Afghanistan: August 24, 2005

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So far this month, counter-terrorist operations have killed about 110 Taliban, mainly along the Pakistani border. Several  hundred suspects have been arrested. Most of the Taliban were killed last week, in the southern province of Zabul and the eastern province of Kunar.  These two areas have been the scene of most Taliban violence. Only a few hundred Taliban are causing all the terror and violence in the southern part of the country, with an estimated 2,000 Pushtun tribesmen actively supporting the Taliban cause. 

So far this year, about a thousand people have died in Taliban related violence (compared to 850 during the same period last year.) About half the dead are Taliban, with the rest being Afghan troops and civilians. While most of the troops fighting the Taliban are Afghans, 74 American troops have died as well. This increase in American dead is a result of American troops concentrating their efforts in areas where Taliban operations have been reported. While the Taliban are generally operating in areas where they have tribal or family ties, enough people are loyal to the government, that word quickly gets to the police, and then American commanders, about where the Taliban are. That triggers a round of hide and seek in the mountains and valleys along the Pakistani border. The Taliban try to carry out some terror and intimidation operations without getting caught by the fast moving American and Afghan forces. The Taliban increasingly lose, and many of the dead or captured Taliban turn out to be Pakistani Pushtun tribesmen. 

The increased death toll is also a result of desperation on the part of the Taliban. For most of the time since the Taliban were driven out of power in late 2001, the pro-Taliban tribesmen of southern Afghanistan sought to bring together pro-Taliban families and tribes to resotre Taliban power. The government responded with an amnesty offer. The government won this struggle, leaving the hard core Taliban, many of whom now living across the border in Pakistan, using terror against fellow tribesmen, trying to force people to either join them, or stop supporting the government. This is not good politics in southern Afghanistan. You kill someone from a tribe, and you trigger a blood feud that can go on for generations. Thus the Taliban effort to regain control of the country has degenerated into tribal warfare in the south.  

 

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