Murphy's Law: Twisted Taliban Politics

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July 27, 2007: In Afghanistan, about ten percent of the enemy fighters account for over half the civilian, government and NATO casualties. That's because most of the Taliban are interested in maintaining their power within their traditional tribal territories. This mainly involves intimidation and terror. Killing fellow tribesmen just causes a blood feud and the distraction of having to fight with your neighbors. The Taliban wants to keep the national, or even provincial, government out of their affairs, not stir up a hornets nest in their own back yard.

In Pakistan, last year's peace deal between the tribes and the government allowed al Qaeda and the Taliban to recruit and train freely in the tribal territories. The tribal leaders didn't keep their part of the bargain, to crack down on the terrorists, and that eventually brought them into conflict with the government. Now the Pakistani army is cracking down. Terrorists can no longer move so freely, and some are under attack. Worse, when the Taliban began, last year, to enforce their strict lifestyle rules on others in the tribal territories, they encountered resistance. For the last six months, there has been a growing number of little wars between the Islamic radicals and people in the Pakistani tribal territories.

The impact of all this strife is a sudden drop in the number of al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists crossing the border into Afghanistan. Up until a month ago, the number of Islamic terrorists entering Afghanistan from Pakistan was up at least 50 percent from last year. These are the guys carrying out the terrorist attacks (especially the suicide bombings). But now the level of terrorist activity is lower than last year. To make matters more interesting, the United States has announced that they would make attacks in the tribal territories if they discovered a terrorist threat, and the Pakistanis were unwilling or unable to do anything about it. The most talked about opportunity would be getting a good fix on senior Taliban or al Qaeda leaders, especially Osama bin Laden.

This has motivated the Pakistanis to get more aggressive in the tribal territories. All this increased aggression has increased the violence level on the Pakistani side of the border, and lowered it on the Afghan side. It's unclear how long this will last. The Pakistanis don't want a long tribal war, and neither do the tribes. But the Islamic radicals from the Taliban and al Qaeda have a different agenda, and will keep fighting.

 


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