"Psychological Warfare"

For weeks now, Taliban spokesmen have been hinting that a massive new offensive is planned for the beginning of spring. A large portion of the Afghan population takes the Taliban's saber rattling very seriously. By Ratbil Shamel

For weeks now, Taliban spokesmen have been hinting that a massive new offensive is planned for the beginning of spring. It will evidently also cover the North. A large portion of the Afghan population takes the Taliban's saber rattling very seriously. By Ratbil Shamel

Northern Afghanistan is regarded as relatively safe. The Taliban and other terrorist groups are still active, but far away in the southern and eastern sections of the country.

Here up north, people are trying to make a new beginning, despite all the difficulties they face. The northerners do not display much concern about the Taliban's threats to launch a spring offensive. They have great trust in the strength of the international troops and their own government.

Nurullah, a baker in Mazar-e Scharif, appears unperturbed by the Taliban's posturing: "It's all just talk. The Taliban will not succeed in putting the country in a state of terror. They just don't have the necessary economic or military means."

Similar views are expressed by Reza, a window glass seller in the city center near the Blue Mosque. He sees the Taliban's warnings as pure propaganda. "If you ask me, the Taliban are trying to wage psychological warfare. They want to scare people, that's all."

The Taliban and life in the big city

The people in the North can't really imagine the Taliban ever returning. As far as they're concerned, the days of Mullah Omar and his fighters are over and gone.

A few hundred kilometers away, in Kabul, things look somewhat different. The residents of the capital were under the command of the Taliban longer than people in the North. And the Taliban had a particular abhorrence for their urban lifestyle.

The women in Kabul, most of them unveiled, were for the Taliban the very incarnation of sin. The men were by the same token labeled cowardly heathens who even allowed their women to have jobs and work alongside men.

Ongoing suicide bombings by the Taliban in Kabul show that they haven't disappeared from the scene there completely. The most recent attack took place the end of February in Bagram – a town close by Kabul – costing the lives of over 14 people. Here, people take the Taliban's threats seriously.

Muhammad Rafih, a pupil in the twelfth grade, is a child of the war and wishes it would finally be over. "I have to admit that I'm really afraid. I hope that the Taliban don't follow through with their plans."

The defiance of the Kabulis

Rafih's fears and hopes are shared by many in Kabul. But the long-suffering Kabulis are not going to let their spirit be broken. Abdul Qasim, a bazaar merchant in Shar-e Nau, a prosperous city district, is ready to fight. "Of course the people here are afraid, but we're used to wars and we will weather this crisis. After all, we have an army and international troops here to protect us."

The dealer in the stall next to Qasim's wants to finally lead a life without fear of the Taliban. He says defiantly: "I'm not afraid of the Taliban; they are no longer a power – they are nothing."

In the clutches of the Taliban

Residents of the capital feel relatively safe thanks to the protection of their own army and the international forces. But the further away people are from Kabul, in the southern and eastern parts of the country, the more worried they are. There, the Taliban have long been part of people's everyday lives. Hardly a day goes by without a military incursion or suicide attack.

The inhabitants of Kandahar or Urozgan never really got rid of the Taliban. In Helmand, the Taliban officially control four cities. Hardly anyone in these stretches dares not to take the threats of the Taliban seriously.

No one doubts that the fighting will escalate. Here in the South and the East, the American and British troops are also regarded as a menace. Abdul Rauf, a resident of Kandahar, tells why: "We in the city of Kandahar anticipate further attacks by the Taliban, and the village residents are expecting more counter-attacks by the American and British troops stationed in their towns."

For Abdul Rauf, the "Festival of the Red Tulips" is still a long way off. He predicts that this spring in Kandahar will still be red, but not from tulips.

Ratbil Shamel

© DEUTSCHE WELLE/Qantara.de 2007

Translated from the German by Jennifer Taylor-Gaida


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