Afghanistan: The Politics of Money

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September 18, 2007: The Taliban continue trying, and failing, to use groups of gunmen to drive police and soldiers out of southern Afghanistan. For the last month, the Taliban have been losing several hundred men a week (dead, wounded, captured). The Taliban continue to get nailed when they try to attack soldiers or police patrols with an ambush or attack. Bombers or helicopter gunships quickly show up, and the Taliban are scattered, with heavy casualties. The inability to assert military control has led more tribal leaders to openly back the government. This can be dangerous, if the Taliban are able to keep armed men into the tribal areas. But the Taliban groups are being attacked and shattered with great regularity. This has forced the Taliban to raise the pay rates. While the Afghan police and soldiers make less than half what the Taliban offer (up to $12 a day), the government men are much more likely to live to spend their pay. Each time a band of Taliban (usually 30-50 armed men) get blasted, the survivors go back to their villages to warn potential recruits that the Taliban offer poisoned money, that can quickly get you killed.

The only tactics the Taliban are having any success at are suicide bombers and roadside bombs. But casualties are low, and most of them Afghan civilians, which just makes the Taliban more unpopular. But the Taliban terrorists are pushing this tactic, and have arranged with Iran have obtain armor piercing roadside bombs, of the same design provided to Iraqi terrorists. Several of these have been captured by NATO troops in the last few weeks, in arms shipments being smuggled in from Iran.

The government has sent additional police and army units to run down the Taliban group that recently got $20 million ransom from the South Korean government. Several junior commanders and dozens of gunmen from that group have already been killed or captured. No sign of the money yet, or at least no one is talking. That much cash is a major temptation, and the Taliban have had problems with sticky fingered leaders in the past. The Taliban are not immune to the corrupt practices that are so common in the region.

Taliban leaders are negotiating how they will go about conducting peace talks. These negotiations are moved forward by Taliban defeats. For most of the Summer, the Taliban were losing over ten men for every government or foreign soldier they killed. As long as that keeps up, the Taliban will become more and more accommodating and keen to make a deal. The Taliban cause is not driven just by religion, there are also large amounts of tribal politics, personal ambition and greed.

 

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