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Locals turn against Taliban in eastern Afghanistan

Taliban-forced school closures and attacks have presented a big problem in Afghanistan. Residents in Andar are rebelling against the Taliban, but that doesn't mean that they are siding with the government.

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A 120mm mortar crew at Forward Operating Base Bostic fires high explosive rounds at a Taliban position above them on what they refer to as Rocket Ridge in Afghanistan's Kunar Province on Sunday, June 3.

Tim Wimborne/Reuters

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A group of villagers in eastern Afghanistan took up arms against the Taliban and say they’ve now managed to regain control.

In Ghazni’s Andar district, one of the areas hit hardest by a series of recent Taliban-forced school closures, nearly 400 locals from eight villages in the eastern Afghan province reportedly gathered to confront the Taliban. In the two weeks of fighting, 11 people were reportedly killed; three from the citizens’ militia and eight Taliban fighters, but villagers say they’ve managed to reopen 81 of Andar’s 83 schools.

Though the fighting in Andar may serve as an indication that locals now have less patience for the Taliban’s extremist ideologies than they did almost 11 years ago, it’s not a clear beacon of hope that the tide is turning toward stability in Afghanistan. So far, the uprising remains localized and those who have stood up against the Taliban say they’re not ready to side with the government either.

“The uprising is happening because no one could tolerate the closure of the schools in the entire district. That’s why the ordinary citizens and tribal elders decided to start fighting for the schools,” says Nek Mohammad, a tribal elder in Ghanzi.

Throughout Afghanistan, violence dropped the first part of this year. Fighting in Ghazni continues and it remains one of the more violent areas in the country. However, locals say the intensity has diminished but caution that appearances can be deceiving. The Taliban still controls many aspects of their life and has simply focused more on high-profile assassinations, rather than fighting Afghan and international forces, they say.

“The fighting and the attacks have decreased but it doesn’t mean that the Taliban has left the areas where they were strong,” says Khial Mohammad Hussaini, a tribal elder from Ghazni.

Motorcycles and schools

Ghazni’s Taliban began threatening schools largely in response to a ban on unregistered motorcycles. Local authorities say the prohibition has severely restricted the insurgents’ movements and the Taliban sought to use school closures as a means to pressure the government to change the policy.

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