The worst part about the recent shocking video from Afghanistan—of a woman brutally murdered by the Taliban for a trumped-up adultery charge—is that it depicts not only the gruesome present but also a potential future. Some argue that the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014 will result in civil war, while others envision muddled yet sustainable power sharing. No one, however, can ignore the fact that the Taliban, barring a major and extremely successful NATO offensive between now and 2014, will be a significant power faction to deal with after the war is “over.”Der Spiegel provides a peek into the parts of the country (more territory than U.S. officials ever expected) where Taliban rule goes unchallenged and will likely remain so when NATO leaves:
Abdul Kabir, [the Governor of Parwan’s] subordinate who runs the district of Shinwari, where the Taliban execution for alleged adultery occurred, can only receive visitors far away from his actual place of work, in the neighboring province of Baghlan. Here in his garden, Kabir explains that he’s essentially powerless in his district. Just two weeks ago, when Kabir dared to go in to his office for a day, a bomb went off under his Jeep. It was pure luck that he survived.
Given the weakness of the Afghan central government and military, officials like Kabir and his boss will remain marginalized by the Taliban’s grip on power in cities, towns, and rural areas in southern and eastern Afghanistan. President Karzai probably never wanted to make any generous postwar deal with his historical enemies, but his recent overtures to traditional Taliban sponsors Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, as well as the inclusion of high profile former Taliban in recent dialogues, indicate that he might have no other choice as NATO forces withdraw.And if territory is given over to Taliban control, we’re sure to hear new and terrible stories of Taliban “justice.” If NATO manages to keep Afghanistan from being used as a base for new attacks on world targets, that would be a victory of sorts. But short of that, there isn’t much in Afghanistan for which US and EU public opinion is willing to fight.