A rash of kidnappings has struck Afghanistan, a symptom of the deteriorating security situation there, writes Masha Hamilton in Salon. Kabul is no longer viewed as a safe haven as the Taliban and criminal gangs seize foreigners and Afghans alike—sometimes for ideological reasons, often just for a ransom payment. It’s a situation sure to try Barack Obama’s pledge to increase focus on the country.
As the first American brigade of the 20,000-troop Afghan surge arrives next month, Obama must navigate the country’s competing systems of government: the democratic system headed by Hamid Karzai, local tribal rule, and the Taliban’s Sharia law. With kidnappings laying bare the inability of Karzai’s government to protect its people, the Taliban gains support from Afghans who look fondly back on their repressive but relatively crime-free rule.