March 22nd, 2010
10:07 AM ET

Kandahar residents wary of coming offensive

I’m talking to a man with one arm and one leg. His other limbs were recently amputated. The bandages are bloody. He’s smiling.

Sitting on the edge of Atha Jan’s hospital bed, it’s impossible not to be moved by the trauma he’s suffered and the physical and emotional challenges he’s yet to face. This 27-year-old father of two must now provide for his family while living with a major disability. And he’s smiling.

His limbs were taken by a suicide car bomb detonated outside Kandahar’s prison. He was riding by on a motor bike at the time. It was one of five bombs that exploded across Kandahar that night, killing 35 people. 57 were injured.

The Taliban have boastfully claimed responsibility for the attack. But Jan says he doesn’t know who did it. Even more baffling – he insists he doesn’t care. But he wants the violence to end.

"This killing must stop in Afghanistan. It’s a massacre," he says.

Jan’s reluctance to openly criticise the Taliban isn’t unusual here. The Kandahar hospital is busy trying to heal bodies damaged by explosive booby traps and suicide bombs. But no one we talk to will blame the insurgents for their injuries.

Many of the people in Kandahar, especially its outer suburbs, are not free to choose sides in this war because the Taliban walk their streets.

That’s why Afghan and International forces are now focussing their attention on this region. They’re planning a strategy similar to that being used around Marja in Helmand province. First, clear the ground of insurgents. Then, hold it and quickly bring in government services to start improving people’s lives. The goal is to create a secure environment where people can choose sides and in the process hopefully win their loyalty.

Jan fears the coming offensive. "It will bring more problems," he says. "This will create more problems if they start operations like they had in Helmand. It will hurt more people."

Jan believes the fighting will be intense because everyone knows the operation is coming. "They are getting ready and the Taliban are also getting ready for a fight. And the local people will be caught in the middle and will get hurt."

His father-in-law Ubidullah expresses another common view here. "Fighting achieves nothing except destroying the country and its people," he says. "It’s better to reach an agreement. The elders must sit together. The people must sit together. We must be united."

A key part of the new military strategy here is getting permission from local communities before launching offensive operations. But in Kandahar hospital even those who suffer because of the Taliban are reluctant to approve an operation that could drive the insurgents from their neighbourhoods. They say they want peace and stability but not at the cost of more blood shed.

soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. michael howard

    OK i know we hate anything that is'nt freindly to our own way of thinking but,
    the taliban were the ones who stabalized the region stoping mass slaughter,
    rape,theft, and illicit drug dealing.

    I personly do not like their methods or ideolagies,but...
    WE put people with massive afghan blood on their hands back into power
    and expect them to like us.not happening.

    We really are the insurgents,the taliban control the majority of the country as does their law,they move freely about the country while we fear remote bombs,
    and they are indeginous to the region while karzai is a corrupt leader of a puppet government.

    fact is,they are extreme,but it's an extremism born of their blood.

    April 11, 2010 at 4:16 am | Report abuse |
  2. Magnus Opus

    these people are so scared they cant even point out the people who attack them. Why are we so ignorant as to not even being able to see wtf is going on? Do you think any sane man will submit to tyranny?

    We need to show these people we ( our help) is there to stay and that they can trust us and call upon us for help. If not, the talibans will keep these poor uneducated people in fear and threat of violence etc. It is not as easy as it sounds and needs full fledged humanitarian efforts from our part,

    if not the citizens of aghanistan and iraq will be manipulated by the fundamentalists and told US is not helping them and only hurting them and their lifestyle

    it is important they are told this is not a war against their culture and lifestyle but against extremism and oppression. If these people believe us they will fight right besides our US troops and show us all the hideouts as they KNOW where everything is the key and we have to win it with love at the end of the day not force. Only idiots and pawns believe the war is ever won with force. Ignorant people are everywhere in US and in Afghanistan Alike...we need the smart to come together and find solutions which heal the actual enemy...fanaticism and ignorance and extremism. It does not begin on the battle field it begins in school rooms ( if they even have any there). More must be done to take over their media and ground roots level Information industry! Love and Beauty will win over their hearts!

    March 24, 2010 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
  3. James -- Atlanta

    These people need to suck it up and learn to fight for their own country.

