2008: This year, it's NATO and the U.S.
which is conducting a Spring Offensive. The troops are raiding known safe
houses and villages where the Taliban have been detected. The spread of cell
phones, more UAVs and growing unpopularity of the Taliban has brought in a
flood of information on where the Taliban are and what they are up to. The
Spring raids are wiping out most of the Taliban in many districts (Afghanistan
has 398 districts in 34 provinces, with each district capital usually the
largest town in a region containing 40,000-100,000 people).
only has 34,000 kilometers of roads (most of them unpaved). Most Afghans want
more roads. While foreign donors have contributed lots of money to build more
roads, corruption and poor management in the contracting process result in
costs of up to a million dollars a kilometer, compared to $250,000 a kilometer
in actual costs (to build the road). Afghanistan is very poorly equipped with
roads. In the United States, there are 21 kilometers of roads (most of them
paved) per thousand people (or 687 kilometers of roads per thousand square
kilometers). In Afghanistan there are 1.2 kilometers of roads per thousand
people (or 53 kilometers of roads per thousand square kilometers). The Taliban
have concentrated on attacking road projects, causing up to a quarter of their
cost to be for security. This costs the Taliban a lot of popular support,
because most Afghans want more roads, especially paved roads. These make it
possible to ship goods to markets, and get there to shop yourself. With better
roads, you have a better chance of getting friend or family medical care before
they die. Road building is a major source of jobs, and the Taliban are not well
liked when they shut down this work and deprive thousands of local men of
Taliban have, for several years, waged a violent campaign against women
appearing on television. Recently, a 22 year old female TV news reader was
stabbed, and earlier, another female news reader had been killed. Women being
used to present news on TV and radio is condemned by the Taliban, and a
significant minority of the population. But the majority prefer it, and the
Taliban losses more support with this kind of violence.
Taliban shift to suicide bombs is not going well. As in Iraq, most of the
casualties are civilians, which turns the population more hostile to the
terrorists. Then there is the shortage of suicide bombers. Arabs are into
self-destruction more than Afghans, so it's more difficult for the Taliban to
get people to carry the bombs. Recently, a ten year old boy was used. The child
was not able to carry the attack out effectively, killing himself, but no one
else. In the capital, two recent suicide bombs caused no casualties, and one of
them were discovered, seized and defused before it could explode.
is building a new prison, in Afghanistan, for up to 1100 terrorists and
terrorism suspects. The existing prison, in Bagram air base, holds 610 inmates.
Apparently, the U.S. wants to transfer the 270 prisoners held at the at
Guantánamo Bay, Cuba prison.
losses while crossing the border have caused the Taliban to shift tactics in
how they get from Pakistan to Afghanistan. Taliban gunmen are now trying to
pass as family members of family groups that travel into Afghanistan every day.
The families go along because of bribes or threats. Gunrunners from Iran bring
in weapons to equip these young men, who cross the border unarmed. Afghan police
are now questioning young men crossing the border more closely. Even that is
safer than trying to sneak across, where better NATO and U.S. surveillance
catch these groups, and often wipe them out.
Recruiting gunmen inside Afghanistan is getting more difficult, and
higher wages have to be offered. Many Taliban leaders are offering to pay more
than twice what a cop or soldier gets. Even that is not enough, because the
annual death rate among Taliban fighters is over a third, while it's only a few
percent for police or soldiers. Most Afghans may be illiterate, but they can
government is angry with Pakistan again. This time the cause is a recent peace
deal the Pakistanis made with the tribes along the Afghan border. In theory,
the deal shuts down Taliban training camps and takes away heavy weapons
(artillery, mortars and heavy machine-guns.) But similar deals in the past were
soon violated by the Islamic militants, who are on a Mission From God, and
openly speak about how that permits one to deceive ones enemies.