Center for Strategic Communication

[ by Charles Cameron — a question of priorities ]

photo credit: Omar Sobhani/Reuters

The attack in Qargha was not about liberating one’s own people from an occupying power, but about imposing one’s religious morality on compatriots who do not share one’s enthusiasm. Or to put that another way: at times, war is the continuation of religiosity by other means.

Offered without further comment, from The attack in Kargha: Return of the Taleban Puritans? by Thomas Ruttig of Afghan Analysts Network:

For the first time in many months, the Taleban have attacked a target that is almost exclusively used by Afghan civilians, while statements by their leader Mulla Muhammad Omar and their code of conduct (the layha, see an AAN report about it here) suggested a desire to protect civilians as much as possible. In the past, when causing civilian casualties, Taleban spokesmen often argued that they had actually been attacking a military target (like a convoy, a checkpost or another military installation) and that they had not planned to harm civilians. This time, such an excuse would have sounded ridiculous. Instead, in a statement under the name of their spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed they called the hotel a ‘hub of obscenity and vulgarity frequented by the lusty foreign and local top-level military and officials to satisfy their impure lust especially on Thursday nights’ and where ‘anti-Islamic meeting are usually being held’ (sic).

Equally ridiculous was their claim that it was mainly foreigners who had been targeted at Kargha. In the statement already quoted they claimed that their fighters had killed and wounded ‘several dozens of the top-level foreign diplomats and military figures and high-ranking puppets’. But everyone in Kabul knows that many foreigners are not even allowed to go to most of the restaurants in the city centre, particularly ‘top-level diplomats’. Kargha, well outside the city, is off limits for all foreigners except those few who do not have strict security rules. Instead, Kargha, with its little restaurants (which Afghans tend to call ‘hotels’), ice cream parlours and even cottages furbished in Swedish style and a few pedalo boats to rent, is a typical weekend retreat for Kabulis from all walks of life, from the young and well-off to rather ordinary people who enjoy the only accessible lake in the vicinity of the capital. To target such an area is not only a clear deviation from recent stated Taleban policy, if not practice, it is also an outrage.

That the Taleban tried to justify their attack by claiming that it was a venue of ‘anti-Islamic’ behaviour also shows that the old puritan tendency in their movement is alive and kicking, to which all kind of temporal amusement are anathema, especially if men and women are attending without being strictly separated.