Taliban noose around Wardak tightens
By IWPR-trained reporters
Mohammad Nader, the head of the Dra Construction Company in Wardak, says he has
paid a heavy price for working for the authorities in the central Afghan
Earlier this year, he signed a contract to asphalt 17 kilometers of road
between the Sayed Abad and Jaghato districts. But soon after his firm started
work on the project, the Taliban burnt all his equipment, killed one of his
workers and injured three more.
"In this attack, I lost a total of US$900,000, but no one has helped me," he
said. "In Wardak province, there is no government, and the only real authority
is the Taliban, who impose on people
whatever they wish."
Just 35 kilometers west of the Afghan capital Kabul, Wardak is quietly falling
under the sway of the Taliban, according to many residents.
A senior security official in the local government who spoke to the Institute
for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) on condition of anonymity said the
insurgents were effectively in control of nearly all villages in Wardak, apart
from district centers, where officials exercised ever-diminishing authority
from heavily guarded offices behind fortified walls,
He said that despite the presence of international forces, the Afghan army and
police, officials had little reach beyond the district centers, while the
Taliban had set up a parallel administration across the province, complete with
their own governor, district chiefs and judges.
"Government officials cannot go outside the walls of their offices and people
don't ask them to deal with their issues, preferring the Taliban," he said.
"This shows that the government has no authority and that more than 80% of the
region is under Taliban control."
The security official said the Taliban had such a grip on the region that the
local authorities struggled to transport goods and equipment to district
centers by road.
However, Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Gilleran, spokesman for Task Force Bayonet,
the US Army force in the area, insisted the security situation in Wardak was
improving with the help of relatively new initiatives like the Afghan Public
Protection Program, in which local men are asked to help protect their
“The ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] set in motion a program
that recruited young men to serve as 'guardians' for their villages after a
three-week training program," he explained. "The guardians secure key community
sites, roads, bridges and buildings. They carry AK-47 rifles for protection,
however they do not have arrest authority. The guardians operate out of
checkpoints throughout Wardak province."
He added that the US military continued to be optimistic about the progress
made by Afghan security forces, adding, "We are confident that the security
improvements that our Afghan partners are making in Wardak will result in
lasting improvements for the citizens in the province."
Shahedullah Shahed, spokesman for the governor of Wardak, admitted that the
security situation in the province was a concern, but insisted it was not as
bad as some claimed.
He maintained that local politicians standing for re-election in the
parliamentary poll next month spread rumors about the growing strength of the
Taliban to deflect from their own failure to deliver improvements for local
"It is true that the situation is not so good, but this isn't only a problem in
Wardak - it's the same for most provinces. We have our police, army and
district governors ... and they are active," he said.
Haji Mohammad Muss Hutak, a member of parliament from Wardak, rejected Shahed's
assertions, claiming that legislators had conveyed local concerns about the
encroachment of the Taliban to central government, but to no avail.
"There are police and district chiefs but they can only look after their own
security, and there is no contact between them and the people," he said.
Gul Rahman, a local government employee, said he and other colleagues had fled
to Kabul because of Taliban intimidation in Wardak. He said that some civil
servants were now unable to return to their villages because the insurgents had
issued letters threatening to kill them unless they resigned from their jobs.
"There's evidence that the Taliban will kill government employees and that the
government cannot protect them ... [so] we were compelled to flee," Rahman
Wadod, a resident of Shash Kala, said the insurgents had burnt scores of
vehicles belonging to locals they suspected of transporting government or
American military consignments. "They have warned us that no one can drive
vehicles without Taliban permission," he added.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed, in a telephone interview with IWPR,
warned that "anyone who supports the [foreign forces] and their puppet
government, the Kabul government, are enemies of [Islam] and the country, and
we will [fight] against them".
Mujahed claimed that local people welcomed the Taliban because they were tired
of "corrupt government".
Assadullah Wahidi, a political analyst and chief editor of the Sarnawisht Daily
newspaper, said the growing insurgent menace in the province was a result of
failed policies. "The government was unable to work for the people of Wardak
and it lost their support. The gap between the people and the government is
widening every day," he said.
Wahidi believes Wardak is being targeted by the Taliban because of its
proximity to Kabul, allowing them to demonstrate their power and reach to the
government and international community.
For local people, there is little doubt about who is calling the shots in
Wardak. Mirwais, a shopkeeper in the Salar bazaar, said the Taliban recently
killed a driver who had been transporting material for American forces, but no
one dared bury the body for fear of incurring the insurgents' wrath.
"His body just lay there and neither the police nor the army took it away.
Local people wouldn't remove it either. Is that not power?” he asked.