Afghanistan: Alexander the Great Left Here

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November21, 2006: NATO and the Afghan army apparently plan to spend the Winter hunting down those Taliban and al Qaeda who have settled down in Afghan hideouts until Spring. Meanwhile, intelligence collecting shifts to Pakistan, where the senior Taliban and al Qaeda leaders are hunkering down. Actually, that should be "surviving" leaders, as there were heavy casualties among the top people over the last six months. This creates a problem, as these younger leaders had been given their chance to try new tactics this year. While the Taliban offensive did a lot of damage, most of it was in the form of over a thousand dead Taliban and al Qaeda, along with dozens of leaders. Many Afghans were now quite angry at all the violence. The new tactics involved heavy use of terror against Afghans who did not cooperate with the Taliban. Apparently, there is a lively debate among the Taliban high command over where to go next. However, one Afghan faction, the drug gangs, were pleased with this years operations. The Taliban offensive disrupted government anti-drug operations, and for this the Taliban were rewarded with money, weapons and sanctuary in areas controlled by families and tribes in the drug business.

The Taliban took a beating this year, but in Afghanistan, that does not mean they won't try the same thing next year. The Afghan tribes are noted for persistence, and poor tactics. One reason Afghanistan is the poorest and most backward country in the world is the poor judgment of the tribes over the last few thousand years. In the past, the tribes were not so much conquered, as crushed, by occasional invaders who found something of value. But the last time Afghanistan was worth anything to any outsiders was five hundred years ago, when the overland trade routes from China were still viable. But then European ships began to replace those overland routes, and the imperial forces left Afghanistan to its own devices. Now, Afghanistan is valuable as a base for international terrorists, and outsiders again have to cope with the tribes. This is further complicated by a growing unhappiness in Afghanistan with the traditional ways. Afghans are not stupid, and they know their own history, and where they stand in the world. The Taliban are actually a large faction in this battle between modernists and traditionalists. On top of that, we have religious issues, and money (in the form of the drug trade.) Welcome to the neighborhood, and now you know why Alexander the Great was so glad to be done with this place 2,500 years ago.

November 18, 2006: NATO commanders continue to complain about the restrictions placed on many of the contingents in the 31,000 troops force. Each NATO nation can attach restrictions to its troops, and some cannot go into certain areas, some cannot operate at night, and some cannot actively seek combat. As a result of this, U.S., British and Canadian troops have undertaken most of the combat the last few months. There are also complaints about governments refusing to send requested equipment. The British commander asked for 12 tanks and 14 armored fighting vehicles, and was turned down by the Ministry of Defense.

November 16, 2006: Pakistan handed over 60 Afghans who had been arrested in Pakistan for various offenses, most of them related to Taliban and terrorist violence.

 

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