Afghanistan: February 13, 2002

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There's an Information War crises going on. The problem with sorting out all the intelligence info being gathered in Afghanistan is so great that the Department of Defense has ordered most troops with intelligence jobs to be kept in uniform despite looming retirement or discharge at the end of service. The U.S. has a lot of spy satellites, recon aircraft and UAVs flying over Afghanistan, as well as hundreds of people on the ground working with Afghans and collecting information. More journalists and NGOs are now wandering about collecting information as well, and broadcasting it to fit their real or perceived perceptions about what's going on. Recent cases of American attacks on Taliban/al Qaeda suspects has shown how murky all this can be.

With Taliban and al Qaeda forces on the run, and the Afghan tribes playing their usual political games with each other, and anyone else in the area, it's becoming more difficult to figure out who is doing what to who. The bad guys don't wear uniforms. Taliban can change sides several times depending on local politics and other factors (like a local chief deciding to become pro-Taliban). Al Qaeda members, while hated by most Afghans, still have a few friends. And if the al Qaeda have cash and guns with them, they can make friends quickly as needed. Afghans also smell money, having gotten a taste of it by ripping off the horde of journalists. Afghans note that if you tell the journalists, NGOs or soldiers, what they want to hear, you will likely get something. Some NGOs are encouraging Afghans to claim compensation for war injuries. And there's a growing problem with tribal leaders accusing local opponents of being, or harboring, Taliban or al Qaeda. Thus intelligence information was be examined in light of who wants to get what, or who hates who. The drug gangs are re-establishing their smuggling and drug production operations, and they will use force to prevent any interference with this. Now there are honest, straight talking Afghans. But these sterling folks tend to get pushed aside by the double dealing crowd (which tended to use sharp elbows and force to get their way.) 

The interim government is now calling for a new national army of 200-250,000 troops. Foreign nations are not eager to increase the size of the peacekeeping force beyond 5-6,000 soldiers. The main fear is that the peacekeepers would get drawn into Afghan feuds, while a larger Afghan army, if properly trained, would be better able to handle local disputes.

U.S. ground troops and aircraft continue to operate in support of efforts to find Taliban and al Qaeda forces. Apparently both Taliban and al Qaeda members are trying to reorganize inside Afghanistan. 

 

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