Tom Hyland at the Australian Sunday Age newspaper has written an excellent analysis of the June 15 Tarin Kowt suicide bombing, which killed 11 Afghan children and one Dutch soldier outside a girls’ school:
Accounts of what happened highlight the risks faced daily by troops who need a ring of armoured vehicles to protect them as they do the benign work of reconstruction. But they also tell a wider story of how, by the perverse standards of the Taliban, foreign soldiers and school children are perfect and complimentary targets in their campaign to overthrow the Western-backed government.
By killing foreign soldiers, the Taliban hopes to undermine public support for a commitment to a complex, distant war. Opinion polls in Dutch newspapers last week showed almost half of those surveyed wanted their troops pulled out when their two-year mission expires in August next year.
By killing civilians, the Taliban tries to undermine Afghan confidence in the ability of foreign soldiers to give security to people who have known decades of war.
By attacking a school, they target one of the few symbols of the central government in an isolated, neglected and desperately poor province. And by attacking a girls’ school they reinforce their commitment to an extreme ideology, where girls are deprived of education and kept as virtual prisoners at home.
“To complete the ghastly picture, there is also evidence that the extremists are increasingly recruiting children as suicide bombers,” Hyland continues:
It was possible that some suicide bombers came from “outside Afghanistan’s borders”, he said — a reference to Pakistan, whose lawless frontier provinces are a sanctuary and training ground for Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters. There was evidence some bombers were young boys, recruited from madrassas, religious schools.
A recent Taliban propaganda video showed a madrassa “graduation”, where a Taliban leader bragged children as young as 12 were willing to die.