Taliban Working to Seize Power in Afghanistan

The Taliban has stepped up terrorist operations in Afghanistan, in hopes of destabilizing the Karzai government and seizing back power.

Karzai under siege from Taliban in run-up to polls (Independent)

Back home in Kabul [President Hamid Karzai] is under siege as never before. The Taliban have stepped up their attacks in the south of the country, two months away from parliamentary elections. Many believe that with the help of their former backers, Pakistan’s ISI military intelligence, and infiltrated by al-Qa’ida, the Taliban are bent on returning to power through the gun rather than the ballot box.

Over the past year, the attacks in the south-east have become much more targeted and professional, according to senior British officials who express disappointment that even in Mr Karzai’s home region of Kandahar the insurgency is on the rise. “They are shooting clergy, unarmed clergy. They’re killing women. They go and burn a school made of tents,” President Karzai said yesterday in an interview, noting that cross-border activity from Pakistan was contributing to the unrest. Twenty-four insurgents were killed on the border last week.

He pointedly declined to praise Pakistani co-operation when asked how helpful Islamabad has been. “We are in contact with them. I spoke to the President twice at the height of those activities, the US government is in touch with them. For us, the end result is very important: that is, when these activities are reduced or when they cease completely, then we would call our co-operation successful.”

Asked about foreign involvement in the Islamic insurgency, he said: “A lot of them are foreign.” Authorities had arrested attackers from Arab countries, from Pakistan, and from central Asia, including from Kazakhstan, he said.

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The country is virtually cut in two, with the northern provinces relatively quiet while conflict continues in the south, where the US-led coalition is on the trail of Osama bin Laden and the Taliban leader Mullah Omar. The Taliban claimed responsibility for shooting down an American helicopter in the east of the country last month.

It is against this background that the parliamentary and provincial elections are scheduled to take place in September. But Mr Karzai said that, despite the gun culture and pervasive warlordism in the country, 60,000 weapons had been handed in during the disarmament process that ended last week. A total of 216 candidates have been barred from standing because of their links to armed groups. The next challenge for the government is the disbanding of illegal armed groups across the country.

Establishing order is essential, no doubt, for maintaining legitimacy. Of course, even established governments have difficulty stopping terrorist attacks on their soil. Israel and the UK are the obvious examples.

FILED UNDER: Afghanistan War, General
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.