Afghanistan: You Can't Hustle the East

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October 22, 2006: The Taliban believe their campaign of attacks on NATO forces is succeeding. Although the Taliban are losing over a hundred men a week, and killing only a couple of NATO soldiers for each hundred Taliban, they are optimistic. The Taliban leadership in Pakistan have access to the Internet, and they keep score by monitoring the European media, which dotes on the gloom and doom angle. The Taliban leaders are convinced that time is on their side, and will keep up the suicide bombings and attacks on Afghan civilians (who do not support them), until the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is restored.

October 19, 2006:The Afghan government continues to insist that the Taliban leadership, especially supreme leader Mullah Omar, are hiding out in Pakistan. The Afghans believe much evidence points to Mullah Omar being in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan. While the Baluchis are not Pushtuns (as are 40 percent of Afghans, and most of the Pakistanis living long the Afghan border), they oppose the Pakistani government and support the Taliban. It's all about tribal politics. The families, who are hereditary leaders of the tribes, do not want democracy or more education. These things would mean the end of traditional tribal ways, and the wealth of traditional tribal leaders. Moreover, many members of the tribes are uneasy about change, as they live a very precarious existence. Change could be fatal, if it doesn't work. The tribal leadership uses this fear to help maintain control. This fear of change fits in very nicely with conservative Islamic concepts of keeping to the old ways. Thus the Taliban, and the drug gangs, offer the tribal leadership something more familiar and comfortable than the democracy and reforms (economic and educational) that the new government proposes. Also keep in mind that this standoff has been a standard feature of Afghan politics for centuries. The educated and forward looking folk live in the cities, and try to impose their progressive ideas on the conservative tribesmen out in the hills. This is further complicated by the fact that the tribal folk are the majority, they are heavily armed, and led by leaders who are generally content to keep things as they are.

October 18, 2006:U.S. and NATO commanders are at odds over strategy. The U.S. believes that Afghanistan, as the poorest nation in Asia, is not going to be brought into the 21st century overnight. The British commander of NATO forces believes that reconstruction, and fundamental changes in the way tribal affairs are conducted, must happen sooner, or the Taliban will regain control of the country. What disturbs the Americans, is the British critics provide no details on how their solution is to be achieved. It was the British who, in the 19th century, coined the phrase, "you can't hustle the East."

October 17, 2006:The Taliban have kidnapped a free-lance Italian news photographer. Instead of ransom, the kidnappers want Italy to return an Afghan refugee, who fled to Italy to avoid being killed for converting from Islam to Christianity. The kidnappers, apparently realizing that getting the Afghan refugee back was rather unlikely, said they would settle for Italy withdrawing its 1,300 troops from Afghanistan. That's unlikely as well, so the kidnappers will have to decide between accepting a ransom, the publicity from a video of their killing the victim, or avoiding revenge attacks (which the government is hustling to arrange) by angry local tribesmen and just releasing the guy.

 

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