Afghanistan: Family Values

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August 13,2008:  The Taliban are increasing their terrorism in the countryside. They do not kill indiscriminately, but select victims who are behaving in an "un-Islamic" (according to their very conservative rules) manner, or working with the infidels (non-Moslems). This approach gives the terrified population a survival option. Simply live a strict Islamic life, and stay away from non-Moslems, and you may survive. The Taliban's Islamic vigilantism makes it difficult to organize armed resistance, at least initially. Eventually, the Taliban will collect taxes, which is basically a form of extortion. The Taliban know this will make many people angry, and protect themselves by setting up informer networks, using their fans, or people are willing to inform in return for favors (like lower taxes, or Taliban pressure on a local rival). The Taliban know how to play tribal politics.

The fighting has picked up over the Summer, and the death toll so far this year is about 3,000. The Taliban are killing more civilians, as they are desperate to terrorize as large a chunk of the population in southern Afghanistan as possible. Most of the country is beyond Taliban control,  especially in the north, where most of the population is not Pushtun. The Taliban are Pushtun, as are about 40 percent of all Afghans. Some of the Pushtun tribes practice a very strict form of Islam, and this is where the Taliban come from. Most Afghans are very hostile to having a minority group in the Pushtun community imposing lifestyle rules on them. This is the core of the Taliban problem, and they really have no solution for it (expect applying more force, after all, they are on a Mission From God.)

The U.S. is moving more Predator and Reaper UAVs to Afghanistan. These aircraft have proved to be the most effective aircraft in the war against the Taliban. The UAVs can watch an  area 24/7, just like a security camera. The Reaper is particularly effective, as it flies high enough not to be heard at night. The Taliban hate that. It's bad enough that both the Predator and Reaper fly out of range of Taliban weapons, but at least when you can see or hear it, you know what you're up against. The Taliban have noted that it's usually a Hellfire missile from a UAV that is killing an increasing number of al Qaeda and Taliban leaders. So far this year, both groups have lost over a third of their leadership to such attacks, and there seems to be no end in sight. The Taliban are not sure how the UAVs are finding their targets, and the Americans aren't talking, much less bragging. Whatever the foreigners are doing, it appears to have greatly compromised Taliban and al Qaeda communications. It's gotten to the point where foreign troops are hunting down and capturing Taliban leaders. These guys are a great source of information, although even when dead, their laptop computers and cell phones also prove very useful. Most Taliban have still not learned how important it is to carefully protect documents and internal information.

Some Pushtun tribes, just across the border in Pakistan, are complaining that hundreds of Afghan soldiers have crossed the border and gotten involve in a major tribal feud. This is a typical tribal feud, and this Summer there have been over a hundred casualties. It's believed that the "Afghan soldiers" are simply Afghans belonging to Afghan branches of the tribes, and on leave from the army to deal with a "family matter" (an excuse while often covers tribal feuds, which tend to be deadly).

August 10, 2008: At the urging of the Afghan government, the U.S. has agreed to fund a $17 billion expansion of the Afghan army, increasing its size from 65,000 to 122,000 over the next five years. By the end of the year, the army will have 80,000 troops, and the police 82,000. Expanding these two forces is not easy, as most Afghans are illiterate and have few of the technical skills required to be an effective soldiers. Thus the Afghans require longer training. Then there is the leadership problem. The high illiteracy makes it very difficult to find good NCOs and junior officers. Leadership is actually a bigger problem than finding and training the lower ranking soldiers. The Taliban have the same problem, but they are running what amounts to  traditional tribal raiding parties which, when they have the right people on hand, can also try to implement some Taliban government building.

August 5, 2008:   India has increased its reconstruction aid to Afghanistan by $450 million. The total is now $1.2 billion. India has brought in its own security troops, as its projects are popular targets for Taliban gunmen. The Taliban see majority Hindu India has an implacable infidel (non-Moslem) foe. Afghanistan sees India has a generous ally.

 

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