The eastern provinces of Afghanistan abutting the Pakistani tribal areas provide cross-border access to the Taliban-led insurgent coalition. Whatever else you think about the Afghanistan war, the Obama administration decided in 2009 to deemphasize security operations in the east at the expense of a wide-ranging effort to reverse Taliban momentum in the south. The best that can be said of that effort so far is that Taliban momentum, by the administration’s account, is stalled. Meanwhile, in the east, this is what’s happening, the Times reports:
The September parliamentary elections further illustrated the Taliban’s grip on eastern Ghazni, about 90 miles south of Kabul. In Andar, a district of about 100,000 people, only three people voted.
One place the government’s minimal footprint can be seen is in the schools. The government pays teachers’ salaries and buys books. But even here, the Taliban assert their influence. At a school of about 1,300 boys and 30 teachers in the nearby village of Chawni, the Taliban recently posted a letter on the wall detailing the curriculum that was to be taught.
“So here they get money from the government, books from the government, and they think it’s perfectly legitimate to teach what that Taliban tells them,” said Captain Schwengler, who commands the Third Battalion’s Company B.
Is that meant as criticism of a population that has to live under the Taliban’s grip even while an American presence patrols in the area? Seems like a perfectly rational calculation to me.
So how goes Maj. Gen. Campbell’s plan to secure eastern Afghanistan at its halfway point? There’s hardly enough evidence from a piece about part of Ghazni to judge, but the early signs are ominous ones.