Afghanistan: Playing To The Media

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June 28, 2007: The province where the Taliban has been most active, Helmand, is also the source of most of the poppy crops, and heroin production. Over half the national poppy crop is in Helmand, and the Taliban was going to get paid big time by the drug gangs if the police and army could be driven out of the province. That didn't happen, and now the government is planning to shut down the drug industry in Helmand. While the production will go elsewhere, this will take time and money, and the government will just chase the new production. If the drug gangs are not controlled, they will become a greater and greater challenge to government authority. This happened, most notably, in places like Colombia and Burma. In those countries, the government eventually got its act together and successfully fought back.

June 27, 2007: Taliban released sixteen Afghan de-miners they had held for four days. The Taliban suspected the de-miners were government spies. De-miners are generally not bothered, because they perform a vital service for everyone.

June 26, 2007: India is sending another 130 security troops to guard Indian engineers and technicians building roads in Afghanistan. These construction teams have become a target of Taliban and bandit attacks. India already has 254 of their special border police guarding the construction workers. More of the security troops are being sent to increase the level of security in the face of more Taliban threats. Some of the bandit gangs, and perhaps the Taliban as well, are merely seeking to get payoffs. This is a common scam used against foreign aid workers.

June 24, 2007: In the last 24 hours, NATO forces spotted a force of several hundred Taliban crossing the Pakistan border and apparently preparing to attack somewhere near the border. NATO artillery and air power quickly attacked, as the Taliban fled back towards Pakistan. About 80 of the Taliban were killed. A similar large scale slaughter, of Taliban crossing the border, occurred last January. The Taliban were more careful after that, but eventually got sloppy. This is likely because of the heavy leadership losses this year. Many senior and middle-level Taliban leaders have been killed or captured this year. These are the guys who make sure stupid mistakes, like moving across the border in large enough groups to get spotted by NATO UAVs.

June 22, 2007: President Karzai complained that foreign troops were using smart bombs too freely and killing too many (about 240 this year) civilians. But the only alternative is to send infantry in to get Taliban troops taking shelter in residential areas. If you have more infantry, you're just going to get them killed by sending them in to root out the bad guys up close. You're not going to save many civilian lives either. In Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia, the enemy has been willing to fight from behind civilians. The American infantry, in particular, know this from personal experience. You will have a major morale problem on your hands if you try to do what Karzai asks. American and NATO forces already make considerable efforts to limit civilian casualties. That's why civilian casualties are so low. There are no cases of Afghan troops or police volunteering to go in and fight the Taliban, rather than drop a smart bomb on them. Karzai is playing to the media and opposition politicians, not battlefield reality.

 

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