Counter-Terrorism: Let's All Self-Destruct

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August 23, 2006: In Afghanistan, often the best counter-terrorism strategy is to just stand aside and let the terrorists self-destruct. For example, the current Taliban invasion of southern Afghanistan, using several thousand hired guns from Pakistan, has produced some unanticipated, by the Taliban, side effects. For example, the Taliban's efforts to enforce Sharia (Islamic law) have been one reason some tribes have been reluctant to provide support. Another factor is atrocities. In one case, a group of Taliban hanged a 71 year old woman and her grandchild, allegedly for being "spies." However, the victim's tribe knew was nonsense. The result was that the tribe basically turned the local Taliban in to the police, with some casualties. In cases like this, police respond promptly when they get tips from tribesmen pissed off at the Taliban. The cops have learned that, if they want to survive, they have to be respectful of tribal customs and attitudes.
Another hugely unpopular Taliban strategy has been the attempt to destroy all secular schools. Attacks on schools increased about 600 percent over 2005. Some 210 secular schools have been attacked at least once, and about two-thirds of these have been destroyed. Scores of teachers and students have been killed and many more wounded. In some Taliban-influenced provinces, no schools are currently operating. This is very unpopular with most of the tribes. Even rural Afghans understand that a secular education is a major economic benefit for their children. This does not preclude going to the local mosque for religious education as well. But the Taliban are very insistent on there being only religious schools. Secular schools are considered un-Islamic. Thus the government merely has to offer to assist in rebuilding damaged schools in order to appear a better choice than the Taliban. Recruiting new teachers is more difficult, with the tribes being pressured to provide security if they expect to get any outsiders to take teaching jobs. This forces the tribes to actively oppose the Taliban, if they want to see the secular schools back in operation. So, although the Taliban are able to call on common culture and tradition to rally support, they cancel it all out by playing rough, and ignoring local sentiments.

 


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