Afghanistan: Taliban Killing Taliban

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October 17, 2013: Despite Taliban boasts that this year’s Summer Offensive would do great damage to Afghan and foreign forces, the results were quite dismal. For example, last month only 12 foreign troops were killed, less than half the number killed in September 2012. For the year so far, foreign troop deaths are down 58 percent compared to last year. The Taliban effort to kill foreign troops via Afghan troops or Taliban in Afghan uniforms was way down (over 70 percent) this year compared to last. Much of the decline in foreign troop casualties is due to Afghan forces taking over primary responsibility for security in most of the country this year. Last year 10-11 Afghan soldiers or police were killed each day. This year it is more like 15 a day, and at least half are from landmines and roadside bombs. Taliban losses have been higher and the Taliban goal of demoralizing Afghan soldiers and police was not achieved. The Taliban hoped greater use of roadside bombs against Afghan forces would terrorize these troops into staying in their bases and leaving the Taliban and drug gangs to do as they wished. That has not happened. Afghan police and soldiers, using equipment and techniques developed by the Americans, keep contested roads open and kept after the Taliban.

Efforts to negotiate terms for remaining U.S. troops (after all other NATO forces have left after 2014) continue to go nowhere. Even the recent visit by the American Secretary of Defense made little difference. The Afghan politicians have been playing hardball with the Americans on this, refusing to agree to continue American immunity from the corrupt Afghan justice system after 2014. The U.S. has told the Afghans that if they don’t get a Status of Forces (immunity) agreement by the end of 2014, then the U.S. will withdraw all their forces. Such “Status Of Forces” agreements are standard practice for foreign troops overseas and, in the case of Afghanistan, are necessary to protect American troops from abuse by corrupt Afghan judges and prosecutors. If the U.S. withdraws completely a lot of the foreign aid might stop coming as well, as well as essential logistical, training, and air support for Afghan security forces. The implication here is that if the Afghans prove unable to govern themselves and the country once more becomes a terrorist haven, the bombers and commandoes will come back and the Afghan leaders responsible will be primary targets. That threat carries more weight since Osama bin laden was finally taken down in 2011. So far this threat has not persuaded the Afghan leaders to compromise. They know they can do that at the last minute, and in the meantime their stubbornness costs them nothing and is, by Afghan standards, entertaining and potentially profitable.

October 15, 2013: In Logar province (southeast of Kabul) the Taliban killed the provincial governor by planting a bomb in a copy of the Koran. The governor was giving a speech in a mosque at the start of a Moslem holy day. The Taliban threatened to kill a lot of senior officials this year but had had few successes. Killing someone in a mosque using a bomb in a Koran will not win the Taliban many new friends in Afghanistan or the Islamic world in general. The dead governor was known to be an honest and particularly effective official, just the sort of man the Taliban want out of the way.

October 13, 2013: The Taliban fired several rockets into the Bagram air base but caused no casualties or property damage.

October 10, 2013: In the east (Khost province) a Taliban suicide car bomber attacked a NATO convoy but managed to wound four ivilians. None of the foreign troops were hurt. The Taliban later announced heavy NATO casualties but the locals know better because some of them stood around watching the aftermath and noted that the only casualties being taken away were Afghans, and the only fatality was the driver of the car with all the explosives. The roadside bombs, while intended for Afghan and foreign security personnel, tend to mainly hurt civilians and the civilians know it. The Taliban stick with these weapons because fighting the security forces directly is suicidal and makes Taliban recruiting impossible.

