Afghanistan: What Makes The Taliban Terrorists Feel Better

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April 30, 2010:  Western troops and reconstruction workers encounter a severe culture clash in Afghanistan. For example, blood feuds are casually accepted as a reasonable and  honored way to settle disputes (especially those involving dead kin, no matter if it was the result of an accident). It gets worse. People complain about corruption, but few will refuse an opportunity to take part in the bribes and theft. Those who are very successful at corrupt practices are even admired, especially if they are generous with their followers. Thus drug gang leaders are simultaneously hated for causing a growing plague of addiction, and admired for bringing prosperity via the export of heroin. Overall, Afghans see foreigners as untrustworthy and suitable targets for exploitation. There are enough "bi-cultural" (often educated in the West) Afghans to reassure the foreigners, but the troops out in the countryside get to deal with the real Afghan attitudes more often.

There are other Afghan customs that are hard for Westerners to adapt to. For example, while most Afghans despise the Taliban (for their savagery and attempts to control how people live), many Afghans believe that U.S. and NATO helicopters are secretly transporting Taliban to other parts of the country, to cause trouble and "keep Afghanistan weak". Afghans have a problem with admitting that their country has problems that Afghans can solve. Everything is the fault of evil foreigners, or Afghans from another tribe or ethnic groups, who are just as bad as those evil men from outside Afghanistan.

The increased efforts to shut down drug gangs and Taliban terrorist operations has increased the violence in the south by 87 percent (for March). The drug gangs and their Taliban allies (who are fighting for tribal and religious control of the south, then the country, and ultimately the world) are not going to give up easily. The drug gangs have cash, and are using it to hang onto what they have. But money is running short. More Taliban recruits are being paid by the job, rather than by the day or month. Most of the Taliban recruits are illiterate young guys from poor villages, so the gangs pay much more for middle management, which is why these leaders are so avidly pursued by NATO and Afghan forces. This has been particularly successful in the north, where the Taliban are more unpopular, and struggling to establish a presence using the Pushtun minority there (the Pushtuns are a majority in the south, although only 40 percent of Afghans are Pushtuns).

The Taliban have been increasing their use of suicide and roadside bomb attacks. They have done the math, and it simply does not pay to get into a firefight with Western troops. The foreigners are better trained, and have aircraft overhead, armed with smart bombs. So the Taliban concentrate on staying hidden, terrorizing other Afghans and picking away at the foreigners with roadside bombs and suicide bombers. Most of the casualties of these attacks are other Afghans, which the Taliban declare "involuntary martyrs." This makes the Taliban terrorists feel better about all the dead children and mothers who have been prematurely sent to paradise.

The major problem in Afghanistan is not these counterproductive cultural habits, but the many leaders who just go along with the corruption and self-deception. Those leaders who don't, are very effective in improving the lives of their followers. But these guys are a minority. Many who could be effective, either immigrate, or want to. Afghanistan is a tough place to live, or change.

Fuel, and other petroleum products received via Kyrgyzstan, became more difficult to get in April after Russia discovered a tax scam and raised the cost of all fuel sold to Kyrgyzstan. Fuel that is bought from Russia for export to other countries is supposed to produce an additional tax payment to the Russian government. But the Kyrgyz fuel dealers were lying to Russia about fuel they were importing, saying it was all for use in Kyrgyzstan, when, in fact, half of it was being exported to Afghanistan. The Russians were not happy about being scammed.

April 29, 2010: In the north, U.S. and Afghan commandoes killed local Taliban leader Mullah Daud, one of his bodyguards, and arrested four others.  In the east, NATO and Afghan troops chased a Taliban operative into the compound of the brother of a member of parliament. An armed guest in the compound was shot dead, and the legislator is upset. Many legislators are corrupt, and some work with the Taliban when it suits them. Troops who chase down Taliban encounter this all the time.

April 27, 2010:  The UN curtailed operations in Kandahar, and pulled some of its personnel out, in response to growing Taliban attacks against UN aid and reconstruction efforts. The Taliban see foreign aid as corrupting. The increased Taliban activity is an effort to distract NATO and Afghan commandos from operations against the Taliban leadership in the city. The commandos know a lot about the Taliban in the city, and have been going after them for the last few weeks. So the Taliban leaders have ordered their men to disrupt life in the city, especially for foreigners, as much as possible.

 

 

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