Afghanistan: Crises In Taliban Land

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January 2, 2008: The police are paying more attention to Islamic terrorists, because the roadside and suicide bombs are enraging the population. While these attacks are aimed at foreign troops, they usually hurt Afghan civilians, and the civilians don't like it. As a result, the police are having an easier time getting information about the terrorists, and have recently arrested several key terrorist bomb makers and attack planners.

Last year's violence was the result of several wars being fought simultaneously in the same area. The most familiar conflict is al Qaeda's effort to establish bases in the region. This is actually the smallest conflict. There are not many al Qaeda members operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Perhaps a few thousand, and most of them are foreigners. They have money and dedication going for them, but they also have lots of enemies, including some of their Taliban "allies," and many more among the various tribes. Al Qaeda has openly declared that they are defeated in Iraq, and that everyone should head for Pakistan and Afghanistan. This is what is happening, as more foreign al Qaeda fighters are showing up dead on the battlefield, and a few have been captured.

The big battle is with the Taliban, and that is so not because the Taliban are popular, or powerful, but because they are funded by the drug gangs. The heroin trade is a huge business, and there's money to be made keeping the police from interfering. Several hundred thousand farmers, smugglers and gunmen, mostly in southern Afghanistan, are getting rich from the heroin trade, and willing to share the wealth with Taliban minded tribes and warlords. There are over 10,000 of these hostile (to the government and foreigners) gunmen in Afghanistan, again, mostly in the south, where 87 percent of the drugs are produces.

In 2007, about a thousand Afghan police and soldiers were killed, mostly by Taliban and drug gangs trying to keep the security forces from interfering with growing poppies, processing the plants into opium and heroin, or trying to move the heroin out of the country. The Taliban will attack police stations if they can, and drive the cops out of the area.

The biggest danger to the drug trade has not been the Afghan police and soldiers, but the foreign troops and their aircraft. The smart bombs are much feared by the Afghans, because you don't hear them coming, and you can't do anything to stop them. The Taliban only managed to kill 231 of the foreign troops (110 of them American) last year (out of over 40,000 out there looking for a fight). Meanwhile, the Taliban, al Qaeda and drug gangs lost 4,500 dead, and several thousand arrested.

This lopsided performance has creased splits among the Taliban and their drug gang allies. There is also tribal politics to consider, with the governments of both Afghanistan and Pakistan offering tribal leaders deals (money, jobs, whatever) to stop supporting the Taliban cause. This has caused the Taliban to fragment. The Pakistani Taliban are increasingly distracted by their fight with the Pakistani government. The Afghan Taliban are split between the old leadership, which wants to regain control of the country, and the younger guys who are more interested in getting rich, then perhaps just buying the government. Recently, Taliban leaders have been denouncing each other in public, which has not happened before. Things are not looking good in Taliban Land.

 

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