Afghanistan: April 12, 2002

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With Spring arriving, the extent of the armed opposition to the interim government is becoming apparent. There aren't that many armed men actually shooting at the government and foreign forces. Perhaps a few hundred Afghans have taken part in these attacks so far. In addition, these same men are beginning to terrorize those Afghans that work for and support the interim government and foreign aid organizations. Most of the billions in aid dollars coming into the country are going through foreign aid agencies. As little of the money as possible is being given to Afghan officials. But those same Afghan leaders expect to get their hands on some foreign money, and they will. Otherwise, these men, almost all of whom have several dozen to several thousand armed men supporting them, could join the active opposition to foreigners. The men who are shooting at foreigners are Taliban and like minded religious conservatives as well as those traditionalists who simply see any foreigner as a target and source of loot. There are also the tribal and ethnic hatreds that still simmer. Non-Pushtuns dominate the current government, and the largest (40 percent of the population) minority in the country, the Pushtuns, don't like it. But one armed group not heard from yet are the drug gangs. These guys will fight for money, not religion, tradition and tribe. The American people on the ground, mainly Army special forces and civil affairs  and CIA people, are learning what the price of peace will be. The major problem is seeing that everyone gets what they feel is their fair share. Failing to do this triggers fighting. The government won't have enough reliable troops to suppress unhappy groups for a year or more. Foreign nations are unwilling to send in troops for this kind of peacekeeping. If the US people in the countryside can't keep the peace with bribes and aid, nothing else will and the country will turn into dozens of independent warlord fiefs. And some of those warlords will be receptive to al Qaeda and al Qaeda money.

American and British patrols of areas around their bases in Kabul and Kandahar have uncovered hidden munitions (including over a hundred long range rockets), al Qaeda documents, graves and a few clashes with al Qaeda or Taliban gunmen. Helicopters and gunships provide the coalition patrols with a major advantage. Electronic surveillance aircraft monitor radio frequencies for enemy communications. Coalition troops are trying to keep the pressure on enemy fighters to reduce the attacks on government and coalition bases.

 

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