Afghanistan: Liberators Who Refuse to Fight

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February9, 2007: U.S. forces in Afghanistan have nearly tripled in the last three years, from 9,500 in 2002, to 26,000 today. Most (14,000) of the current force is assigned to NATO, while the rest are training Afghan troops or Special Forces running special operations. You don't hear much about either of these operations, but both are vital to the success of the new Afghan government. That's because tribal warfare is the norm in rural Afghanistan. The Taliban are basically a movement that unites religious fervor and tribal loyalty into yet another tribe based conflict. Superior foreign troops can stamp out the tribal warriors easily enough, that's been done for thousands of years. But to shut down the tribal war making machine, you need Afghan troops, and Afghan negotiators.

February 8, 2007: Claiming they are, "liberators not occupiers," Germany, France, Italy and Spain have dug in their heels and affirmed their refusal to allow their peacekeeping troops in Afghanistan to fight the Taliban. Germany did agree to send eight Tornado reconnaissance aircraft to Afghanistan. But these warplanes can only fly over the Taliban, and photograph them, but not bomb them. There are also some German commandos in Afghanistan, who apparently fight, but the Germans don't like to talk about that. Only about 30 percent of the 35,000 NATO troops (those from Britain, Canada and the Netherlands) are allowed to fight the Taliban. The remainder patrol areas where there is little, or no, Taliban activity, and are instructed to back off if confronted by the Taliban.

February 7, 2007: Several roadside bombs left eight policemen dead. In eastern Afghanistan, a raid captured two al Qaeda couriers, and four other suspects. Another suspect was killed. There's a lot of al Qaeda traffic back and forth across the border in this area. In Pakistan, the Taliban are allied with al Qaeda, which has become expert at delivering suicide bomber attacks. However, because of Taliban anger at Pakistani government air raids, al Qaeda bombers have recently been hitting civilian targets in major cities. This is a big no-no, as it agitates the foreigners and makes the government look bad. As a result, there appears to be another war brewing, between the Pakistani army and the Taliban tribes. This might mean that al Qaeda will temporarily shift some operations to Afghanistan. When the Pakistani government gets motivated enough, they can do a lot of damage to al Qaeda and the Taliban. But most of the time, the many Islamic conservatives in the Pakistani security and intelligence services are inclined to tolerate Islamic radical groups.

February 5, 2007: The Pakistani effort to register Afghan refugees in Pakistan is 80 percent complete. Apparently there are still some 2.4 million Afghans in Pakistan. That's nearly ten percent of the Afghan population. About two thirds of these Afghans are in Pakistan's North West tribal areas. As such, these refugees are Pushtun tribesmen living among their Pushtun cousins. This is not the case for the 20 percent of the refugees living in southwest Pakistan (Baluchistan). However, the Baluchi tribes are similar to the Pushtun ones, and many Baluchis support the Taliban cause. The remaining 15 percent of the refugees are scattered all over Pakistan. Many of these refugees have been in Pakistan for over 20 years, having arrived after the Russian invasion of 1979. These people have settled down, with the help of UN and American aid programs.

February 4, 2007: In the southern town of Musa Qala, where a pro-Taliban tribal faction has taken over, a U.S. missile killed the Taliban leader, Mullah Ghafour, as he rode into the town. The government has told the residents of Musa Qala to get out of town, because the 200 or so Taliban were digging in and preparing a fight to death. The U.S. wants to accommodate them with minimal civilian losses. Apparently Mullah Ghafour was upset because his brother, also a Taliban adherent, was killed by an American bomb last week. Afghans believe the smart bombs and missiles are somewhat unfair, since you cannot shoot back. Bushwacking a man is more acceptable, though, and rather respected. Hitting your enemy when he doesn't expect it is admired, but you should put yourself at some risk while killing the guy.


 

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