Afghans Resent U.S. Treatment
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) _ In one raid, U.S. forces storm a home and arrest the owner, only to release him hours later. In another, soldiers tie the hands of female suspects, breaking a strict local taboo against touching women.
While many people in southern Afghanistan have welcomed the presence of U.S. forces as bringers of relative peace, anger is rising at what some people claim are clumsy and culturally inappropriate tactics used by the Americans to weed out al-Qaida and Taliban suspects.
Resentment has been simmering for months, but open expressions began increasing in late May.
``The Americans are making mistakes; they should take notice,″ said Mohammed Naeem, 38. ``They are receiving disinformation from people who have personal grudges or other reasons. They go raid and people get killed because they are pointed out as al-Qaida or Taliban.″
Naeem said his brother, Haji Nangyali, 35, was arrested June 4 by U.S. special forces and local police who raided his home in Kandahar.
Later the same day, Nangyali was released by the Americans, only to be arrested one day later by Afghan intelligence officers in Kandahar. He remains in jail.
``Most people have blamed the Americans for this, even if they released him,″ Naeem said. ``Everyone in Kandahar knows about this raid and they are angry. Many have come to my home to pay their respects.″
Kandahar is nominally under the control of President Hamid Karzai’s new government. But like many parts of Afghanistan, local warlords retain strong influence and tribal resentments often lead to tension and confrontation.
The city was the base of the hardline Taliban regime that was ousted by U.S.-led forces for its support of the al-Qaida terrorist group.
U.S. troops or facilities supporting the Americans have been targeted four times this month, including a failed June 4 attack in which six rockets were aimed at the airport base of about 5,000 U.S.-led coalition soldiers. No one has been injured in the attacks.
On June 16, two bombs exploded under Pakistani tanker trucks used to supply gasoline to U.S. troops at Kandahar base. Another bomb exploded June 1 outside the palace of provincial governor Gul Agha. That bomb was planted along a road normally used by U.S. special forces staying at his compound.
Naeem and others said anger at American forces began growing after a May 24 raid by U.S. Army troops and special forces in the village of Band Taimore.
During that raid, a respected tribal leader in his 80s was reportedly shot dead in a mosque and a 3-year-old girl drowned hiding in a well.
Worse still was a report that troops had bound the hands of women. Touching women is considered a deadly insult in southern Afghanistan.
``This was a turning point, especially because of what they did to the women,″ Naeem said.
Naeem, who said he was a guerrilla fighter against invading Russian troops during the 1980s, remains a fervent supporter of America because of its support for the Afghan fighters against Russia.
But the ``Americans are following the footsteps of Russians,″ Naeem said, and risked a backlash.
Less than one week after the Band Taimore raid, amid street demonstrations demanding the captives’ release, U.S. officials freed 50 of the seized villagers, keeping five. U.S. officials said at least one has been identified as a Taliban official, though he was ``below the senior level.″
Around the same time, Kandahar government officials and U.S. forces agreed they needed to work more closely to avoid mistaken raids and damaging the image of the coalition.
``These things create a problem for the administration and the image of the coalition. There has to be more coordination with the government to avoid this type of thing,″ said Kandahar government spokesman Yusuf Pashtoon.
The U.S. Army has since advised troops not to touch Afghan women.
``You can’t lay your hands on the women,″ Lt. Col. Patrick Fetterman told troops from the 101st Airborne Division before a June 10 combat mission near Pakistan. ``I don’t want you laying your hands on women.″
Other raids in the south have also raised local anger, including a Jan. 23 attack at a school in Khas Uruzgan in which 21 pro-government Afghans died and a raid in March at Sangesar that resulted in the arrest, and later release, of 31 anti-Taliban militiamen.
On May 13, U.S. special operations forces killed five people and detained 32 during a raid in the village of Char Chine, north of Kandahar. Villagers say the five were farmers.
``Everybody is happy that U.S. Army is here because the people of Afghanistan can’t trust to their leaders and commanders,″ said Asif Jahn, 55, a civil servant. ``But it is necessary that they be careful in the future.″