Afghanistan: Taliban Think Smaller and Make Nicer

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March 13, 2007: Despite efforts to keep it quiet, information about NATO and American raids across the border into Pakistan are getting out. The raids have captured some Taliban leaders, who were staying in Pakistani villages close to the border. These actions are forcing the Taliban to move their forward bases (for controlling the movement of gunmen across the border into and out of Afghanistan) deeper into Pakistan, and that makes it more difficult to move men and supplies into Afghanistan. Compared to last year, the Taliban are having a harder time moving men and munitions across the border. The Taliban are also bringing more cash with them, as villagers are less eager to just give Taliban fighters food and hospitality (that is, not promptly calling the cops). So "gifts" of cash are more frequently used to buy some support in the villages. The Taliban are operating in smaller groups (under a hundred men), to make them less likely to be spotted from the air.

March 12, 2007: The U.S. is sending another 3,500 troops to Afghanistan, raising the total to 27,000. The U.S. believes that it can deal the weakened Taliban a fatal blow this year, if there are enough American and NATO troops there to do it.

March 11, 2007: The number of Taliban ambushes, and encounters with security forces, is increasing. There are about twenty casualties a day, half of them Taliban.

March 10, 2007: In the last few days, the Taliban have kidnapped three foreigners (an Italian and two Germans) and demanded that NATO forces leave within the week, or the hostages will be killed. The Taliban continue to attack border posts, trying to intimidate the border guards into pulling back, and making it easier for the Taliban to get through using the roads. One such clash today left eight border guards and five Taliban dead.

March 9, 2007: The Taliban attempted to kill a pro-government tribal chief, but only wounded him with a roadside bomb. The Taliban have been using these bombs more frequently, but with much less success, than other Islamic terrorists in Iraq. Bandits are also using roadside bombs, making it easier to rob people (after the bomb goes off).

March 8, 2007: Taliban and drug gang forces in Helmand province have joined forces to keep government police and troops out. Most of the heroin produced in the country comes from Helmand. Meanwhile, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the most Islamic of the warlords that fought in the Afghan civil war of the early 1990s, and later joined the Taliban after Iraq was invaded, has offered to switch sides and ally himself with the government. Hekmatyar was never very cozy with the Taliban, considering them puppets of the Pakistani military intelligence. Hekmatyars forces mainly operate in eastern Afghanistan, from bases in

Pakistan. Hekmatyar makes this peace offer periodically, but cannot be trusted to follow through.

March 7, 2007: A senior Taliban leader was caught at a checkpoint near Kandahar, trying to avoid detection by dressing as a woman. Elsewhere in the area, NATO troops uncovered Taliban weapons caches, with the help of tips from locals. In eastern Afghanistan, a Taliban bomb maker was arrested.

 

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