Afghanistan: The Dying Tribes

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June 19, 2006: Over a hundred Taliban were killed in the last week, mostly by smart bombs, directed by Coalition troops on the ground who had located groups of Taliban. In one case, a large meeting of local Taliban activists was hit, killing over 40 of them, and leaving behind many valuable documents, and survivors who could be interrogated. While the Taliban have been conducting ambushes and attacks on remote villages, they have also been taking most of the casualties. The police are better trained and equipped than the Taliban, which relies on young, unemployed and inexperienced tribesmen for their manpower. Many Afghans see the Taliban as the dying embers of the once mighty tribal system. As strong as the tribes still are, they are declining in power and influence. Consider them another victim of modern culture. Or, to put it more crudely, Hollywood, MTV and Silicon Valley gave too many tribal people an alternative to an ancient lifestyle. The youngsters have new ideas about how to deal with authority and power. The tribal elders no longer get the respect and deference they once had. The Taliban support all that was ancient and "good." But the majority of Afghans oppose the Taliban. They want their daughters to go to school and they want to elect their leaders. The battle between old and new has been going on for over a century in Afghanistan. But now the "old" are making a last stand, and fighting with an all or nothing desperation.

June 18, 2006: "Operation Mountain Thrust" is using hard earned intel data to place teams of soldiers in the mountain passes known to be used by Taliban moving between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Through these passes come weapons, money and men to sustain the Taliban offensive in southern Afghanistan. Without these reinforcements, the Afghan Taliban lack the muscle to run their terror campaign in Uruzgan and Helmand provinces.

June 15, 2006: A Taliban bomb was planted aboard a bus carrying Afghans to their jobs in a Coalition base outside Kandahar. The bomb apparently had a timer, which was to go off when the bus was inside the base. But the bus was delayed, and it did not reach the Coalition air base before it exploded. Seven were killed, which served the Taliban purpose of terrorizing Afghans who work for the government or Coalition. Meanwhile, elsewhere in southern Afghanistan, another 40 Taliban were killed when they were caught by the usual air strike tactics. "Operation Mountain Thrust" is using tactics that search out the Taliban groups, and then blast them from the air with smart bombs and strafing. This has made it very dangerous for the Taliban to operate in large groups. But without those large groups, the smaller teams of Taliban cannot as effectively terrorize the local villagers who oppose them.

June 14, 2006: For all the combat activity in Afghanistan, the American casualties have been very low. In four and a half years, 147 U.S. troops have died in combat, with another 91 dead from non-combat accidents and illness. Even taking into account the number of troops, the casualty rate in Afghanistan is half what it is in Iraq. The main reason is that the Taliban, which represent a segment of the more conservative Pushtun tribes, are a smaller portion of the Afghan population, than the hostile Iraqi Sunni Arabs are of the Iraqi population. Proportionately, Afghan civilians and security forces have suffered far fewer casualties than Iraqis. That said, Afghanistan is far less centralized than Iraq. The Afghans are more tribal, and the provinces more independent of the central government. The drug trade has also given Afghanistan a larger corruption problem than Iraq. It's so bad in Afghanistan, that corrupt officials in the central government, auction off key police posts (with the best drug payoff potential). The drug lords play off police and government officials, making them compete for bribes. This means the Taliban, if they have the cash, can arrange miraculous escapes as well.

June 13, 2006: Some 11,000 troops (2,300 American, 3,300 British, 2,200 Canadians, 3,500 Afghan) are taking part in a Summer long operations against Taliban groups operating in southern Uruzgan province, and northeastern Helmand province. This is where the most Taliban activity is found, and the operation is intended to break up the Taliban war bands, and weaken popular support for the terrorists. The Taliban is trying to use their larger groups of fighters to attack and intimidate Afghan police, while smaller groups of Taliban go village to village to terrorize anti-Taliban civilians. "Operation Mountain Thrust" is open-ended, and will continue until the Taliban are gone from the area.

 

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