Afghanistan: A War Of Illusions


March 2, 2010:  A recent opinion poll showed that most Afghans felt life was better now than under Taliban rule, and that 90 percent did not want the Taliban running things again. But the Taliban knew they were generally disliked before they were forced out in late 2001. Being on a Mission From God means you don't have to pay attention to public opinion. But you do have to get the message out, and that message is that we are badass and will mess you up if you don't cooperate. To that end, the Taliban have been taking a page from their terrorist counterparts in Iraq, and arranging for cooperative journalists to video terrorist attacks, or combat actions that the journalist is likely to survive. The government recently outlawed this practice, and promised to arrest any journalists caught reporting terrorist actions live, or otherwise capturing the event while it's happening.

The fighting in Marjah is over, and a force of 4,000 U.S. and Afghan troops and police will remain, for a least a few months, to train and establish a government presence.  This won't be easy, because many people living in Marjah owe their jobs to the Taliban and drug gangs. Many Taliban members are still in the city, passing as civilians. The hope is that the 2,000 Afghan soldiers and police can detect and capture (or kill) the remaining Taliban before they can get a terror campaign going. That will be hard to do, because the Taliban can, with enough cash and fearless volunteers, get terrorist teams into any city, and make some bombs go off. This is Information War, where image is more important than reality. Set off a few bombs in Marjah, and the Taliban are "winning" (or the government is "losing", depending on which way the pundits are blowing that day.)

NATO forces are still searching for Taliban in villages on the outskirts of Marjah. It is feared that some of these villages are being used as bases for future terror attacks.

While Canadian, Australian and American politicians talk of getting their troops out of Afghanistan by 2011, senior British officers predict an end to heavy fighting by the end of 2011, followed by several years of chasing Taliban remnants. Then there will be decades of continued danger, if the West does not manage to build a better economy (and literacy rate, which is currently under 20 percent). The Taliban thrive on ignorance and poverty.

March 1, 2010:  A suicide car bomber hit a NATO convoy outside Kandahar, killing one NATO soldier, and four Afghan civilians.

February 28, 2010: In Helmand province, a civilian vehicle was destroyed by a terrorist mine, killing eleven civilians.

February 26, 2010: In Kabul, five suicide bombers attacked housing used by foreigners, and left 17 dead, including six Indians. This was the third time Indians had been targeted in the last two years, and India accused Pakistan of being involved in these attacks. Pakistan believes any Indian aid to, or business with, Afghanistan is part of a plan to turn hurt Pakistan. But Afghanistan has long believed that Pakistan is regularly interfering with Afghan domestic politics, and considers Afghanistan a pawn in a larger campaign against India. The continued Pakistani involvement with the Taliban is seen as evidence of that. Meanwhile, the Taliban took credit for the Kabul attacks, and said it was part of their effort to chase all foreigners from Afghanistan.

In Pakistan, a court blocked the transfer of five Afghan Taliban leaders, recently captured in Pakistan, to Afghan custody. The judge did this in response to a request from a pro-Taliban lawyer. It is believed that if these Taliban leaders get questioned in Afghanistan, they will reveal much about Pakistani support for the Taliban.

February 25, 2010:  Afghan officials have begun setting up government offices in Marjah, and trying to reestablish government control.

February 24, 2010:  NATO forces have new ROE (Rules of Engagement) covering night time raids on Afghan civilians. First, Afghan troops should be used whenever possible. If Afghan troops or police, serious consideration should be given to cancelling the raid, or doing in during the day. If the raid must go ahead, troops have a list of guidelines they should follow dealing with the treatment of female members of the household. This is similar to what was encountered in Iraq, and both the army and marines often took female troops along on raids, just to handle the female civilians. In Afghan culture, it's a great insult for foreign men to get anywhere near your women, unless invited. So these raids, unless they do some major damage to the enemy, are guaranteed to create some major ill will for foreign troops.




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