Afghanistan: October 12, 2001

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Bombing raids continued, with more attacks on Taliban trenches facing Northern Alliance positions. The Taliban have concentrated about half their army near the Tajik border, as Northern Alliance forces (with about half as many troops up there) continue to gain ground in the area. While the United States insists they are not coordinating operations with the Northern Alliance, an increasing number of bombing runs by US aircraft are against Taliban forces near the Tajik border. Since Taliban and Northern Alliance forces look very similar from the air (and on the ground), there would have to be US target spotters with the Northern Alliance to make sure the bombs land on the fight people. 

The Northern Alliance insists that it does not want American ground forces involved, but does appreciate the US bombing of Taliban positions. The Northern Alliance will also benefit from the increasing shortage of fuel for Taliban trucks and the increasing amount of weapons and equipment arriving from Russia. There is also more humanitarian aid arriving for inhabitants and refugees in Northern Alliance territory. The US, however, is increasingly reluctant to openly deal with the Northern Alliance, because of long time hostility between the Northern Alliance and Pakistan. The Northern Alliance contains many people who were in the Afghan government the Taliban overthrew in 1996. That government was shaky and the result of seven years of civil war between various warlords. When the Taliban began operating in the early 1990s, they sought to end the lawlessness that the warlord government was unable to deal with. The Northern Alliance has made a deal with the former king to cooperate in trying to form a new national government. But the Northern Alliance has also brought up century old border disputes with Pakistan. The Northern Alliance is also taking advantage of widespread hatred of Pakistan interference in  Afghan affairs. Many Afghans blame Pakistani interference for their current problems. But if America gets solidly behind  the Northern Alliance, and the Northern Alliance takes over, the country could fall back into the feuding warlords chaos seen between 1992 and 1996. The problem is that the Taliban still have support among some Pushtun groups and even if the Taliban lost control of the government, they would still be a power to be reckoned with, especially in southern Afghanistan. Moreover, many Pushtuns consider the Northern Alliance as pawns of the Russians. The Pushtuns also have long considered themselves the ones who should run the country. Think of the Pushtuns as the "Serbs of Afghanistan." The Afghan Pushtuns have long gotten aid from the Pushtuns living in Pakistan. Moreover, there is also the long history of Iranian influence in western Afghanistan. It's no accident that most of the people in Western Afghanistan speak a dialect of Iranian. Getting bin Laden means dealing with Afghan politics, and that's a murky and dangerous game. 

 

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