Colonel Martin Schweitzer reports 65 of 85 districts in his 4th Brigade Combat Team’s area of eastern Afghanistan are Pro Government as more and more of the citizens see and feel the progress being made. The Afghan National Army, who has taken the lead in planning and conducting counter insurgency operations, also conducts regular meetings with village elders and district leaders. These local leaders are expressing their disgust with the Taliban and their Al Qaeda supporters. A short time ago Coalition Soldiers were cursed as “foreign fighters” now the tables have turned. When a village elder talks of “foreign fighters demanding food, driving families out of their homes, using our wives and children to shield them from attacks” it is the Arabs, Chechens, Turks, the Al Qaeda members struggling to keep their Taliban allies under control and loyal to the cause. Like their affiliate Al Qaeda in Iraq, Al Qaeda and their Taliban servants have betrayed their supporters, with out a population to provide a place to hide, food, water, medical care, their defeat draws ever closer. As the insurgent organizations fight harder to remain relevant, as their tactics grow ever more violent, they find entire villages taking up arms against them, refusing them the food and shelter they need, the new roads the government has built now bring the Afghan National Army, capable of responding to insurgent activity or natural disasters like avalanches or flooding. The roads also bring international money and aid organizations to build schools, power plants, clinics. The insurgents along with the Afghan citizens have learned helicopters don’t only bring US Troops anymore, now they bring the ANA Commandos. The knowledge that their own government and their own people are capable of providing them security is providing the single biggest step in the progress of Afghanistan since the 2001 overthrow of the Taliban.
President Hamid Karzai has recently appointed Mullah Abdul Salaam, a former Taliban commander, as the Governor of the recently retaken Musa Qala District. Salaam described his reasons for “defecting” in a conversation with US Ambassador William Wood.
“Un-Islamic” trials were being carried out in Musa Qala on the orders of Pakistani and Chechen fighters…they were calling everyone Taliban who were not real Taliban. They should make a difference between real Taliban and drug users and smugglers,” Salaam said. “This place (Musa Qala) was under the control of smugglers, drug dealers, and Islamic law was not implemented here.”
Salaam joins a growing group of Afghan leaders who are “former” insurgents. Ministers in Kabul, Provincial Governors, District Governors, Chiefs of Police and Army Commanders who, a few years or a few months ago were Taliban or HIG have found their own way out of the war, leaving their former organization behind. These “former” insurgents, along with their “former” Mujahidin peers who make up the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan have formed the “Peace Convoy” and are aimed at converting even more insurgents.
“The aim (of the council) is national unity and holding talks with those Afghani Taliban who are upset with government,” said Noor Agha Zwak, spokesman for the governor of the strategic eastern province of Nangarhar, Gul Agha Sherzai who is leading the effort. The talks will be with those Taliban who have no links with al Qaeda and (will aim) to include them in the government.”
In the past thirty years of war, against the Soviets, against each other, against the Taliban, it wasn’t the first time these former insurgents and former mujahidin had fought against each other. It isn’t the first time they have been allies or worked together either. It is the first time they have successfully brought progress and security to their fellow citizens and neighbors and it won’t be the last.