But What If Kandahar Has Already Fallen?
Yesterday’s landmark Wall Street Journal piece about Afghanistan featured an anonymous military official who downplayed the significance of the Marine campaign in Helmand as a “sideshow” and said the real prize was Kandahar. But, via Andrew Exum, Kabul-based human rights lawyer Erica Gaston wonders if Kandahar hasn’t already fallen to the Taliban.
• Taliban intimidation has virtually curtailed any sense of normal life in Kandahar. Open support for the government, much less international forces, is an invitation for a night letter or worse. Government officials, teachers, and aid workers (those left) are regularly killed, assaulted, or otherwise harassed. Many of the pro-government clergy in Kandahar have already been assassinated or forced to go into hiding because of threats in the last few years. Girls cannot go to school without fear of attacks, the most notable being an acid attack on 15 girls going to school.
• After years of extreme security threats, frequent incidents of air strikes and nighttime raids, high government corruption and graft, and a dearth of government protection or services, the majority of the population, if not ideologically pro-Taliban, are against the international military presence and the Afghan government (at least in its current iteration).
Gaston leaves it an open question whether the Taliban’s gains in Kandahar can be rolled back.