Thursday, March 22, 2007

Taliban tactics, are they effective?

March 21 was Nawroz - the Afghan New Year
So, the Taliban are kicking off this Spring with some brutal tactics. They cut off the head of an Afghan truck driver in Zabul, along the main road from Kabul to Kandahar. The poor dude was one of hundreds of Afghans trying to make a buck by running supplies in these ancient “jingle trucks” to and from U.S. and NATO bases. Long supply lines plagued every army in Afghanistan since the time of Alexander. Unlike Iraq, U.S. forces do not provide convoy escorts for the jingle trucks as they make their long journey from the nearest deep water port in Karachi – where much of our supplies are offloaded. These guys travel along major routes and into the remote valleys where our troops have forward operating bases, (FOBs). Last week, insurgents in the Nuristan/Kunar region cut the ears and noses off three drivers supplying a US base. And apparently, the driver of an Italian journalist was beheaded in Helmand.
What does all this brutality mean? It has shock value in the Western press. It must also leave an impression on average Afghans. Educated Afghans – like those I know from Kabul – consider these acts just as barbaric as we do. Others, in the uneducated illiterate population may see this as just punishment for those assisting the infidels – just punishment carried out by holy warriors – a concept quite far from Western comprehension.
Italian journalist Daniele Mastrogiacomo gave Agence France Press and interesting glimpse into the insurgency when he described the warrior monks who held him captive.
He told of a near obsession with their weapons, “using them, cleaning them, revering them."
The insurgents, or Taliban, who captured him spent two hours a day cleaning their weapons. US infantry are also experts handling weapons, and I’ve seen some obsessive cleaners among them. But they are also addicted to Western trappings – Ipods, video games, DVDs and Internet chats with family back home. Getting their tour done and going home alive and in one piece is the focus.
Mastrogiacomo said the Taliban are between 20 and 25 years old, poor young boys, without culture or human, sexual, emotional or romantic experience. They are always on the move, only visit their families once in 40 days – but most of all have no salary, they live to fight for their cause. That’s powerful, when US troops fight to keep themselves and their buddies safe for their yearlong tour so they can go home.

Link to Story on Mastrogiacomo's release/ prisoner exchange


Thursday Next said...

You mentioned the Afghan New Year. Is that holiday especially meaningful in the Afghan culture?

I agree that the cleaning obsession makes an interesting point. I noticed it was also mentioned in the linked article. I think it speaks to something larger. Isn't "dirty" the most popular adjective used to describe "infidels"? Or is something getting lost in translation? Also, isn't it odd that in an area in which people are breathing fecal dust every day, the concept of cleanliness is tied strongly to morality? I suppose it makes some sense. In my experience with Christianity, I know that some of the most devout people believe we are all sinners and that we all contain evil within us. Maybe this focus on cleansing ourselves and sense of inescapable evil is a universal. And in such a violent culture, it makes sense that the weapons would become the focus of daily life, because these are the tools of righteousness.

hoochBP12 said...

NAW ROZ - The Nawroz is really a Persian custom - it means "New Day," and it's the equivalent of our Jan. 1. In 2002, I celebrated Naw Roz in Kabul - the first free new year celebration the Afghans had in more than two decades of war. They drink a traditional juice - "haft-mewa" or seven fruits. It's a combination of dried fruits and berries that soaks in water for a few days - there's no alcohol/fermentation - after all they are Muslims. (My fixer hooked me up with a bottle of disgusting Uzbek vodka, bought like a dope deal from a vendor on Flower street)
Nawroz is always on March 21 - as is my birthday. Funny thing, it's also the start of the anceint greek zodiac calendar. These ancient celbrations all go back to pagan times, when spring meant the world was re-born, starting the life cycle.


CLEANING - As for the Taliban obession with cleaning their rifles - their weapons may be clean but rural Afghans in general are some of the most rugged and filthy people I've ever met. I see the Muslim ablution as a way to have the masses wash themselves...