Welcome to Gandhara's weekly newsletter. This briefing brings you the best of our reporting from Afghanistan and Pakistan.
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New Afghan war shaping up?
I write about the small resistance groups from among the remnants of the collapsed Afghan republic who are mounting uncoordinated attacks in a spring offensive against the hard-line Taliban government.
Supporters of the insurgency hope their attacks will gradually turn into a national uprising against the Taliban, whose rule has alienated ethnic and religious minorities, oppressed women, and stubbornly refused to include any non-Taliban Afghans in their decision-making.
“There is nothing that has improved since the Taliban seized power,” a former Afghan Foreign Ministry official close to the emerging resistance told me. “I am sure we will see a much bigger uprising against the Taliban.
The Taliban is dismissive of the armed opposition, and experts are not convinced. Only insurgencies with foreign support have succeeded since the overthrow of the Afghan monarchy nearly half a century ago.
“The armed opposition that has emerged is in a relatively weak position by historical standards,” Kate Clark, the co-director of the Afghanistan Analysts Network think tank, told me. “It controls no territory next to a border [and] has no neighbor or great power obviously backing it.”
Baluch insurgency takes a ‘dangerous turn’
I report on how the first known suicide attack by a female member of the secular ethnic Baluch separatist rebels in Pakistan denotes a paradigm shift in their two-decade insurgency.
Shari Baloch, a teacher and mother of two, killed three Chinese and their Pakistani driver this week. She was married to a dentist, and her siblings and father have promising careers in academia and management. Her attack signifies that even educated, middle-class Baluch women could become more radicalized as no political settlement appears to be on the horizon between Islamabad and the Baluch separatists.
Kiyya Baloch, an exiled journalist from the province, says the bombing is a dangerous turn because it shows the extent of radicalism among the secular Baluch separatists.
“Both the state and the Baluch insurgents have adopted extreme positions,” he told me. "The state appears unwilling to give up its security-centric approach to Balochistan as it continues to prop up an artificial political leadership [in the region].”
Taking stock of a pyrrhic mujahedin victory
Radio Azadi reports on how Afghans evaluate the mujahedin victory over the communists three decades after Afghanistan’s socialist government collapsed on April 28, 1992.
Ironically, the Islamist’s victory day comes one day after the anniversary of the communist coup on April 27, 1978, when pro-Moscow Afghan military offices overthrew the nearly 250-year-old Afghan monarchy.
“It established [an incorrect] political tradition in Afghanistan, which is the overthrow of regimes through coups and the seizing of power through the barrel of a gun,” said Tamim Asey, the director of the Institute of War and Peace Studies think tank. “It enticed neighbors to intervene and transform Afghanistan and paved the way for proxy wars.”
Afghans avoiding the Taliban
Radio Azadi reports on how some Afghans are avoiding the Taliban amid mounting incidents of Taliban fighters mistreating citizens who approach them for help.
“My mother was beaten and humiliated by a female Taliban guard while she waited to receive aid outside an office," a young Afghan woman told us. She shared photos showing cuts and bruises on the hands and face of her 50-year-old mother.
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