October 8, 2013: In the east (Kunar province) Afghan Taliban attacked a Pakistani Taliban camp near the Pakistan border and killed three Pakistani Taliban leaders and several of their followers. Battles like this have been more common since earlier this year. That’s because after years of pleading by Pakistan, Afghanistan (both the government and the Taliban) agreed to go after Pakistani Taliban who have set up camps just inside Afghanistan. From there they raid into Pakistan and then retreat back across the border if facing an intense army or police reaction. But the armed force assembling to go after the Pakistani Taliban camps are not Afghan soldiers or police but Afghan Taliban and tribal militias. This is the result of the Afghan Taliban agreeing to join with the Pakistani Army in an attack on the Pakistani Taliban. There has long been bad blood between the Afghan and Pakistani branches of the Taliban. Part of it is due to the usual feuds between rival Islamic terror organizations. But the basic problem is that each branch wants to take control of the country they are from and that means Pakistani Taliban are welcome (unofficially) in Afghanistan and the Afghan Taliban (officially) in Pakistan. The Afghan Taliban depends on the Pakistani sanctuary it has in and around Quetta, the largest city in Baluchistan (southwest Pakistan). Quetta is safe because Pakistan will not let American UAVs to operate there. Quetta is where the Afghan Taliban leadership has been sheltered since 2002 and is right across the Afghan border from the Taliban heartland in Kandahar and Helmand provinces. Since the Afghan Taliban has not made (or sponsored) terrorist attacks in Pakistan, there has been an unofficial truce with the Pakistani government. For over a year now the Pakistani military has been trying to persuade the Afghan Taliban to help deal with anti-Pakistan Islamic terrorists in Pakistan. Most of these attacks are carried out by the Pakistani Taliban, whose main base area is in North Waziristan, where the pro-Pakistan Haqqani Network also takes shelter. Haqqani is mostly Afghans and only attacks inside Afghanistan. For years the U.S. has been pressuring Pakistan to shut down the North Waziristan sanctuary. Now it appears that Pakistan might possibly sort-of do that but will probably leave Haqqani alone. The Afghan Taliban will help by going after the growing number of Pakistani Taliban camps just across the border in Afghanistan. The Afghan Taliban refuse to admit to this plan and say that they will only carry out attacks outside Pakistan, which is mainly inside Afghanistan.

Some Afghan Taliban are still supporting the Pakistani Taliban. Both branches of the Taliban are composed of many factions or, in the case of the Pakistani Taliban, independent groups that joined the Pakistani Taliban coalition. All the Pakistani Taliban can agree on is the need to replace the current elected government of Pakistan with a religious dictatorship. That is not popular with most Pakistanis, which has been a major problem for Pakistan.

October 7, 2013: In eastern Afghanistan (Khost province, near the Pakistan border) U.S. troops captured Latif Mehsud, a Pakistani Taliban media official. Mehsud was in charge of arranging meetings between Pakistani Taliban officials and journalists. The Pakistani Taliban waited a few days before admitting Mehsud had been taken. Mehsud was in Afghanistan to negotiate the ransom for some Afghans the Pakistani Taliban had kidnapped. Mehsud apparently felt he would have no problem with Afghan security forces, but he was stopped by American troops. President Karzai was angry over Mehsud being arrested as Karzai is trying to negotiate some kind of peace deal with the Pakistan Taliban.

October 2, 2013: In Tajikistan the parliament approved an extension of the military cooperation treaty with Russia to 2042. This includes Russia continuing to station four-thousand troops there, mainly on the Tajik southern (Afghan) border to help keep out drugs and Islamic terrorists. This involves running three Russian bases in Tajikistan. Russia also continues to train Tajik military personnel (mainly officers) and supply weapons and ammo at low cost or for free. In Afghanistan many Taliban operate to provide security for heroin smuggling. The Central Asian route (via Tajikistan to West Europe and North America) is long but for most of the way you can bribe your way past border security. The Taliban are much more unpopular in northern Afghanistan and are often informed on or even attacked by hostile tribesmen. With Russian help the Tajiks have made their border guards more resistant to Taliban bribes and more likely to prevent smuggling. This can be seen by the numerous seizures of drugs and gun battles with the heavily armed smugglers. A lot of drugs do get through, but for the Russians every ton that is stopped is helpful. Drug addiction is a big problem in Russia.

 

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