Bamiyanis took to streets on Sunday protesting against insecurity on Bamiyan-Kabul roads. Members of provincial council and civil society activists led the demonstration rally. As usual, it did not get due coverage in mainstream Kabul TVs. Slogans on banners warned the Government to maintain security on roads connecting them to the capital, otherwise people will have to take steps for their protection.
According to civil society activists, 32 residents of Bamiyan have been killed during last six months, mostly in Jalrez District of Maidan Wardak and Ghorband District of Parwan on the way to Kabul. They say fuel tankers are torched by Taliban militants. Prices have gone skyrocketing in the province.
In their resolution, protesters have offered volunteer community cooperation to be equipped with ANA forces and maintain security on roads. It shows the declining confidence of people from the most peaceful part of Afghanistan on Government capability and security transition, and must be an alarm for the Karzai Administration as well as ISAF.
Insecurity has increased on roads leading to Bamiyan since the withdrawal of US troops from the Combat Outpost Conlon in Jalrez District in February this year. Bamiyan was the first province to be fully transitioned to the control of Afghan security forces from ISAF troops. With third phase of transition going on across the country, the protest in Bamiyan is an early sign of its failure and alarms of descent into chaos. These incidents are more concerning due to another fact that Taliban militants are particularly targeting individuals from Bamiyan and Hazara ethnic origin regardless of their connection with government or international forces. It could fuel ethnic tensions and seriously undermine perception about capability of Government providing security people in most peaceful parts of the country who have been most supporting and cooperative with Karzai Administration.
Two weeks ago, 11 people were slaughtered by Taliban in Jalrez. Five passengers were taken off a vehicle at Kote Ashro area on Wednesday, August 01. They were brutally tortured, their hands tied behind, eyes taken off and bodies thrown on the highway after beheading. All five were civilians. They were buried in Kabul later. Thousands attended the funeral in Kabul, expressing outrage against the Taliban and Government failure. Speakers were accusing negligence.
Six others were killed in similar brutality on Monday, July 23 in the same area of Jalrez. Their bodies were cut into pieces. All of the 11 civilians butchered belonged to Hazara ethnic group. They were massacred within one kilometer of distance from an ANA check post. Not a single person has been arrested, despite repeated incidents in the same area. Taliban stop vehicles of civilian passengers in Jalrez and Ghorband almost on daily basis. It was always a security risk for government officials and those working with foreign organizations and NGOs, but now ordinary people hesitate traveling to Bamiyan from Kabul by road.
Two New Zealand troops and four agents of National Directorate of Security were killed in a gunfight with insurgents in Shiber, Bamiyan on August 04. Bamiyan is known as the safest province of Afghanistan, but it seems that title no more applies. Insurgent ambushes and IED attacks on ISAF troops and ANSF in the province are limited to Shibar and Saighan districts, which border Baghlan. However, militants have been able to carry more sophisticated attacks in recent months. Last month in July, the news of ambush on police officials shocked all, marking the worst insurgent attack in Bamiyan with highest death toll in a single attack.
With the local population welcoming and supportive of NATO troops, Taliban have failed to make local presence in Bamiyan. It seems they have started to indiscriminately punish Bamiyanis and terrorize the population. ISAF and ANSF should launch special operations in Shibar, Saighan, Jalrez and Ghorband districts to clear the areas from insurgents.
It must be of serious concern to the Government and ISAF that ordinary civilians from a particular ethnic group are being targeted by the Taliban. The beheadings in Jalrez has already stirred a sense of uncertainty among the people of Bamiyan and Daikundi, increasing their doubts about Karzai’s claims that Afghan National Security Forces can maintain security after foreign troops’ withdrawal. More such incidents can fuel serious ethnic strife. It should be an alarm for the Government to pay serious attention, otherwise the sense of uncertainty can decrease confidence of people and they will prepare for the worst to come.