Afghanistan: Taliban Stumble and Fail


June 20,2008: Afghanistan continues to be a low risk war, with American combat deaths, after nearly seven years of combat, reaching 310. If you include non-combat deaths (from accidents and disease), the deaths have been 447. Until recently, the loss rate in Afghanistan was about 30 percent of that in Iraq. But with the defeat of the Sunni Arab terrorists in Iraq this year, the casualty rates in Iraq are getting as low as those in Afghanistan have always been. Note that the casualty rates in Iraq, overall, are less than half what they were in Vietnam or World War II. Afghanistan is basically a low intensity war against a minority (the Taliban) of a minority (the Pushtun tribes). Such pointless conflicts are all too common in Afghanistan, where centuries of such nonsense have left the country the poorest in Asia.

June 19, 2008: Afghan and NATO forces killed or wounded several hundred Taliban who had come together south of Kandahar, and tried to take over seven villages. As usual, an examination of the dead, and interrogation of prisoners, showed that most of the gunmen were from Pakistan, recruited from Pushtun tribes, and religious schools for boys. Not exactly a great source of skilled warriors. Give them an AK-47, a few days training, a pep talk by a preacher and send them across the border. If they don't come back, and many don't, declare them martyrs for the cause.

In the south, another Taliban suicide bomber failed. The explosion, near a NATO convoy (apparently the intended target) killed ten civilians, and wounded many more. This makes the Taliban, and their al Qaeda allies, even less popular. The Taliban made did little for their public image by planting landmines around villages they briefly occupied south of Kandahar. The millions of mines the Russians left behind in the 1980s are still being cleared, and continue to kill and wound people.

June 18, 2008: Several hundred Taliban came out of the bush and took control of at least four villages south of Kandahar (the largest majority Pushtun city in the country). It was feared that the Taliban might make a run for Kandahar, but military commanders doubt that. The Taliban has yet to come up with a tactic to deal with NATO air supremacy and smart bombs. Once the Taliban show themselves somewhere, the UAVs and manned aircraft show up. If the Taliban concentrate enough force to take control of any population center, the smart bombs blow the Taliban up. Meanwhile, about a thousand NATO and Afghanistan troops have quickly moved into the area, killing at least three dozen Taliban gunmen. Last year, the Taliban tried to move into the same area, and quickly fled after over a hundred of them were killed or wounded.

June 17, 2008: Britain is sending another 230 troops to Afghanistan, most of them being specialists for reconstruction or training (for police) teams.

June 15, 2008: Afghan president Hamid Karzai caused a major diplomatic incident when he threatened to send his troops across the border to kill or capture Pakistani Taliban warlord Baitullah Mehsud. The Pakistanis have failed to bring Mehsud under control, even though Mehsud took credit for assassinating former premier (and recent presidential candidate) Benazir Bhutto. While Pakistani officials denounced the threat, many Pakistanis secretly wish Karzai would take down Mehsud. Both men are the leaders of powerful Pushtun tribes, and the majority of Pakistanis (who are not Pushtun) wish the tribes would just police themselves and cut out the violence. Pushtun unrest has been a problem in the region for thousands of years, and the non-tribal majority never gets used to it. Karzai's threat was particularly popular among businessmen across the border, where Taliban violence (in what is basically a battle for control of tribal governments by religious extremists) has ruined commerce. This affects everyone, with truck traffic disrupted and many shortages angering lots of people.

June 13, 2008: In Kandahar, Taliban suicide bombers blew open the walls of the main prison in the city in two places, and several dozen armed Taliban entered, chased the guards away and freed 870 prisoners (about 45 percent of them Taliban, most were common criminals). Canadian advisors had warned of poor security in the prison two years ago, but the Afghans did nothing to improve the situation. Government officials believe some of the prison guards may have been bribed to aid in the escapes. That is also a common occurrence, although in the past, such a break out would have been carried out entirely with bribes. Apparently the Taliban could not get to enough people on the prison staff to do the breakout just with cash. Nine prison guards and a civilian (a child playing nearby) were killed during the breakout.

June 12, 2008: At a donor meeting in France, Western nations only pledged $20 billion for Afghan reconstruction. The Afghans had requested $50 billion, but donor nations insisted that corruption had to dealt with first. Over the past six years, billions in aid had been stolen or gone missing, and the Afghan government, particularly president Hamid Karzai, had done little about it. The international community is getting fed up with the stealing, and Karzai's excuses.


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