The Taliban has begun regularly targeting U.S. government contractors in southern Afghanistan, stepping up use of a tactic that is rattling participating firms and could undermine development projects intended to stem the insurgency, according to U.S. officials.
..The USAID “implementing partners,” as they are known, employ mainly Afghans, who are overseen by foreigners. The companies’ role is becoming increasingly important as more aid money floods into southern Afghanistan as part of a dual effort to generate goodwill and bolster the Kabul government.
“The bad guys have figured it out,” one U.S. official in Kandahar said. “I’ve never seen them go after implementing partners this way. We’ve got to reevaluate now what we’re doing.”
…In Afghanistan, as in Iraq, residents who work with U.S. troops or civilians do so at great personal risk. But the spate of violence against USAID contractors in Afghanistan appears to represent a decision by the Taliban to undercut Afghan support for the U.S. efforts, officials said. A key facet of U.S. strategy in Helmand and Kandahar is to flood those insurgent hot spots with day-labor opportunities, farming assistance and other projects that complement the military operations.
But unlike gun-toting NATO troops who live on fortified bases, the workers running those projects routinely mingle with residents, making them “the definition of a soft target,” said another U.S. official in Kandahar. "
2010-04-17 18:14:17 UTC