Thursday, November 30, 2006

Reconstructing The Taliban

Reconstruction funds in Southern Afghanistan are making there way to the Taliban. Now why would that be?

“American money is haram [unlawful in Islam],” said Abdul Jalil, an elder in one village. “We could not use it to improve our lives. So we decided to give it to the Taleban. The most important thing we could do with this money was help the Taleban to pursue the jihad.”

At a gathering in the local mosque, mullahs exhorted the faithful to reject foreign blandishments and contribute to the insurgency, said Jalil. The elders agreed, so the Taleban were summoned and the money handed over.

An elder in another village called Lashko, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told IWPR that the villagers were well aware that they could not use the funds without Taleban consent.

“It’s the Taleban who are with us in the night-time,” he said. “They are powerful: they can enforce their rules and punish those who violate them. One day, the US troops gave us 50,000 afghani [1,000 US dollars] for a construction project, but the Taleban came to us that evening and asked us what we were going to do with it. We told them it was their decision. They took the money and left.”

According to this man, US troops arrived a few days later to see what had been accomplished with their donation. At a loss to reply, villagers told them that the Taleban had taken the money by force.

“The soldiers were angry and threatened that they would not help us against the Taleban,” he said.

Cash disbursements and distribution of goods were part of a special drive carried out in the course of military operations in areas where support for the Taleban has been strong. The fact that the aid was distributed by soldiers from an “occupying force” seems to have particularly angered the militants.

Other reconstruction projects administered by donors and carried out by contractors have had more success, although in places like Ghazni, implementing partners are becoming increasingly scarce, leaving assistance money and projects vulnerable to pressure from insurgents.



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