Monday, July 12, 2010

"Winning hearts and minds" in Afghanistan

Juan Cole makes the following observation about recent events in Afghanistan in 6 US Troops Killed in Afghanistan; Mazar Demonstration says 'Yankee Go Home' Informed Comment 07/11/2010;

NATO admitted to unintentionally killing 6 civilians on Thursday with errant artillery fire, a day after US friendly fire killed 5 Afghanistan National Army troops.

Afghans allege that on Wednesday, US forces wrongly killed two Afghan security guards in a raid on a market in the northern Balkh province on the outskirts of Mazar-i Sharif. According to Afghanpaper writing in Dari Persian, in that city on Saturday, about 1,000 demonstrators marched from the shrine of Ali to the offices of UNAMI, a UN organization, chanting and walking for 3 hours in protest against the wrongful killing. NATO said that the two security guards declined to lower their weapons, which is why they were shot, and that NATO forces were pursuing elements of the Haqqani Network in the area. Dr. Muhammad Afzal Hadid, head of the Balkh consultative council, was among those who marched. He said that Balkh has been a relatively secure province but that such actions risk causing its residents to begin taking a dim view of the foreign military forces and of the Afghanistan government. The demonstrators presented a petition at the end that the Afghanistan state intervene to prevent NATO and US troops from engaging in these senseless strikes.

The demonstrators raised aloft a banner saying, "We ask that our own Islamic government halt the arbitary [sic] attacks of the foreign forces in Afghanistan." ...

Mazar is Afghanistan's fourth-largest city (after Herat), with a population of about 300,000, and is largely Persian-speaking Tajik, with significant other northern populations such as Turkic-speaking Uzbeks and Turkmen. Mazar residents are among the more secular-minded Afghans, as well has having the best-developed local economy. (They have long been under Russian influence via Uzbekistan to the north). They hated the Taliban so much that they rose up and massacred them in the thousands (the Taliban later repaid the favor). For the US to manage to get up a demonstration against itself in Mazar is a pretty alarming sign of losing hearts and minds. [my emphasis]
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