April 16, 2010:
The Pakistani operations against the Taliban has greatly reduced Taliban support coming into Afghanistan from bases in Pakistan. However, Afghan officials are complaining that Pakistan is being selective in who it goes after, and leaving some Islamic terror organizations alone. The Pakistanis say this is to enable exploitation of some pro-Taliban groups as allies and sources of information. To the Afghans, this is seen as typical Pakistani use of radical groups to keep Afghanistan unstable and easier to manipulate. Thus the Afghans point out that there are still Islamic terrorist bases operating in Pakistan, and terrorists are still crossing into Afghanistan and carrying out attacks.
The Taliban is not interested in being popular, they do want to be feared. Thus they continue their unpopular campaign against female education, and women working outside the home. Women who work for foreign organizations are particularly targeted, and are increasingly being murdered. This leads to more popular clamor for protection from the Taliban. The alternative is submission to Taliban rule. Few Afghans want that, but it faced with death or submission, most would choose the latter.
In the north, increased American air reconnaissance (UAVs and special manned recon aircraft like the RC-12), are finding the Taliban combat groups more quickly. A group of about 400 Taliban gunmen were spotted assembling in the north, and promptly attacked. The Taliban always lose these battles. The big problem for the foreign and Afghan troops is catching or killing most of the Taliban before they scatter and get away. Running away from a fight you can't win is a respectable tactic for Afghan warriors.
Civilian casualties are up over 20 percent so far this year, and the total could reach 3,000. Last year, they were up 14 percent over 2008. The increase is coming from the Taliban use of anti-vehicle mines and roadside bombs. While intended for foreign troops, most of the victims are Afghan civilians.
April 15, 2010: A suicide car bomber got into a Kandahar area compound where foreigners live. The explosion killed several foreigners. Another bomb went off in front of a hotel used by foreigners. The two attacks left seven dead. This was disappointing for the Taliban, who depend on large death tolls for the scary publicity they are seeking. The U.S. has brought in the security measures it developed in Iraq, often using troops who helped create these techniques and made them work. This has made it much more difficult for the Taliban to kill the large quantities of people they believe they need to properly terrorize the foreigners, and Afghans.
In the north, a German vehicle patrol was ambushed, killing four soldiers and wounding several others. German troops have been more aggressive in the last year, and this has resulted in more casualties for them, and the Taliban. Germany is sending better protected armored vehicles, and at least eight Panzerhaubitze 2000 self-propelled 155mm howitzers. The Dutch have been using this weapon in Afghanistan for four years, so it is known how it performs there, and what problems will be encountered (mainly, lots of dust.)
April 12, 2010: A French TV network, bowing to Taliban demands, showed a video of two French journalists pleading for their lives. The Taliban captured the two men four months ago, and are demanding that captured Taliban (in Afghanistan) be released for the two, or else the French journalists will be killed. The U.S. and NATO will not make these trades, as they only encourage more kidnappings. The French are trying to persuade the Taliban into accepting a cash ransom instead. NATO has been warning journalists to stay out of territory where the Taliban are active, and to be careful throughout the country because of the numerous bandits, and the tribal customs of robbing or kidnapping foreigners.
Outside Kandahar, an Afghan bus failed to stop at an American checkpoint, and the troops opened fire. The bus was full of civilians, and four were killed. The Afghans always blame the Americans for this, ignoring the fact that Islamic terrorists are always trying to attack, or get through, these checkpoints. If the troops did not open fire on drivers who ignored the order to stop, the terrorists would exploit that to kill more American and Afghans.
April 10, 2010: In Helmand province, police found explosives and suicide vests hidden in a hospital run by a foreign aid organization. The group and their hospital had been there since 2001, and had adapted to the Taliban domination of the area. For this reason, the police arrested three Italian aid officials, and accused them of collaborating with the Taliban and supporting a plan to murder the provincial governor. It's unlikely that the Italians actively supported the assassination plot, but they have been cooperating with the Taliban, who have free access to the hospital. This kind of involvement is common in areas where armed groups are active, and NGOs (foreign aid groups) have no perfect solution for it.