Feature

The Taliban was behind the riots

The week's news at a glance.

Afghanistan

The Taliban is back, said the Kabul Weekly in an editorial. The recent deadly protests, ostensibly sparked by a Newsweek report that American guards at Guantánamo had desecrated the Koran, were really orchestrated by the Taliban and another fundamentalist group, Hezb-e-Islami. Of course, Muslims were truly outraged by the reports of the desecration—but they were outraged all over the Islamic world. It was only here in Afghanistan that certain groups exploited that anger to provoke anti-government riots “for their own vicious ends.” Yet the Afghan government is still coddling the Taliban. President Hamid Karzai misguidedly thinks he can tame the fundamentalists by coaxing them into the democratic process. But “leniency toward those involved in the demonstrations is tantamount to sympathy for the enemies of our country.” And failing to crack down on the instigators of the riots will only encourage them.

Don’t expect Karzai’s government to act, said Kabul’s Rozgaran in an editorial. For the past three years, its only response to violence has been to “give concessions.” Back when Karzai was forming the government, he gave out Cabinet seats to any warlords who threatened him. The result was a paralyzed government packed with the same people who have been ruining this country for years. Then, just three weeks ago, Karzai offered amnesty to both Mullah Omar, leader of the Taliban, and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, leader of the Hezb-e-Islami. We’re already seeing the results of that mistake: Those two men saw the move as a sign of weakness and pounced. They were able to “exploit the passions of our youth, arm them with rifles, pistols, batons, and matches, and get them to chant anti-U.S. and anti-Karzai slogans.” Obviously, the soft approach is not working. The government should take back the amnesty—and get tough.

Cracking down on terrorists isn’t enough, said Kabul’s Eslah in an editorial. Drug dealers run much of this country like a private fiefdom, and they’re growing stronger. They just shut down one of the American companies helping Afghan farmers to raise crops other than opium poppy. The company said it was reluctantly pulling out of the country because drug dealers had killed seven of its employees and it simply couldn’t protect its people. “Fighting the drug smugglers is more important than fighting terrorism.” Until the smugglers are destroyed, “the Afghan people will continue to suffer from the harms and detriments of this illicit trade.”

Frankly, Afghanistan is not yet ready to stand on its own, said Kabul’s Anis in an editorial. “It is very necessary to demand a guarantee from the U.S. for its long-term assistance.” Without a prominent and continued American presence, Afghanistan will once again fall prey to interference from Iran and Pakistan, “and will lapse back into anarchy and chaos.” Some Pakistanis are known to be helping the Taliban, while some Iranians are supporting Hezb-e-Islami. We Afghans cannot resist external neighbors and internal unrest by ourselves. The U.S. mustn’t let a few Taliban-provoked anti-American riots turn it from its commitment to Afghanistan. “The Afghan people do not want to suffer again.”

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