One of the frequently recurring themes of this blog has been the unreported current of Afghan public opinion which sees the NATO/US mission in their country as an unwanted occupation. This current is undoubtedly substantial and may, as we’ve seen, constitute the majority view, at least in some regions of the country (see here, for example).
It’s not that major media outlets have not reported these developments, but their coverage is typically shallow and generates little echo or commentary. Thus, the story dies soon after it is reported. Below, I excerpt reports from the Washington Post, the Guardian and the New York Times which all acknowledge the reality of public opposition to the foreign occupation. True to tradition, there was no reflection in those papers about what it means to be carrying out a war against the wishes of local people.
The Washington Post’s Karen DeYoung warns of the risks of the Kandahar operation which is taking shape at this moment:
Results of Kandahar offensive may affect future U.S. moves
MAY 23 – The Obama administration’s campaign to drive the Taliban out of Afghanistan’s second-largest city is a go-for-broke move that even its authors are unsure will succeed.
The bet is that the Kandahar operation, backed by thousands of U.S. troops and billions of dollars, will break the mystique and morale of the insurgents, turn the tide of the war and validate the administration’s Afghanistan strategy.
There is no Plan B. …
U.S. civilian officials are simultaneously trying to wrest control from local power brokers and to correct imbalances that favor one tribal group. They plan to set up 10 administrative districts, each with a representative council and money to spend.
Success has been only vaguely defined, and progress will be monitored through what the military calls "atmospherics reporting," including public opinion polls and levels of commerce in the streets. A senior military official said the central question, which the administration will pose and answer for itself, is: "Are we moving toward a solution in Kandahar that the people support?"
Public descriptions of the balance between the offensive’s military and civilian aspects have fluctuated in response to Afghan sensibilities in a region that is arguably more hostile to foreign intervention and the government in Kabul than to the Taliban. … (link)
The Guardian’s John Boone writes from Kandahar, also about the upcoming NATO offensive in that city:
A recent public opinion survey in Kandahar conducted for the US army found that despite their efforts to remain above the fray, most of the 1,994 people questioned sympathised with the insurgents’ reasons for taking up arms against the government. Some 94% of respondents did not want foreign forces to start a new operation. …
Despite the dire state of security in the city and its surrounding areas, there is widespread opposition among locals to a major military offensive, which, like the February operation in Marjah, has been well publicised in advance. … (link)
And Richard Oppel, Jr. writes for the NYT on the "threat" that foreign forces pose:
NATO Apologizes for Killing Unarmed Afghans in Car
KABUL, Afghanistan, April 21 (NYT) – NATO apologized Wednesday for shooting to death four unarmed Afghan civilians this week in Khost Province and acknowledged that it had wrongly described two of the victims as “known insurgents.” …
But in some parts of the country, American and NATO convoys are already considered by Afghans to be as dangerous a threat as Taliban checkpoints and roadside bombs, raising questions about whether the damage can be reversed to any real degree.
“People hate the international forces,” said Bakhtialy, a tribal elder in Kandahar who, like many Afghans, goes by one name.
“Their presence at the moment is too risky for ordinary people. They are killing people, and they don’t let people travel on the road.” … (link)
Finally, the National Post has some revealing news about the state of Kandahar City:
"The Taliban are in control in Kandahar and the areas geographically adjacent to Kandahar city. They control it completely," said Hy Rothstein, a retired U.S. Special Forces Colonel who teaches at the U.S. Navy’s Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.
"Those areas are fortified. There are IED belts (improvised explosive devices) and a population that is not going to provide the type of information the coalition needs in any serious way because the Taliban remain and their shadow government remains strong. …
Recent visitors to Kandahar say the city is overwhelmed with anxiety. Residents fear being caught up in the NATO offensive and are worried by rumours Taliban leaders in Pakistan have drawn up "kill lists" of people marked for death.
The United Nations recently shut its Kandahar office and removed foreign staff from the city because of the surge in violence. … (link)