Afghanistan: Yankee Magic Terrorizes Taliban

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February 29, 2008: The Taliban are having a bad Winter. The Pakistani army offensive against the Pakistani Taliban has cut off a source of reinforcements. Battles on the border, as Afghan and NATO troops catch Taliban crossing, have declined over a third. As a result, more foreign fighters are being found among dead and captured Taliban. The manpower shortage has caused the Taliban to abandon areas they had long maintained a presence in, particularly in Helmand province. Police there captured most of a terror cell that had been responsible for three bombings. The Taliban are also showing signs of being terrorized themselves. An example was a recent demand by Taliban around Kandahar, that cell phone companies shut down service at night. If not, the Taliban will attack cell phone towers. The Taliban believe the Americans use cell phone signals to track the Taliban at night, and guide smart bombs to where the Taliban are sleeping. Few in the Taliban seem to understand how ELINT (Electronic Intelligence) works, so these threats are simply a desperate reaction to many night time smart bomb attacks, or police raids, on houses where Taliban were spending the night. The Taliban themselves make heavy use of cell phones, at least in the few areas (mainly the large cities, like Kandahar) where there is cell phone service. The Taliban see such "Yankee Magic" as another sign that the Americans are in league with the devil.

This become more of an issue as cell phone service moves into rural areas. The cell phone companies make deals with the local tribal leaders, who want cell phone service. Not so much to call in the police, but to stay in touch with friends, family and the few government services that are available. This forced the Taliban to compromise, and not try and shut down rural cell phone service entirely. But even trying to shut it down at night becomes one more thing that makes the Taliban unpopular.

A senior Taliban leader Mullah Obaidullah Akhund (Defense Minister when the Taliban ran the country) was captured crossing the Pakistani border. Akhund had been travelling to Pakistani tribal and terror leaders, seeking money for the Afghan Taliban.

In the U.S., intelligence officials told Congress that the Taliban has freedom of movement in about ten percent of the country. Another 30 percent is under control of the central government, and 60 percent is controlled by various local leaders. This is normal for Afghanistan, where, for centuries, the tribes picked one of their more powerful chiefs to be "king" of the country. The king had two chores; deal with the foreigners, and leave the tribes alone. Since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, the central government has expanded its control, at least by historical standards.

Police are more frequently finding Taliban serving as guards for opium fields and drug gang facilities. This is where the money is, and with cash contributions from their Pakistani allies, the Taliban have to work more with the drug gangs to pay the bills.

Taliban bomb makers are betting better at their craft, and building bigger bombs. A recent one killed 38 people. But all the dead were civilians, which was a big media story in Afghanistan. Stuff like that makes it difficult for pro-Taliban Afghans to speak up for their cause. The Taliban apparently didn't get the memo about how killing lots of civilians turns the civilian population against you and leads to the terrorists either getting killed, or driven out of the country. There aren't too many places left to flee to. In the last two decades, Islamic terrorist bombs have caused terrorists to be driven out of Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia.

 

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