Afghanistan: Taking the War to the Taliban Heartland

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April 4, 2007: The Taliban Spring offensive is off to a poor start partly because of growing disorder back in Pakistan. The Taliban bases there are in disorder because of feuding between Taliban and al Qaeda groups, as well as difficulty in recruiting young tribesmen for the war in Afghanistan. The young guys have noticed how few of last years recruits returned last Fall.

April 3, 2007: Afghan and NATO forces continue attacking the heart of Taliban power in Afghanistan, Helmand province. The Taliban will lose face if they are forced to abandon Helmand, but will lose a lot more people if they stay and fight. April 1, 2007: Taliban suicide bombers continue to enter Afghanistan, and fail in their missions. The support crews are not yet very adept at getting their guy close enough to the target to be effective. Bombers constantly set off their explosives prematurely, or not at all (and get killed or captured.) The Taliban leadership wants to make suicide bombing work, but quantity is not substituting well for quality. March 30, 2007: The release of five Taliban in exchange for an Italian reporter held captive by the Taliban has, as expected, turned into a disaster for the Afghans. The Italian government insisted on the swap, as a condition for keeping their troops in Afghanistan. But, as expected, the Taliban now insist that the government release Taliban in exchange for the Italian reporters Afghan interpreter. The government knows that, if it does this, it establishes a precedent and makes kidnapping civilians, in order to get arrested Taliban released, a viable tactic. Afghan public opinion backs the swap, because it's seen as unfair to do it for the Italian, and not for the Afghan. A real mess.

March 28, 2007: One reason so much of the current fighting with the Taliban is in Helmand province, is because this piece of southern Afghanistan accounts for about 40 percent of the heroin production in the country, and is a major source of cash for the Taliban. As in many other parts of the world, the Taliban use their armed muscle to grab a large chunk of the drug trade profits, and earn it by keeping the law, and rivals, from interfering. Right now, NATO troops are interfering big time. In the last week, Afghan and NATO troops have killed or wounded several hundred Taliban fighters, and chased the survivors all around Helmand province. Most of the fighting was done by Afghan police and soldiers, but the NATO forces are providing much of the intelligence and aerial pictures that keep the Taliban on the radar.

 

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