Taliban Summer Offensive actually turned out to be larger than last years, but
was much less effective. Nearly 3,000 people died, about 20 percent more than
last year and, as with last year, most of them Taliban fighters. But over 500
of the dead were civilians, most the victims of Taliban terrorism. Unlike last
year, there were far fewer civilians actively assisting the Taliban. This year,
the big players were the drug gangs, and tribal groups that are heavily into
the heroin trade. They have the money the Taliban lack, and pay for the
thousands of Taliban gunmen let loose to defend the drug producing areas around
Kandahar. This city has long been the capital of "Talibanstan",
mainly because it is in the midst of the area where the most pro-Taliban
Pushtun tribes reside.
September 3, 2007: A
Taliban district headquarters and safe house was attacked by a U.S./Afghan
force, leaving at least 25 Taliban, including several leaders, dead. Since the
Taliban disbanded their centralized military command this Summer, the district
leaders have become more important. Some of the district leaders have been more
successful than others. Several of these leaders operate around Kandahar, and
they are now prime targets for police and foreign troops. The fighting
has been particularly tough on the police, who have lost about 500 men this
year. When the Taliban are run out of an area, a small force of police goes in
to "hold" the area. But in rural areas of Afghanistan, police are an
exotic foreign import. For thousands of years, tribal councils take care of
police investigations, and groups of armed tribesmen mete out a rough form of
justice. Police are seen as targets by many tribesmen, a potential source of
loot. This is particularly the case in southern Afghanistan, where some Pushtun
tribes resent the central government a whole lot.
September 2, 2007:
Three major operations over the past few days have left over 70 Taliban dead,
and many more wounded or captured. Many of the Taliban were men who had just
crossed the border from Pakistan. The Taliban promptly responded with claims
that many Afghan civilians had been killed, not Taliban fighters. But the
Taliban have been discredited too many times with false claims of civilian
casualties. Few journalists take the Taliban seriously about this anymore.
September 1, 2007:
Although the South Korean government insisted it had not paid a ransom for the
release of 19 South Korean air workers, the Taliban openly boasted of
getting more than $20 million. Kidnapping for ransom is an ancient Afghan
custom, and collecting a large ransom is considered a big deal and a worth achievement.
August 31, 2007: Taliban
efforts to kill foreign, or even Afghan, troops have been most successful using
roadside bombs. In response, police and foreign troops have concentrated on
finding the bomb makers. These guys are well paid, but since their efforts kill
lots of Afghan civilians, the bomb makers have to keep moving and live in fear
of locals betraying them. But it's a well paying job, and many of the more
clever tribesmen are eager to apprentice themselves to a bomb maker (often a
foreigner) to learn the trade.
In eastern Afghanistan,
the Taliban fired rockets at a U.S. base. But the unguided rockets fell short,
hit a residential area and killed ten Afghan civilians. It's things like this,
not bogus accusations of foreigners killing civilians, that turns Afghans
against the Taliban.
August 30, 2007: After
several days of fighting outside Kandahar, over a hundred Taliban, and three
NATO troops, were dead. This is a key area for the Taliban, as over half the
heroin in the country is produced in the area between Kandahar and the
Pakistani border. The drug lords pay top dollar to hire tribesmen to defend
this area. The Taliban organizes the violence, that being their specialty. The
drug gangs are not pro-Taliban, but instead recognize the Taliban as natural
allies. The Taliban tolerates the production of opium and heroin, the current
government does not. Simple as that.
Mullah Brother, a top
Taliban commander in the Kandahar area, was killed by NATO troops. Mullah
Brother had been a Taliban military official since before 2001.