In Kandahar, where large-scale NATO military operations are expected this summer, some residents say the Taliban is their only option – the Afghan government and justice system are so corrupt they have nowhere else to turn to resolve complaints and get services. Even as they realize living under the thumb of the Taliban is miserable, some Kandahar residents say they would rather live under that than the misery of another military operation. And after previous experiences, they don't expect U.S. forces to stay the course.
Some voices in Kandahar:
Hajji Abdul Ghaffar :
Hajji Abdul Ghaffar is a 55-year-old businessman from Kandahar.
"When the Taliban are in our area, it is not easy to live under their conditions. People must know they are not helping us, instead they are disturbing us, it is not something good that we like," says Ghaffar. "They call on us to go to the mosque, and they tell us, don't travel on a certain road, because they have put IEDs there, and then claim 'We declared it to you; if you go you will be responsible for your own death.'"
"We are suffering under the Taliban more than we suffer under the government and the U.S. coalition," Ghaffar adds.
"Local people just want to live their lives in peace," he said referring to an old Pashtun saying when talking about the upcoming NATO operations in Kandahar, "When two bulls fight, they just destroy the small stones and grass."
"The Americans will be coming and looking for Taliban in our homes, They may kill us and later they will say, sorry for what they have done," Ghaffar said.
Ghulam Hazrat :
Ghulam Hazrat is in his 30s and is a motorbike driver from Panjwai.
"We would like to have good roads and we love that our kids will get education," he says. "The Taliban are not giving us a chance to have that, and we are weak against Taliban."
Hazrat says he lives in an area where Taliban plant IEDs and burn schools. It's something that local people don't want but it's out of their control and they feel powerless, he says.
"But it is better to live under one government than two," Hazrat says about the struggle between the Afghan government and Taliban shadow governments.
Today, the serious problem in Kandahar is the gap between local people and the Afghan government, he says. "The people have no trust in the government nor the U.S. and coalition forces. It is very difficult for the local people to contact government officials, and they are hesitant to. When they see Taliban activities in the area, they don't know if they should report it to the government or not. And usually they don't feel comfortable enough to report it.
Jamal Shah, Afghan analyst :
"In this kind of condition, if you don't have the support from the public it will be difficult to have a successful military operation in Kandahar," says Jamal Shah.
"First of all, it will be better to bring in a transparent and non-corrupt administration who will achieve the trust of the local people, and then you can start talking about an operation," Shah says.
People also remember past operations, in which they saw no positive result.
"Now people are not optimistic for a future operation," Shah said.
In the past they had military operations in Panjwai and Zari districts, but that did not change the lives of ordinary people – in fact it brought Taliban back to the area, when the coalition forces moved out – and they were more extreme and angry, he says.
The big thing that most people are talking about is the incapable administration that is the cause of distrust toward the government, Shah says. They do believe there is need of clearing up the area from the Taliban, but for some people it is dilemma because of what may happen after.
"The coalition will leave the area again, and they will install a weak Afghan police force there, leaving the people to suffer again," Shah says.
Shah says residents talk about how easy it was for the Americans to remove the Taliban regime in 2001, and why can't they fix the insurgency problem now? How did it start back up?
"People are starting to look at the American policy with doubt. They don't believe the Americans are here to bring peace to people. The doubt will increase more if they have an operation without a good positive result."
Abdul Halim, ex-Mujahideen commander :
"Some people think that there is a lack of understanding from the Americans and the local government in Kandahar," says Abdul Halim, who once fought against the Soviets.
"The Taliban of today are not the Taliban from Pakistan or Chechnya. They are the Taliban from our areas, from our villages. It is very hard for a police chief to distinguish who is a Talib, who are the sympathizers and who are not part of the Taliban," Halim says.
"We seriously need an operation but it must involve the people who know this area best and who know most of the Taliban," he adds.