Afghanistan: October 14, 2001

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Air raids continue, with pilots increasingly being allowed to select their own targets. There are more special forces teams on the ground providing targeting information. Information from satellite and aircraft reconnaissance is providing pilots with better information on what targets of opportunity look like. Especially important is showing pilots how to distinguish between civilian (especially food and refugee) convoys and military ones. The Taliban headquarters at Kandahar was heavily bombed. 

The Taliban have allowed journalists into Afghanistan to visit a village hit by an errant US bomb. The Taliban are trying to exploit the civilian casualties to increase anger among Moslem populations in Pakistan and other nations. The Taliban know that if the pro-Taliban (or anti-American) demonstrations become large enough, and violent enough, Pakistan could be forced to ban the use of Pakistani airspace for American bombers. Currently, all the bombing raids go through Pakistani air space. Pakistan could also be forced to deny America use of Pakistani bases for search and rescue and reconnaissance missions. Public opinion, particularly in Moslem countries, is the only real weapon the Taliban have left. Without Pakistan, America would have to get permission to operate from Uzbekistan or Tajikistan. This would be more difficult of Pakistan backed off. There are unlikely to be a lot of media opportunities like this for the Taliban, as most of the military targets near populated areas have already been hit. The bombing is already shifting to Taliban military units out in the countryside. However, the Taliban will no doubt copy the Iraqi practice of putting troops and supplies in villages and residential areas of cities. But the Taliban troops have to move to keep the Northern Alliance at bay. This may lead to Taliban convoys taking civilians along with them. If such military convoys are attacked, the Taliban will have another propaganda victory.

Russian border troops in Tajikstan continue to hear the sounds of combat across the border in Afghanistan. The Northern Alliance are apparently still trying to clear the Taliban from the Tajik border area. American aircraft have so far stopped short of bombing targets directly engaged with Northern Alliance forces. As Taliban troops are hit more often, there is a fear that the Northern Alliance will march into Kabul (the main Taliban stronghold is further south in Kandahar) and declare a new government. This could make things worse, as many Pushtun dislike the Tajik dominated Northern Alliance more than the Pushtun dominated Taliban. A new civil war could break out between Pushtuns and non-Pushtuns. The Bin Laden troops would probably ally with the Pushtuns, or maybe not. When it comes to Afghan politics, unexpected events can be expected.

 

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