Afghanistan: May 4, 2004

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Taliban attacks in the south have increased with the coming of Spring. The Taliban have issued several pronouncements to the Moslem media about the progress of their "Spring offensive." In reality, the Taliban operations are having about the same impact as an outbreak of banditry (a pretty common event in the border area.) So far this year, some 300 Taliban, soldiers and civilians have died in violence along the Pakistan border.

There are currently 17,000 American troops in the country, plus 6,000 NATO troops.

The national army is now up to 7,000 trained troops, with another 2.400 in training. The army has been successful in the field, and gets better as they gain more experience and confidence. The army training will accelerate now that the initial start-up phase is over. The army should be up to 11,000 troops later this year, and will be training new soldiers at the rate of 6,000 a year by next year. By next month, there will be 20,000 trained national police. It's the police, operating at the local level, who pose the biggest threat to the Taliban and Islamic conservatives. The police operating in the south have army backup and serve in larger numbers per village than in other parts of the country. The local warlords have resisted disarmament, none, so far, have tried to resist it by forces. Nearly 7,000 gunmen have already been disarmed and given other jobs. But there perhaps ten times that number still out there. 

It's become quite common for Taliban and al Qaeda operations to be betrayed by informers, indicating that support for these two groups is thin. Several tribes considered pro-Taliban, are negotiating with the government to work out an amnesty and peace deal. Afghan president Karzai is a Pushtun from the south, and this makes such negotiations much easier.

 

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