Taliban fighters have been evicted from 50 villages in
eastern Afghanistan, local leaders said, in an uprising Kabul hopes will
spread across insurgent-held territory.More than 250 men have
taken up arms in Ghazni province and are fighting nearly daily
skirmishes against Taliban attempts to retake the area.Their
armed campaign began in protest at insurgent edicts closing schools and
bazaars, as well as resentment that the Taliban were outsiders taking
orders from Pakistan.In four months of fighting, the uprising has
lost more than 20 members but claims to have cleared an enclave of
Andar district that had previously been under tight Taliban control. Its
progress is being closely watched by NATO and western officials who
have long hoped that the insurgents' repression might provoke a movement
similar to the Sunni Awakening brigades that turned against al-Qaida in
Iraq.But they are doubtful over who is directing the revolt and wary that it has been hijacked by leaders from other armed factions.
Many in the uprising seem as opposed to the international coalition and President Hamid Karzai as they are to the insurgents.
Kamrani, 24, a graduate who now commands dozens of anti-Taliban
fighters, said his men were in daily clashes, some lasting up to 10
hours. Since forcing the insurgents out of about a sixth of Andar's
villages, they had been able to reopen shops in the district centre and
longclosed boys' schools.Militiamen on motorbikes patrol their
fields and villages armed with a jumble of weapons left over from the
Russian occupation and ensuing civil war."The Taliban are very
strong, but, according to my belief, the community is on our side and
they cannot stand against us," Kamrani said.As he showed off his
force, they received a call that the Taliban had been spotted near one
of their villages, and several of his men took to their motorcycles to
chase them away.Frustration with the Taliban had grown in recent
years, he said, as they appeared to be controlled more and more by
outsiders from Pakistan."They were applying the law of Pakistan
here in Afghanistan. They were creating their own rules on the orders of
Pakistan," he said.Mohammad Nazir, 42, a father of four, said the Taliban had initially been welcomed in Andar but had grown tyrannical.
were helpless in many things," he said. "The schools were closed, the
shops were closed, my sons were not able to go to school. We had talked
about what to do many times in the past, but we decided to rise up in
the spring."The Taliban deny that the rebellion is a popular
movement, saying it is funded and directed by America and the Afghan
government. They have promised to retake the area and this week
distributed letters again threatening to kill those who resisted.
Privately, though, they have tried to negotiate."The Taliban have requested many times for us to talk with them," said Kamrani. "There's no trust left, though."
observers are still suspicious of who is really behind the uprising.
Local MPs and western officials say that Asadullah Khalid, Karzai's
southern security chief, had tried to take control and steer it to other
areas. Khalid and Kamrani both confirmed that he was helping the
uprising to find ammunition but claimed that he was acting independently
of the government because his family was from Ghazni province.The government had no involvement in the uprising, they said.
Another fear is that the fighting may be only a power grab by a rival armed faction disguised as a popular movement.
commanders stress they are watching but not giving support. Brig.-Gen.
Lewis Boone, from the International Security Assistance Force, said:
"The basic situation in Andar is they don't like us and they don't like
the Taliban. They want to be left alone, essentially. Are we looking at
it closely?"You bet we are. Is it another uprising like we saw in Iraq? I think that would be a leap."
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