Helmand province, Afghanistan was the scene this past weekend of the hanging of an 8-year-old boy whose father refused to supply militants with a police vehicle, according to a CNN report. The atrocity takes place amid the ongoing transfer of security from NATO to local and national forces, and ongoing attacks against anti-Taliban officials. It’s unclear whether the hanging was carried out by the Taliban or another insurgent group. For more context on the Taliban influence in Afghanistan and its neighbor, Pakistan, revisit these recent National Geographic articles:
- In Opium Wars (February 2011) Robert Draper explores the poppy economy in Afghanistan: “The grim axiom defining today’s Afghanistan, 85 percent of whose citizens are farmers, is that its economy relies on two dueling revenue streams. One flows from Western aid, in hopes that the country will renounce the Taliban. The other flows from opium trafficking supported by the Taliban, which use the proceeds to fund attacks on Western troops.” Photos by David Guttenfelder.
- “West meets East in prosperous, populous Punjab. But the Taliban want to change the status quo,” reports John Lancaster in Pakistan’s Heartland Under Threat (July 2010). Residents of Punjab Province have enjoyed a cosmopolitan existence and felt somewhat immune to the extremist violence more common near the Afghan border. Recent terrorist attacks have shattered that perception. Photos by Ed Kashi.
- Don Belt traveled thousands of miles across Pakistan 60 years after its founding to report in Struggle for the Soul of Pakistan (Sept. 2007) on a country which arose from partition, and is now itself divided. Belt describes the original vision of its founders, the complex events resulting in the rising influence of the Taliban, and why the world pays close attention to the clash between the moderates and extremists. Meet Umme Ayman, a 22-year old religious student fully prepared to die in protest over a mosque being torn down, and Edhi, a Muslim man who collects dead bodies from the streets and shelters abandoned infants without regard for who might be an infidel. Photos by Reza.