidation to prevent the locals from cooperating with the Americans and the Kabul government. Rod Nordland in the NY Times:

The new governor of Marja, Haji Abdul Zahir, said the militants were now holding meetings in randomly selected homes roughly every other night, gathering residents together and demanding that they turn over the names of anyone cooperating with the authorities.

Mr. Zahir said the Taliban also regularly issued “night letters,” posted at mosques or on utility poles, warning against such collaboration, and often intimidated residents into providing them with shelter and food, even in densely populated neighborhoods of the city, which has a population of 80,000.

“They are threatening and intimidating these people who are cooperating,” he said in a telephone interview. “They have been involved in the area for a long time and they know how to intimidate people. They threaten them with beheadings, cutting off hands and feet, all the things they did when they were the government.”

It would be nice to say that threatening to behead people never works, but sometimes it does. If many people did not support the Taliban, intimidation would not be enough. But since the Taliban does have a base of support among people who support its ideology, or just hate Kabul and America, they may well succeed in cowing the rest. We'll see.

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