Afghanistan: June 6, 2003

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Afghanistan continues complaining to Pakistan about Taliban fighters based in Pakistan, and raiding into Afghanistan. Pakistan says this isn't happening. In any event, much of the border area belongs to Pakistans North West Frontier Province, which is controlled by pro-Taliban Islamic conservatives since last years elections.

The government is sending troops and police to take control of border crossings. This is to get control of the fees and duties collected their. This is a lucrative business, amounting to over a hundred million dollars a year. Since late 2001, local warlords have controlled the crossings and taken most of the money. It may require armed force to make the warlords give up that kind of money.  The warlords can call in drug gangs for extra firepower. The government has warned the drug gangs (often run by warlords or tribal chiefs) that they are next. And then there are the smuggling gangs. Afghanistan is a tough place to govern. It can be done, it has been done, but to do so the government has to be tougher than all those warlord forces.

And then there's the Taliban. They want to take over again, something most warlords oppose, but the drug and smuggling gangs know they could live with. So far, the Taliban are mostly talk and bluster. Small groups of Taliban ambush vehicles and patrols, and mount a few attacks with more than a hundred men. But the coalition has a lot of advantages. US Special Forces have set up a good intelligence system, and American helicopters and bombers provide a major edge in combat.

 

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