There are more matches in the country than they have been in a while. Since my return in 2013, things have got a little worse every year. The Afghanistan Commission Country Director, Terry Waterdale, told NRK.
He has been working in Afghanistan since 1998 and has lived there for eight years. On Saturday, he traveled again to Kabul after a few weeks in Norway.
He returned to a country where the violence is worse than it has been in many years. By September, all foreign forces will be withdrawn.
The government military has to increasingly run it alone, and in many places things are not going well.
Only this week At least 72 government soldiers and 27 civilians were killed. So far in May, 359 government soldiers and 231 civilians have been killed.
Nobody knows how many Taliban soldiers have died. But the Taliban is making progress. There are reports from all over the country that they are seizing power in the countryside.
“Give up or die”
Laghman Province in eastern Afghanistan is one of the areas where the Taliban have always been strong.
He writes that as part of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, US forces withdrew from the region in early May The New York Times.
The Americans handed over seven small bases and outposts to Afghan government forces. They had little food and ammunition and some had not been paid for five months.
As soon as the Americans left, the Taliban found fields of wheat and onions in the province and surrounded government forces.
They brought elderly people from the villages and sent them to government soldiers with a clear message: “Give up or die.”
Two weeks later, government forces allowed the Taliban to control all seven bases. 120 soldiers and marine policemen have been assigned to lay down their weapons.
Seize weapons and ammunition
Scenes from Laghman Province are repeated elsewhere in Afghanistan. During the month of May, the Taliban took control of at least 26 outposts after the government surrendered.
The government is unable to rescue the security forces. If they fight, they will be killed. So they should surrender, says Muhammad Jalal, the leader of a village in Baghlan province.
Among the 26 centers are four districts with local governors, chiefs of police and intelligence. Every time someone surrenders, the Taliban get stronger and weaken the government.
The Taliban had previously negotiated surrender, but never reached the point that it is now. This occurs in the northern, eastern and western provinces of the capital, Kabul.
As government forces retreat, the Taliban seize weapons, ammunition and vehicles.
During his years in the country, the Director of Lands and Terdal met many people who changed their positions in the conflict.
An example of this is someone who was previously responsible for education in one of the provinces for the government in which we work, and is now responsible for educating the Taliban in the same area, he says.
Waterdale says there is a fairly long tradition in Afghanistan to shift alliances.
It’s the survival mechanism you often follow with the strongest party, which you think has the most chance of winning.
Not necessarily a shift in allegiance to private principles or ideology. It’s more “well, maybe this is where I can do most of what I want to do or the family is protected,” he says.
Work in the Taliban areas
The vast majority of Afghanistan commission projects are in the countryside. They are either in disputed areas or in areas controlled by either the authorities or by the Taliban.
The disputed areas are the most difficult for us to operate. The most dangerous, Waterdale says, is a change of control.
He says they have a good relationship with both the government and the opposition. Both aspects take into account the work they do.
He talks about a project in three areas in Badakhshan Province, which is mainly controlled by the Taliban, but there is fighting every now and then.
The committee was to distribute food in regards to lack of access to food in relation to covid-19.
Then, when we were on our way, the war work stopped so that we could distribute food to more than 60,000 people. Then they said, “Now you have to get out” and then we went out, while they continued the war work, he said.
He must travel with a male family member
The Afghan commission has 700 employees and has a budget of NOK 70 million per year.
The need is enormous. The United Nations estimates that 17 million Afghans – about 42 percent of the population – will be at risk of starvation by 2021.
40 percent of the committee’s staff are women. Most of the women from all organizations are not “only” working on women’s projects.
Waterdale says they are already noticing some practical differences in where the Taliban are taking over. It is becoming more and more difficult for female employees to travel to these areas.
For them, travel becomes more difficult without a close family member protecting their honor. This means that our costs go up because we pay for two instead of one when people travel, he says.
In a larger context, business conditions won’t change much. For example, the committee runs health vocational schools in cooperation with the authorities.
The majority of the students, most of them girls, come from Taliban-controlled areas.
“When it comes to the big projects that we run like education and education for health workers and projects in agriculture, that means very little if the Taliban seize power in an area,” he says.
Governor in the countryside
Waterdale believes that when we talk about all the rights that women would lose if the Taliban were to return to power, it was first and foremost about women in the cities.
He says that women in the countryside did not have any special rights.
He says that if you live in the countryside, you often encounter a very corrupt, extremely conservative, and very reactionary government apparatus.
In contrast, the Taliban are very conservative and reactionary, but somewhat less corrupt.
Many then view the government as not introducing any new ideology and new social order and instead opting to go to those who are a little less corrupt and offer some form of law and order.
– Waterdale says that corruption in Taliban areas today is less than in government areas, but that may change if the Taliban seize power.
Although they now control about half of the country, there are large and powerful forces against the Taliban.
But the only thing they have in common is that they are against the Taliban. Otherwise, they are really sworn enemies. This means that the government is weak in some areas, but also because they do not always come up with real alternatives to the Taliban, says the country director.