Anti-Taliban tribes in southern Afghanistan are not just fighting the Taliban, they are also sometimes fighting each other. Most of this strife occurs on the Iranian border area, where control of territory can mean big bucks from drug gangs. While individual warlords run the drug smuggling operations, payments are made to local tribes for passage through the border area. After that, the heavily armed drug smugglers have to sometimes fight there way past Iranian police and troops. Farmers throughout Afghanistan are planting poppies, which generates over ten times the income of food crops. The drug gangs buy the raw material derived from the poppies and then process into opium and heroin. Afghanistan accounts for about 90 percent of the world's heroin and the drug is so cheap that much of it is sold to local addicts in Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan.
Senior Taliban officials are surrendering, often with their troops. Many, however, are still fighting around Kandahar. Several anti-Taliban Pushtun tribes have been joined a Northern Alliance force that advanced from Herat to the north west. The Northern Alliance force is led by a Pushtun, which probably accounts for the lack of friction between the Northern Alliance troops (many of whom are Pushtuns from the north) and the local Pushtuns. Many Pushtuns from northern Afghanistan are part of the Northern Alliance. The Northern Alliance expects to take Kandahar within a week. Meanwhile, many pockets of Taliban control remain throughout the country. Some of these Taliban garrisons are held together by foreigner Taliban (particularly Arab and Chechen fighters.)
Many terrorist leaders have been identified among captured Taliban. These are usually turned over to American officials for interrogation. Some of the terrorists are being flown out of Afghanistan for interrogation. The United States is now offering legal residence in the United States for those who provide information leading to the capture of terrorists or the interruption of terrorist attacks. Interrogations of Taliban and al Qaeda prisoners has already yielded much new information, as has the examination of terrorist training camps and headquarters in Kabul and other cities.
The Northern Alliance has agreed to the use of some foreign peacekeepers. Details on this have yet to be worked out.
More U.S. special forces have entered Afghanistan, where they roam the country establishing relationships with tribes and providing air support. The special forces troops carry radios to communicate with overhead warplanes and laser designators and GPS to identify targets for the bombs. This sort of support impresses the Afghans.
The Taliban has admitted that it has suffered "countless deaths" in the last two month's fighting. The Taliban are calling for their remaining fighters to become "martyrs." The Taliban also announced that fighting was taking place in the outskirts of Kandahar.
The U.S. announced that it would probably set up additional bases in southern Afghanistan. All of these will be small, as there is still a major problem getting supplies into the country. Currently, nearly everything must be flown in. Attempts are being made to suppress banditry on the roads from Pakistan so that more humanitarian and military supplies can be brought in by truck. Meanwhile, construction equipment has been flown into the airports at Mazar-I-Sharif and Bagram (outside Kabul) to speed repairs.
Turkey has sent 90 special forces troops to Afghanistan to train Anti-Taliban forces and help support the US ground operation.--Stephen V Cole