Champagne flows everywhere over the demise of Afghanistan’s Mullah Dadullah. Yet don’t the ghoulish celebrations over his bullet-ridden corpse seem just a little familiar?

In Iraq, after all, similar announcements come with sufficient regularity for Blogenlust to maintain a list (currently standing at 41) of the al-Qaeda lieutenants/associates/#2’s/etc’ whose deaths or capture have been declared major blows to the insurgency.

Remember the difference that the death of Abu Azzam (“Al-Qaeda’s second-in-command in Iraq”) made in 2005? No? Neither does anyone else.

For an explanation as to how an odious and discredited force like the Taliban might manage a comeback, one would do better to turn from Mr Dadullah to a different pile of corpses: those resulting from the American airstrikes that left 57 villagers in Herat dead, nearly half of them women and children. According to the New York Times: “[T]he villagers denied that any Taliban were in the area. Instead, they said, they rose up and fought the Americans themselves, after the soldiers raided several houses, arrested two men and shot dead two old men on a village road. After burying the dead, the tribe’s elders met with their chief, Hajji Arbab Daulat Khan, and resolved to fight American forces if they returned.”

That NYT article itself provides a neat illustration of the imperial attitude facilitating the carnage in Herat. Its second paragraph explains: “Afghan, American and other foreign officials say they worry about the political toll the civilian deaths are exacting on President Hamid Karzai.”

Here’s a thought: perhaps the support enjoyed by people like the late Mr Dadullah might decline if foreign and local officials’ worried a little less about Hamid Karzai and a little more about the toll exacted by civilian deaths on, like, civilians.

Peter Fray

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