Elsewhere along the Pakistan border, another 21 died, including four U.S. troops in the northeast. American forces continue to move along the Pakistan border in the northeast, trying to close border crossings long unguarded, and freely used by smugglers, bandits and Taliban.
While the Taliban continue to take a beating when they attempt to take over towns and villages, they have been successful in their terror campaign. Hundreds of villages and towns have been forced to close their schools, and thousands of government officials have either quit their jobs, fled or agreed to do what the Taliban tell them to do. Some of the tribal elders in the Pushtun tribes have gone along with the Taliban, and those that haven't must watch out for assassins and ambushes. But what success the Taliban have had, have come at a cost. The Taliban violence has turned a lot of conservative Afghans against the Taliban once more. The government, for all its faults, does not terrorize and kill as the Taliban are doing. Moreover, the Taliban alliance with the drug gangs has not been popular with everyone. The drug gangs may bring more money, but the drug gangs tend to be ruthless. They kill those who screw up, and are generally a pretty rough bunch, even by Afghan standards. The money seems to go to their heads. The drug trade brings more money into the south, but it also brings more violence and fear.
August 18, 2006: The government is claiming that a truckload of ten police were killed by an American missile, which was fired at what were believed to be Taliban fleeing the scene of an ambush. Whether it was or it wasn't, this is another reminder of how easily friendly fire casualties can occur during battles. The government doesn't want Taliban gunmen to get away, but from the air, it's hard to tell who is who.
The weekend saw another major Taliban defeat. It began when a force of about a hundred Taliban attacked a town 35 kilometers west of Kandahar. Police held off the attackers as reinforcing soldiers and police moved to hit the Taliban from the rear. NATO warplanes arrived as well, and by the end of the weekend, at least 71 dead Taliban were found in three locations. This battle was part of operations to stop Taliban attacks along the newly rebuilt Kandahar-Kabul highway. The Taliban losses are believed to account for about ten percent of the Taliban combat strength in the area, which is not good for morale. The Taliban have suffered one defeat, like this one, after another all Summer. Moreover, the Taliban have been trying to intimidate the NATO combat troops, without much success. Canadian NATO troops, which the Taliban have been clashing with regularly in the past month, were the ones who hit back at the Taliban this past weekend.