Afghanistan: Nothing Else Matters

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November 15, 2007: Taliban attacks on remote government operations, usually district headquarters, have fallen by half this year. This is because the Taliban have been unable to come up with a way to defeat NATO tactics of quick response with UAVs and smart bombs. The basic problem is that, in these remote areas, a large force of Taliban are easy to spot from the air, and attack with smart bombs. If the Taliban try to move a force of more than a dozen or so men, they are subject to detection and destruction. Even if they split up into small groups, these are detected, and intelligence troops have computer software that can see through the Taliban tactics. While the drug gangs are more inclined to bribe government officials to get what they want (no interference), the Taliban want control, and they are having a hard time coming up with a winning plan. Meanwhile, the Taliban efforts have gotten nearly 6,000 people killed so far this year, most of them Taliban fighters. The 130 suicide bomb attacks so far this year are not as terrifying as they are unpopular. The Taliban is increasingly trying to terrorize people into backing them, and is unable to cope with the fact that terror doesn't work unless you control the entire country. People have alternatives, and they are increasingly choosing the anti-Taliban ones.

November 12, 2007: Some 75 percent of the supplies for foreign troops in Afghanistan, are trucked through Pakistan. This is big business for Pakistani companies, including many trucking companies owned by Pushtun businessmen. But the growing Taliban violence along the border, and instability elsewhere in Pakistan, threatens this. Thus NATO and American logistics experts are looking into getting the stuff via Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to the north. Both of these countries have rail links with Russia, and thus Europe. It takes an extra week or so, to ship the containers via European ports and rail to the Afghan border, rather than to Pakistani ports, then rail or trucks to the Afghan border. The Tajiks and Uzbeks would love to have the business. The northern route would be more expensive, not least because the Soviet era railroads are in disrepair, and heavily used.

November 11, 2007: In western Afghanistan, gunmen murdered six pro-government tribal elders near a Mosque. The Taliban denied any involvement, something they are doing more often as their murder campaign garners more ill will from the general public.

November 10, 2007: In eastern Afghanistan, six NATO and three Afghan troops were killed while returning from a meeting with tribal elders, in a remote village high in the mountains (where helicopter operations are difficult). Eight NATO and eleven Afghan troops were also wounded. That brings NATO dead this year to over 200, and at that rate, by the end of the year NATO will have suffered losses at about one quarter the rate U.S. troops did in Vietnam.

November 9, 2007: In one week we have the Taliban (or al Qaeda) sending a suicide bomber into a ceremony opening a new factory north of Kabul, killing 59 school children and five teachers (and a few politicians, the apparent targets). At least 75 died altogether, and over a hundred other school children were wounded. Once the number of dead children became known, the Taliban denied any involvement with the attack. This despite their earlier boast that they would make attacks like this (in areas where they did not have any popular support). A few days later is was announced that the improved health care, since the overthrow of the Taliban, meant that there were 89,000 more Afghan children alive this year. While the Taliban believe in terrorism, they are also aware of what happens when you kill a lot of women and children. The relatively unskilled suicide bomber teams they are using are having a hard time avoiding civilian casualties, or even hitting their intended target. That means more dead civilians. As long as the dead come in small batches, the Taliban publicists can deal with it. But when you kill more than a dozen kids at once, it's damage control time. The Taliban just ignore the health care announcements, or the fact that most parents want it for their kids, and want their daughters to be educated. In the grand tradition of Pushtun tribal war, the pro-Taliban Pushtun warlords are making a grab for power, and doing it in the name of God. Nothing else matters. Really.

 

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