Afghanistan: Taliban Tribulations Intensify

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June 5, 2007: So far this year, Taliban and drug gang related violence has left about 1,700 dead. It's less than last year, and lower than the average annual death toll in Afghanistan for the last three decades. There's always a lot of tribal violence and banditry in Afghanistan. Each of the thirty or so major tribes considers itself sovereign in its own territory, and the armed men of the tribe are often used as an army to defend tribal territory, or expand it. Been that way for thousands of years, and most rural Afghans are not in a hurry to change it.

June 4, 2007: In the last week, two boats, ferrying people across the Helmand river in the south, sank or capsized. This left nearly a hundred people dead, most of them Taliban gunmen. The Taliban continue to operate in groups of 40-50 gunmen, and continue to get detected and attacked from the air. The current Taliban tactic is to run for the nearest residential area had hide among the civilians. If the smart bombs catch you anyway, the Taliban will claim NATO is making war on Afghan civilians. The media loves this and gives it lots of attention. Despite all this, a majority of the Taliban combat groups coming into Afghanistan this year, have been found and attacked. This usually results in most of the 40-50 gunmen getting killed, wounded or captured. The captives report that the Taliban is having a harder time recruiting in Pakistan, and is relying more on younger, less experienced, religious school students. These kids are seeking martyrdom and paradise in battle. An encounter with a smart bomb guarantees achieving one of those objectives. Some of these kids are being brought over unarmed, as there are many weapons dead Taliban no longer need. When the Taliban hustle away, they try to grab the weapons of dead comrades.

June 3, 2007: In the last six years, 592 foreign troops have been killed fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. Two-thirds of the dead have been American. British and Canadian troops made up about twenty percent. Spain and Germany each account for about three percent, and several other nations about six percent. The Taliban have lost nearly twenty times as many fighters in that time.

June 2, 2007: Iranian style EFP roadside bombs are being found in Afghanistan, along with rifles, pistols, grenades and other weapons made in Iran and China. It's uncertain if the foreign weapons are coming in with the active participation of the Iranian government, or via smugglers who are being left alone by the government. Some factions in the Iranian government are willing to export EFP (armor piercing bomb) technology to foreign terrorists, even if they are not willing to move the goods themselves.

June 1, 2007: NATO has declared the Taliban Spring Offensive non-existent. The Taliban are introducing a new military leader (to replace the recently deceased Mullah Dadullah) across the border in Pakistan. While the Taliban have been trying to raise hell among the seven million or so Pushtuns of the south, the government has been confronted with larger problems in other parts of the country. Various factions are falling over each other trying to cut deals with wealthy drug gangs. Not only are politicians for sale, but they are often in a bidding war to offer their services to the drug gangs at the lowest price. The central government has responded by replacing provincial officials who appear to be the property of the local drug lord. That sometimes means the replacement has to organize a small army, and force his predecessor to get out of town. Very Wild West, but also very Afghanistan.

May 30, 2007: A U.S. Army CH-47 helicopter crashed in the south, and the Taliban took credit. It's still unclear if mechanical failure, or ground fire, brought down the helicopter. The Taliban will always take credit for a helicopter crashing, even if they had no gunmen in the area.

 

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