Insecurity and Violence Spreads to Northern Afghanistan

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"The Taliban were asking for taxes, sometimes for young men to fight with them," he said recently, standing in his field with his brother and two sons. "They were beating people and asking for weapons, and those who didn't have anything were killed or tortured."

Mohammad says he fled the area for months at a time, abandoning his young children in order to find relative safety in Kunduz City. He said he hasn't received any help from German troops, who have been stationed here for years, or from the newly arrived U.S. troops.

But what angers him the most -- and what he blames most for his insecurity -- is the weak local government and police force. He says calling the police is never an option: "By the time the police would get here the Taliban would have killed us." And he says the government's inability to guarantee justice allows instability to spread. He hates today's Taliban, but remembers their pre-9/11 administration fondly, because of today's government inefficiency.

"Taliban were quick to resolve any issue in 10 to 20 minutes by making a decision one way or the other," he says. "To tell you the truth, their government was very strong."

"Stalled Growth"

The NATO-led military effort in Afghanistan argues that in the last six months, the pressure on militant leaders in Kunduz and its neighboring provinces has increased. Since the beginning of September, special operations forces have killed or captured 14 insurgent commanders in Kunduz and Takhar province, according to NATO military statistics, most of them members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. In addition, dozens more fighters have been captured or killed, increasing the risk they take to run an insurgency.

But at the same time, NATO admits the violence is up, and that there are not enough U.S. resources to guarantee Afghans' security, especially in the rural districts outside of Kunduz City and Mazar-e-Sharif, the largest cities in the north.

Corrupt and Incompetent Regime Gives Taliban Opening in Kunduz

"There's less awareness than we need to have," a senior NATO military official said, "because we're not there."

The U.S. simply cannot dedicate to the north the resources it deploys to Helmand and Kandahar. And so, in the words of a U.S. official, "this is an Afghan government problem" -- in part because the vacuums of governance have allowed the problem to deteriorate, and in part because the United States has no other choice but to hope the Afghans can solve the problems themselves.

Residents say outside the cities, the security situation is deteriorating. In Baghlan province, just south of Kunduz, residents say they cannot drive on the main highway which connects to Kabul without being stopped by the Taliban, who check their phones and pockets for any evidence of work with the government or Westerners.

In the northern tip of Kunduz province, residents say the Taliban killed a man they accused of spying for the United States and dumped his body in the main market. Nobody dared to remove it for 10 days, one man from the area said, even though Islam requires quick burials.

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