    March 23, 2010 at 8:54 pm | Report abuse |
  4. A. Smith, Oregon

    Villagers stuck in the huts in Marjah for weeks and shot at if they stuck there heads out the door to see if it was safe to leave the hut. Convoys of villagers that were fleeing were hit with waves of air strikes killing all of them. Heavy caliber bullets easily penetrating both walls of the majority of the still standing Marjah huts and buildings AND the Marjah villagers do not trust the corrupt Afghanistan Police force which was forced upon them. Bribes, corruption and graft is ripe with the Police force according to the Marjah villagers that are brave enough to speak out against the outrageous treatment they have endured recently.

    And folks wonder why the Afghanistan citizens in Kandahar might be concerned and wary about what will become of them if Nato and the Marines sweep into their city?

    March 23, 2010 at 7:50 pm | Report abuse |
  5. dianne villano

    sadly enough, they (the Talibam) know that they can wait us out as do the villagers.

    Perhaps folks should do a bit of research before trivializing the Talbiban's viscousness and utter lack of compuction for human life . Statements like "what are they going to do, blow something up" is ignorant and ininfomed at best.

    It is very understandable that the locals are terrified and it would be the time the we have left those folks to be murdered and tortured for supporting us

    March 23, 2010 at 10:14 am | Report abuse |
  6. Jetea'

    WTF? Can't pick a side? I don't live there and haven't seen it first hand but you would think that if so many people you know and love are being blown up or'd get a set and fight back? Seriously? There's no logic in being controlled by tyrants. I can't grip the mentality. All it takes is for the PEOPLE to unite. Tell the Taliban to p**S off. What are they gonna do? Blow something up? Kill someone? C'mon already! You can't be controlled if you don't let someone control you. You can't be terrorized if you don't let them terrorize you. They can't hurt you- if you don't let them! Not trying to knock religion...but HOLY crap people...any religion that tells ya it's ok to KILL people in cold blood in the name of said "religion"...time to recheck your good book. The Taliban are our generations Nazi's..with a bit of a twist is all. These people need courage and an understanding of the word. Is it ironic to anyone else that the one place "religion" was born is the same place that has never known peace? 2010 years later? Pure insanity.

    March 23, 2010 at 9:28 am | Report abuse |
  7. Daniel

    For William Sawyer,the reason the people of Kandahar don't pick up their weapons and fight the Taliban is quite simple.They simply don't want foreign rule and that's that!

    March 22, 2010 at 7:14 pm | Report abuse |
  8. speaker of truth

    Sorry to be a thorn hear but the fact is the taliban are more liked and supported than any other group in Afghanistan, believe what you want, but thats the facts, Khandahar is the birthplace of the Taliban, That is there home base and support system, Alsmost everyone supports them there, You cant just take one person and take his opinion that everyopne hates the Taliban. They are the only group who brought stability and peace to the region in the 90's. The taliban started because two women were kidnapped and Mullah omar took 30 men to get them back, they only had 16 weapons, That one mission, there first set off a wild fire of support for them, because kidnapping and child trade are biig in this region, and they stopped it, Do yo ureally support the Northern Alliance who are notorius for child molestion among boys, Havent you heard of the movie the dancing boys of Afghanistan. Thats about the Northern Alliance, Once again i promote reading, Congrats US for supporting a group of thugs and child molestors to be the sole foundation of a new democracy, brilliant plan

    March 22, 2010 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
  9. William Sawyer

    The people of Kandahar can pick up weapons and fight the Taliban as a Militia. It’s their country!! If they don’t draw the line now then when the massive Coalition force leaves they’ll have the Taliban back in control.

    March 22, 2010 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Dan Lafayette,IN

    It's a shame that the people are so afraid to stand up to the Taliban and fight against these people who would very easily take limb and life from them. They will not live normal lives until the Taliban and al Qaeda are eradicated from their country! They have no care for the people just power over the people to control the population with their inhumane laws and punishment!

    March 22, 2010 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
  11. Andrew Lubin

    Hmmm, they 'want peace and stability but not at the cost of more blood." Yet they're afraid of the Taliban. Sounds like they need to finally make a choice "us or them"

    We bring peace, stability, and a future; the Taliban brings death. Every town and area where the Marines have fought since July's Operation Khandjar is doing better: Nawa, Now Zad, all the little villages up-down the length of the Helmand River Vally.

    Shouldn't be a particuarly difficult choice.

    March 22, 2010 at 10:22 am | Report abuse |