Afghanistan: June 14, 2004

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The coming elections are opposed by more than just the Taliban and al Qaeda gunmen. The drug gangs and various warlords don't want a strong central government either, and are often resisting efforts to register voters. More violence is expected when the vote itself takes place. The Canadian commander of the 6,500 NATO troops in Afghanistan wants a crack down on the drug gangs and warlords. But NATO nations refuse to supply more troops, or allow offensive operations. The United States does not want to go to war with the drug gangs and warlords, preferring to leave it to the Afghan government to deal with the situation as they think best. The Afghan president is willing to negotiate with the warlords, and believes useful deals can be made.

Along the Pakistan border, American and Afghan troops continue to chase down groups of Taliban fighters. Some of the Taliban are trying to flee into Pakistan, but this has become more dangerous as the Pakistani army has launched an offensive against Taliban and al Qaeda bases in Pakistan. US Marines alone have killed 80 Taliban in the last week, operating in the heart of Taliban country (Zabul province). US Army and Special Forces have been chasing down Taliban members individually and in groups all along the Pakistani border, and making many arrests. The Afghan army is showing up in places along the border that has not seen anyone from the Afghan government for decades. There are thought to be 500-1000 Taliban fighters out and about at the moment. Some 450 people have been killed so far this year, about half of them Taliban fighters, most of the remainder civilians and Afghan police and soldiers. For a country with a population of over 20 million, that is not a lot. But the major problem is the large number of people with guns and the constant threat of someone using their weapons to settle a gripe, or commit a crime of opportunity. This attitude has made Afghanistan a dangerous place for thousands of years. 

 

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