About 1000 protesters massed in the streets of Pul-i Alam in the central Logar Province on Sunday, angry about a NATO attack that they alleged killed innocents. The demonstrators then set fire to 16 NATO convoy trucks carrying fuel for Western troops. The US military insists that its raid only killed bad guys. Local Afghan officials complained that the raid was not coordinated with them. You couldn’t say that in this instance NATO was winning hearts and minds. And, increasing attacks on NATO convoys are especially worrisome given that the instability in Kyrgyzstan may endanger US and NATO use of the Manas air field for resupply of troops in Afghanistan.
President Hamid Karzai will stop off in Delhi to meet with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday on his way to a meeting in Bhutan of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). Early indications are that Singh will attempt to discourage Karzai from his plan of negotiating with hard line Muslim forces such as the Taliban and bringing them into the government.
India sees Muslim fundamentalist forces in Afghanistan as generally under the sway of Pakistan, and also fears the bombings and political instability of the Taliban and similar groups.
India just announced that it would fund the construction of 13 school buildings in the eastern Kunar Province. Kunar is a Taliban stronghold and perhaps New Delhi hopes that better-educated young people in such places will be less likely to turn to Muslim fundamentalism, which frequently has a rabidly-anti-India agenda.
The mysterious sickening of dozens of Afghan schoolgirls at the Khadijat al-Kubra girls’ school in the northern province of Qunduz has raised the question of whether Taliban are using poison gas on the girls. Some say that they smelled something unusual in the playground just before they fell ill. Qunduz is about a third Pashtun (and is unusual in this regard for a northern province), and a minority of the Pashtuns there support the Taliban. During their reign of terror in the 1990s, the Taliban closed girls’ schools and immured women in their homes.