The British presence in Afghanistan is being expanded. This is not a good idea, as the British government should have learned from its nineteenth and early twentieth century experiences. I spent my childhood in Battersea, where street names (Cabul Road, Kandahar Road) recalled the Second Anglo-Afghan War.
In spite of the Western presence, the Taleban is resurgent:
The token international presence has given the Taliban carte blanche to terrorise at will. A mafia-style assassination campaign against Afghans linked to western aid has stepped up alarmingly in the past six months. In June, five
men working for an American contractor were executed at the side of the road.
Last month, gunmen walked into a mosque in Laskhar Gah, singled out a man named Engineer Mirwais from the rows of worshippers and shot him in the head. He
worked for a Bangladeshi aid agency providing clean water.
Teachers, as elsewhere in the south, have been particularly targeted. In recent weeks "night letters" - menacing tracts pinned to mosque doors and shop windows - have warned those teaching girls to stop. Defiance carries a heavy price. On December 15 the Taliban dragged Laghmani, a teacher from Nad Ali district, from a classroom of teenagers and shot him at the school gate. The bloodshed has left many Helmandis, influential tribal leaders in particular, hedging their bets, Hogberg says. "People are straddling the fence. They do not want to commit to the government yet."