July 23, 2006: Afghan police and troops raided a Taliban camp in southern Afghanistan, killing 19 Taliban, and arresting 17 (most of them Pakistanis). This raid came as a result of tribal elders calling in the police, wanting to eliminate this band of Taliban, which was threatening villagers and extorting money. While some tribal elders see the Taliban as champions of tradition, others see the Taliban as bandits with a press agent.
July 22, 2006: In Kandahar, two suicide bomb attacks left six dead (including two Canadian soldiers) and 25 wounded (mostly civilians). A roadside bomb was used against a police patrol. The Taliban use of suicide and roadside bombs is not nearly as extensive or damaging as those in Iraq. The Taliban operations appear to be more along the lines of' "see, we can do it too." But not nearly as well, with several bomb makers dying as their creations went off accidentally, and many of the bombs failing to do much, if any, damage.
A third cell phone company began operations. The government has licensed four companies to establish cell phone networks in the country. The fourth one will begin operating by the end of the year. Coverage is spotty outside urban areas, but the cell phones have revolutionized communication in a country that never had much of a wired phone system in the past. The government has allowed multiple cell phone providers to operate to ensure competition, and keep prices down.
July 20, 2006: Dutch commandos killed 19 Taliban, and suffered no casualties themselves, when a group of Taliban preparing to attack a Dutch base, were themselves attacked. NATO believes they are on schedule to extend their security operations to cover the entire country by the end of the year.
July 19, 2006: The Taliban pulled off a propaganda operation by massing several hundred gunmen outside two district capitals (the districts are the subdivisions of provinces, and their capitals are small towns or large villages). The Taliban went in, killed or drove off the police, and announced they were in charge. As long as it took police and troops reinforcements to reach the two district capitals, the Taliban controlled the towns.. Made a great headline thought, which was what the Taliban were fighting for. Meanwhile, near the Pakistan border, a large group of Taliban crossed over from Pakistan and attacked a pro-government village. Some 40 villagers were kidnapped. They will probably be released, after being convinced to adopt a more pro-Taliban attitude.
July 18, 2006: The government is reviving the Ministry of Virtue and Vice. During Taliban rule, this ministry was infamous for the way it persecuted women, and people in general with it's dress and entertainment (no videos, music and so on) restrictions. The new version of the ministry will not try to impose the customs of a few southern Pushtun tribes on the rest of the country. But the new ministry is a response to demands, from religious and tribal leaders, for more respect for traditional ways. The government needs the support of those people, and the new ministry is the price demanded. Apparently the ministry will enforce the customs of each major tribe, forming a "tribal lifestyle police" to keep the elders happy.
American commanders believe their operations have disrupted Taliban plans, and done a lot of damage to the Taliban leadership. Without providing many details (for security reasons, as the campaign is still going on), it was pointed out that the Taliban have been unable to execute a coherent plan. If the Taliban appear to be flailing about, they are. Every week, one or more Taliban groups are cornered and destroyed by American, NATO or Afghan forces. These operations yield documents and prisoners (for interrogation.) The information gathered in that way would provide an accurate picture of what shape the Taliban are in, and apparently that shape is kind of bent at the moment.