In Afghanistan, `human maps` help fight Taliban
Charkusah: "I`m 105 years old," said Bismiullah, an old man stopped by a patrol in southern Afghanistan as part of military efforts to map the population in the battle against the Taliban.
Asked what he thinks of the US Army, the Afghan Army and the Taliban, Bismiullah responded: "I like myself and my family, that`s it." Questioned who is in charge in the area, he was similarly direct: "Allah is my chief."
The elderly man was stopped by a US-Afghan patrol in the village of Charkusah in the Zahri district of Kandahar, the southern Afghan province seen as the heart of the Taliban insurgency.
Troops in the region and across Afghanistan are gathering photographs, fingerprints and employment details as well as canvassing opinions from local residents to find out what they want for the war-racked province.
The goal is to strengthen relations between pro-government forces and the local population.
But the information gathered can also help troops catch Taliban fighters, for example by matching fingerprints on home-made bombs or guns.
Formally known as human terrain mapping, the process is a key strand of the strategy to build better ties between pro-government forces and local people as the war enters arguably its most important year.
International troops in Afghanistan, around two-thirds of whom are from the United States, are due to start limited withdrawals in July ahead of a scheduled transition of responsibility for security to Afghan forces in 2014.
Human terrain mapping was first used in its current form in Iraq in 2007 but experts say it also draws on the lessons of previous counterinsurgency campaigns such as in Vietnam.
Counterinsurgency theory holds that the key to winning such wars is to destroy the insurgents` political control over the population.
Identifying who is an innocent civilian and who is an insurgent is a vital element.
However, gathering reliable information is not always easy in a country where many desperately poor rural people do not know basic information about themselves, such as their age.
Afghanistan has not had a census since 1979, the year of the Soviet invasion, amid security concerns across the war-torn country.
"What we do here comes from previous experience in Iraq and other parts of Afghanistan," explained Lieutenant Wes Pennington of Taskforce Strike, 101st Airborne.
"The Taliban try to make their own COIN (counterinsurgency) tactics," he added. "But we have more to offer, we`re better at it."
In Charkusah, the Taliban is also trying to build support among the population, handing out money and buying harvests of marijuana and opium which they then sell on to finance their fighting, Pennington said.
People in the village are notably reluctant to talk about the Islamist insurgents.
Mohammad Sahim, a 32-year-old farmer, stressed that he knows "nothing at all" about the Taliban. As for improvements he would like to see in the local area, he stresses "food, water and a hospital".
Staff Sergeant Alan Cable, who is asking the questions, said that such reticence about the Taliban is typical. "People usually say that they don`t know anything," he explained.
Captain Brett Matzenbacher, in charge of the nearby Pashmul South base, is realistic when it comes to the power of the Taliban.
"The population is Taliban-influenced," he said. "But we provide an alternative to the Taliban, a district governor who is an official authority."
The task at hand is immense and hard-won gains can be fragile.
The Taliban would once again return to the area after the traditional winter lull was over in a few months` time, Cpt Matzenbacher added.
More from India
More from World
More from Sports
More from Entertaiment
- Salman Khan attends sister Arpita's wedding reception in Mandi
- 2G scam: Ex-TRAI chief alleges Manmohan Singh had warned him to cooperate
- Pranab Mukherjee defends Bofors scam, says it was just a media trial
- Zee Media's mega survey on Modi govt
- Zee Media Exclusive: Vidya Balan chats about 'Hamari Adhuri Kahani'
- I eat beef, can somebody stop me?: Kiren Rijiju hits back at Naqvi
- Delhi: Visually impaired boy scores 91.4% in CBSE 12th Board exams
- MP: 14-year-old boy works as bonded labour since 2009
- Smriti Irani visits Amethi, promises to pay insurance money to 25,000 women
- UP: Man chops off wife's nose, hair for dowry
- Zee Media Exclusive: The plight of yoga expert Tejaswi Sharma
- Woman denied flat in Mumbai for being a Muslim
- BBV: What challenges lie ahead of Modi govt?
- 4 Indians in Forbes' 100 most powerful women list
- DNA analysis of rising water crisis in India!
- Arpita-Aayush wedding reception: Salman Khan spreads love in Mandi, says `hum aapke hain`
- CBSE Class 10 Board Result 2015 (cbse.nic.in, cbseresults.nic.in) postponed?
- CBSE Class 10 Board Result 2015 to be announced today
- Check mahresult.nic.in for MSBSHSE Maharashtra Class 12 HSC Result 2015
- MSBSHSE Class 12th HSC results 2015 to be declared at 1pm tomorrow
- Maharashtra MSBSHSE HSC Result 2015 on mahresult.nic.in
- Rahul Gandhi takes a dig at one year of Modi govt, wishes 'happy birthday' to 'suit-boot ki sarkar'
- I was misquoted, says Kiren Rijiju on 'beef' remark
- First look: Salman Khan steals thunder in `Bajrangi Bhaijaan`
- mahresult.nic.in updated with MSBSHSE Maharashtra HSC Class XII Result 2015
- CBSE 10th result to be declared tomorrow
- Check mahresult.nic.in for Maharashtra HSC Result 2015 to be announced at 1 pm on May 27
- Manmohan Singh defends himself on 2G charge, slams Modi govt for 'carbon copy' schemes
- Sonia Gandhi 'unconstitutional authority' during UPA: PM Narendra Modi
- Reservation stir: Five percent job quota to Gujjars unlikely, hints Rajasthan govt