Afghanistan: Tribal Feuds More Important Than Taliban Threat


June 29, 2006: The Taliban "Spring Offensive" has resulted in about twice as many attacks as in the comparable period last year, with an even greater increase in the number of suicide attacks, though the overall number of these remains quite small. Most attacks have not been very effective, and the casualty rate among Taliban fighters has been quite high. Despite over 250 Taliban dead in the last few weeks, the morale of the remaining Taliban fighters has not suffered, and their numbers do not seem to have declined markedly. This suggests that the Taliban spent the winter of '05-'06 carefully recruiting and motivating new personnel, though their training remains poor.
Meanwhile, President Karzai has been implementing measures to reduce corruption in the Afghan National Police. He recently replaced nearly 100 senior police officials, most of whom had been approved by Coalition or U.N. officials, and some of whom have received training abroad. Despite this, some analysts have suggested that replacing corrupt police leaders may actually reduce the effectiveness of the ANP in some areas, as some of the crooked cops have apparently been sharing the wealth as a way of helping to keep the locals in line. In a similar vein, the recent Afghan effort to establish tribally-based provincial militias has received mixed reviews from military and police officials. Apparently in some areas the militias are contributing to the disorder, not necessarily by siding with the Taliban, but by trying to settle old scores with other tribes and clans.
June 27, 2006: German troops encountered their first suicide bomber, when the man set off his explosives in front of a German convoy. In addition to the suicide bomber, two pedestrians died as well. None of the German troops were injured. This was a typical Taliban suicide attack. The Taliban suicide bombers are poorly trained, and their explosives are often not rigged to cause the maximum number of casualties.
June 26, 2006: A UN survey indicated that acreage devoted opium production in Afghanistan was down 21 percent in 2005, compared to the previous year. But better growing conditions and techniques increased yields, thus the fall in actual production was only about 2.4 percent. Last year Afghanistan produced some 4,100 tons of opium, which was 89 percent of the world supply. With opium selling for about $91 a pound last year, farmers could make ten times as much growing poppies (for opium) instead of wheat. Opium, which can be further refined into heroin, accounted for about 11 percent of Afghanistan's GDP last year.


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