Afghanistan: Dealing With the Wankers

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December28, 2006: Pakistan is telling Afghan politicians that the Taliban is an internal Afghan problem. The Afghans, however, claim that the Pakistani refusal to exercise control over the Pushtun tribal areas along the Afghan border has provided the Taliban with a safe haven. Pakistan insists that it has a deal with the tribal chiefs along the border, to ban Taliban bases. But, in fact, the Pakistani "deal" mainly had to do with foreign terrorists (al Qaeda). Taliban operate openly on the Pakistani side of the border. The Pakistanis control the large towns in the tribal areas, and will sometimes arrest Afghan Taliban. But Pakistani Taliban are left alone. The Taliban is a major law and order problem in southern Afghanistan, where about a quarter of the population lives. The Taliban is seen a a minor problem in the Pakistani tribal areas (where a few percent of the national population lives), a minor problem that can be ignored most of the time. It's all a matter of proportion, and in this case Afghanistan is on the losing end.

December 27, 2006: The U.S. confirmed, via forensic analysis, the recent death (on December 19th) of Taliban senior commander Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Osmani. The Taliban had denied that Osmani had been killed, while NATO intel forces tracked his satellite phone, by a smart bomb. Although Osmani was blown to bits, the U.S. had DNA data on him. The Taliban finally admitted that their guy got hit. Osmani was the number three man in the Taliban chain of command, and in charge of combat operations in southern Afghanistan.

December 26, 2006: Pakistan has offered to build a fence, and plant landmines, along portions of the Afghan border, to prevent Taliban and al Qaeda terrorists from crossing. Such a move would not stop the border crossings, but would slow them down. Afghanistan opposes this, because the barriers would make it more difficult for Pushtun tribesmen, from tribes that straddle the border, to freely cross. The mines would, most likely, cause more injuries to civilians, than to Taliban gunmen. Moreover, Afghanistan does not recognize parts of the border, and wants Pakistan to shut down Taliban bases inside Pakistan. This is difficult for Pakistan to do, as the tribes do not like outside interference, and are currently undergoing a civil war of their own, as various factions (traditional elders, Islamic conservatives, newly wealthy men) struggle for control of the tribes.

December 25, 2006: The billion dollar American effort to create new national police force ran up against some traditional problems. For one thing, most of the potential recruits were illiterate (as is about two thirds of the Afghan population), and very difficult to train. Moreover, most of the recruits remained more loyal to their tribal leaders, than to their police commanders. The police leadership was also inexperienced, and the traditional corruption ("it's OK to steal from someone outside my tribe") led to the theft of much police equipment.) Changing Afghan traditions is not easy to do. Takes time.

December 24, 2006: The Taliban are trying to avoid NATO smart bombs by staying as close to Afghan civilians as possible. Human shields, in effect, because dead civilians makes for great propaganda. The Western media loves that stuff, and will almost always spin the story in such a way that the Taliban is off the hook. Many of the civilians are aware of this, and are terrified when the Taliban show up, looking for a place to stay. This has made it more difficult for NATO troops to get at Taliban who are staying with civilians, as is often the case in the Winter. Usual tactic is to surround the compound holding the Taliban and civilians, bring up the interpreters and either negotiate, or call the Taliban names ("you wankers are hiding behind women's skirts...") until they come out to fight (and get killed.)

December 23, 2006: A Taliban suicide bomber attempted to kill an anti-Taliban member of parliament. The attack, in Kabul failed, although some bystanders were wounded.

December 22, 2006: A force of U.S., British and Canadian troops has trapped several hundred Taliban gunmen in a valley 40 kilometers west of Kandahar. The Taliban can surrender, try and fight their way out, or wait for the Western troops to come clear them out, one house at a time. This operation is part of a campaign that has already gone on for several weeks. So far, there have been over a hundred NATO casualties (and five dead). Several hundred Taliban have been killed so far. This is all part of the NATO Winter campaign, to take advantage of the fact that Afghan warriors typically take shelter in villages during the Winter, if only because they do not, like NATO troops, have the special Winter clothing and robust supply system (aircraft and helicopters) to keep them alive out there.

 

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