Winning: Better To Be Feared Than Loved

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April 10, 2007: The Taliban have decided that it's better to be feared than loved. The Spring floods in Afghanistan were worse than usual this year, and thousands of people in remote villages had their homes and food supplies destroyed. But government efforts to bring in food and other supplies are being halted by Taliban attacks on the trucks.

There are several ways to play a situation like this. Sometimes, the rebels simply "tax" the relief supplies, either taking a portion of the stuff, or a cash payment for "protection." The Taliban can't do this because they have no secure base in Afghanistan, so taking some of the supplies is out. Getting some cash is nice, but they don't really need it, and, again, collecting the money exposes them to the sharp eyed and speedy forces arrayed against them. Another option is to let the supplies go through, and let it be known that they are doing this because they care about the suffering Afghan people. They haven't done this, instead, they have shot at convoys they come across, or let it be known they would, making many areas no-go zones for relief convoys.

The Taliban are being practical here. Last years offensive left them looking like bad guys and losers. This years offensive is off to a bad start, and is not as destructive as the 2006 one. Then there's the religion angle. Whatever happen is God's will. That's a big thing with Moslems, especially Islamic conservatives. In this case, keeping the suffering flood victims in dire straits also puts pressure on the Americans to divert their military helicopters to relief missions. This helps the Taliban, because if the helicopters are flying food, medicine and other supplies to desperate Afghans, they can't be carrying troops and ammo for use against the Taliban.

The Taliban message isn't a comforting one for suffering Afghans, but it's good news for suffering Taliban.

 


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