In a further sign that the Bush-imposed order in Afghanistan (and the Middle East) is unraveling, a suicide bomber in Baghlan near Kabul unleashed a bomb amid a parliamentary delegation that had come to visit a sugar factory. The blast left at least 50 dead and killed 6 members of the Afghanistan parliament. Around 50 persons were wounded. The action did not occur in the Pushtun south, and the Taliban denied responsibility (the bombing of a civilian crowd also does not fit their MO).
The Guardian notes that this territory is near where Gulbuddin Hikmatyar of the Hizb-i Islami (Islamic Party) has been operating. Hikmatyar is the most radical Muslim extremist in Afghanistan, and had been the leading figure among Ronald Reagan’s ‘Freedom Fighters’. The US government under Reagan gave one billion dollars to Hekmatyar to fight the Soviet Union, and the Saudis matched it. One possibility (and this is just speculation) is that Hikmatyar’s group has decided to begin emulating the bombing attacks on civilian and government targets pioneered by Abu Musab Zarqawi’s Monotheism and Holy War organization in Iraq.
Meanwhile, Pushtun guerrillas fired two rockets at a Canadian base near Qandahar barely missing Canadian Defence Minister Peter MacKay and lightly injuring four Canadian troops.
“Taliban” attacks have killed over 5,000 persons in Afghanistan this year. Kabul, the capital, gets only a few hours of electricity per day. The unemployment rate in the capital is 40 percent. And, the anti-Karzai guerrilla movement of Pushtuns in the south derives 40 percent of its funding from heroin smuggling. Although NATO had planned on training 70,000 soldiers of the new Afghan army by now, it has only trained 30,000 or so.
There are 20,000 US troops in Afghanistan, and 20,000 NATO troops. Their very presence, and search and destroy operations, is probably provoking some of the violence in the Pushtun areas. Pushtuns don’t deal well with foreign troops in their region. Ask the Russians.