Winning: The Taliban Take a Tumble

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May 24, 2007: Year two of the "Return of the Taliban" is turning into a disaster for the visitors from Pakistan. So far this year, three members of the Taliban ruling council have been killed by NATO and Afghan forces. The overall casualties this year are running behind those of last year, and the Taliban is taking more of the losses than last year. This year, the Taliban don't have the initiative, but are instead on the run most of the time. NATO and Afghan forces have launched several offensives of their own , which have caught the Taliban forces still trying to get organized. Taliban casualties have been heavy, NATO and Afghan losses have been much less. The biggest success the Taliban have had is in using suicide bombers, and Afghan civilians as human shields (at least when some of the civilians get killed by NATO bombs or artillery.)

The Taliban have been having problems back in Pakistan as well. A war has broken out between some of the Pakistani Pushtun tribes, and al Qaeda. This has resulted in several hundred al Qaeda dead, and tribes that are less friendly towards the Taliban. On the plus side, the Taliban have managed to recruit thousands of new fighters in Pakistan, despite the heavy (about 3,000 dead) last year. Then again, many of this years recruits are inexperienced religion school students. These guys don't last long in combat.

Meanwhile, the drug business is thriving, and the Taliban is benefiting from that. But many Taliban leaders are uneasy with this alliance, and some know how corrupting it has proved to be in other countries (like Colombia). The drug gangs want the Taliban to ease off on trying to take control of southern Afghanistan. Not because that would be a bad thing for the drug gangs, it would. No, the drug lords want the Taliban to give the NATO and Afghan forces fewer reasons to get out there and take down illegal operations. The Afghan government is willing to cut some deals with the drug lords, and the Taliban as well. But too many of the Taliban are fanatical, and the hardcore will settle for nothing less than control of the country. That's not going to happen, and all this Taliban violence is bad for business. The drug business.

And as if the Taliban didn't have enough trouble, the Pakistani government has lost patience with the two million Afghan refugees still living in Pakistan. After three decades, Pakistan wants the Afghans to go home, and is beginning to use force. One reason for this is the belief that the Taliban, and Islamic conservatives in general, have been using the refugee camps as bases and sources of recruits. Iran is also expelling its two million Afghan refugees, but mainly because their refugee camps have become infested with drug smuggling gangs.

Opinion surveys indicate that over 80 percent of the Afghans in Pakistan don't want to go home. Three quarters of those refugees are under thirty, and many of those have never been to Afghanistan. Many have put down roots in Pakistan, but the Pakistanis don't want them.

 


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