December 6, 2007: A
poll conducted by foreign news organizations found that 72 percent of Afghans
approve presence of 55,000 U.S. and NATO troops. But only 68 percent believed
the foreign troops were doing a good job. Not surprisingly, 92 percent of the
population opposed the Taliban. Foreign terrorists are opposed by 83 percent of
About twenty percent of
the population is believed to be very conservative, especially in terms of
religion. The majority of the population is socially and religiously
conservative by Western standards. These is a sharp divide between urban and
rural Afghans, and most of the population is still rural.
This year, about 6,000
people died because of the Taliban and al Qaeda violence. That's actually about
the same number as were killed last year. The 55,000 foreign troops suffered
210 dead, while the 100,000 Afghan soldiers and police lost 700 so far this
year. Over 4,000 Taliban were killed, plus nearly a thousand civilians. There
were also over a thousand people killed because of criminal violence (drug
gangs, bandits and warlord or tribal feuds).
The Taliban take heart
from the growing reluctance of NATO countries to remain in Afghanistan, partly
because of the number of their soldiers killed. To the Taliban, it is a source
of pride that, although they lose over ten men for every NATO soldier killed,
it is the NATO countries that are likely to falter and flee the battlefield
first. The Taliban believe they are carrying out God's Will, while the NATO
nations are a bunch of weak unbelievers.
Although most Afghans
oppose the government, these Afghans are perplexed at NATO fears and anxieties.
Afghan security forces suffered seven dead per thousand troops this year,
versus four per thousand for NATO troops, The Taliban suffered over 100 dead
per thousand. What's the problem? Afghans believe that the Taliban are on a
losing trajectory. They have seen this sort of tribal war before. It can go on
for years, but anyone losing as heavily as the Taliban, eventually suffer less
and less tribal support. Even the drug gangs want to bring the death rate down,
as it's bad for business (disruptive and makes it harder to recruit). As poor
as the Afghans are, suicide for money is not a popular concept.
Meanwhile, the Taliban
have shut down many reconstruction projects in the south. This has angered most
of the Afghans affected. There is a growing animosity between the pro and
anti-Taliban tribes. More tribal leaders are moving over to the government
side, than the other way around. But ask any Afghan how long it could go on,
and you get a shrug, or someone who points out that the country has been at war
for thirty years already, with a few brakes because of sheer exhaustion. Make
sense out of that.