Reports of a Taliban “shadow government” complete with its own court system are not new. Indeed, we’ve been covering the phenomenon for well over a year, and it has only grown as the group’s influence has gained.
But to appreciate just how big and how credible this alternative government has gotten, one needs to closely examine its inner workings, particularly in regions where it has replaced the NATO-backed government for all intents and purposes.
In Helmand Province, the south-western province along the Pakistani border which NATO is constantly attacking, it isn’t just a question of alternative courts: the Taliban are even issuing paperwork to the locals. Traveling into Helmand’s capital city one encounters many checkpoints, and the Taliban are handing out official travel permits which allow people through those checkpoints.
The growth isn’t happening in a vacuum, of course, as locals are increasingly turning to the Taliban on their own, in the face of corrupt and incompetent officials in the Karzai administration.
Despite assurances from the Karzai government that they are in full control of the situation, the reality on the ground suggests they are not. Even NATO, the Karzai government’s international muscle, concedes that the Taliban is already setting up a “government in waiting,” ready to return to power the second the Karzai government crumbles.
NATO has committed massive military forces to prevent this from happening, but after nearly a decade of war and ever increasing troop numbers, the Taliban’s influence seems to be growing all the time, in some cases the group is even more powerful than it was before the 2001 invasion.