Resentful Afghans unlikely to welcome, support government, foreign troops or Taliban

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Lashkar Gah (Afghanistan), July 3 (ANI) Incoming American forces are likely to continue to face a hostile Afghan population, even as they seek to reverse their military losses to a resurgent Taliban.

So hopeless is the prevailing situation in the landlocked country; that observers say that Afghan civilians are unlikely to take sides or offer unconditional support to either the foreign troops, the Afghan Government or the Taliban.

Villagers in some districts have taken up arms against foreign troops to protect their homes or in anger after losing relatives in air strikes, the New York Times quotes several community representatives, as saying.

Others have been moved to join insurgents out of poverty or simply because the Taliban's influence is overtly pervasive.

Taliban control of the countryside is so extensive in provinces like Kandahar and Helmand that winning districts back will involve tough fighting and may ignite further tensions, residents and local officials warn.

The government has no presence in five of southern Helmand's 13 districts, and in several others, like Nawa, it holds only the district town, where troops and officials live virtually under siege.

In rural areas, the local population has accepted Taliban rule and is watching the United States troop buildup with trepidation.

The southern provinces of Afghanistan have suffered the worst civilian casualties since NATO's deployment to the region in 2006.

"Now there are more people siding with the Taliban than with the government," the NYT quoted Abdul Qadir Noorzai, head of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission in southern Afghanistan, as saying.

"People are hostages of the Taliban, but they look at the coalition also as the enemy, because they have not seen anything good from them in seven or eight years," adds Hajji Abdul Ahad Helmandwal, a district council leader from Nadali in Helmand Province.

Foreign troops continue to make mistakes that enrage whole sections of this deeply tribal society, like the killing of a tribal elder's son and his wife as they were driving to their home in Helmand two months ago.

The infusion of more American troops into southern Afghanistan is aimed at ending a stalemate between NATO and Taliban forces.

The extra forces will be critical to create confidence among the locals and persuade insurgents to give up the fight.

In parts of Helmand and Kandahar, resentment and frustration are rampant.

"They come here just to fight, not to bring peace," said Allah Nazad, a farmer.

Many do not side with the Taliban out of choice, however, and could be won over, community leaders said.

Fazel Muhammad, a member of the district council of Panjwai, an area west of Kandahar, said he knew people who were laying mines for the Taliban in order to feed their families.

He estimated that 80 percent of insurgents were local people driven to fight out of poverty and despair. Offered another way out, only two percent would support the Taliban, he said.(ANI)

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