Two days ago, Obama announced he was redeploying several hundred more troops to Afghanistan as “advisers” to the Afghan army, while grossly minimizing the reality that the Taliban controls most of the country outside of Kabul.
This is Taliban Country
Al Jazeera (2014)
In This is Taliban Country a Danish journalist visits Afghanistan to examine the ongoing campaign by the Taliban to win the “hearts and minds” of the civilian population in the regions under their control.
It’s an open secret that the US lost their 14 year war on the Taliban, even before Obama’s partial draw down of US troops in 2014-2015.* The Taliban, which controls large swathes of territory outside of Kabul, generally enjoys the support of civilians under their rule. They provide the security and stability most Afghans crave after decades of civil war. Moreover they do so far more benevolently than either the corrupt Afghan government with their network of warlords or US occupiers.
For civil complaints (land disputes, unpaid bills, etc), most residents prefer the Taliban courts to the corrupt government courts (the verdict always depends on who you know). The interpretation of Shariah law varies depending on locale, but most inflict “cruel and unusual” punishments (stoning, chopping off hands and occasionally heads) for serious “crimes” such as adultery.
The Taliban is currently engaged in an ambitious PR campaign to improve their public image as they consolidate their power in Afghanistan. They have allowed some state schools to reopen, including a few primary schools for girls. There is little support for girls’ secondary education, as most Afghan girls marry when they reach puberty.
Taliban leaders claim to have learned from past mistakes. It’s no longer a crime for men to shave their beards or women to appear in public without a burqa. Unlike fifteen years ago, when they first took power, they now allow smoking cigarettes and marijuana and watching TV. Music is still banned.
*Obama halted the withdrawal of US troops in October 2015, when he announced five to ten thousand troops would remain in Afghanistan through 2017.