Afghanistan: It's The Way We Do Things Out Here

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May 24, 2011: Despite the high profile terror attacks, Taliban losses are up and NATO losses are down (about a third) compared to May last year. Vows to avenge the death of Osama bin Laden proved to be hot air. Besides, there are believed to be only a hundred or so al Qaeda members in Afghanistan, hiring themselves out to Taliban death squads. NATO military operations continue to tear apart drug and Taliban organizations and facilities. Most of the fighting continues to be in the key drug production areas (Helmand and Kandahar provinces). Most of those killed by the Taliban continue to be civilians. That does not build popular support for the Taliban, and that is no longer an issue. The Taliban seek supporters wherever they can find them, as it doesn't take many fanatics to stage terror attacks. Out in the countryside, the Taliban is basically a crime gang, gaining most of their income from extortion, robbery and providing security for drug gangs.

A suicide bomber was intercepted as he sought to kill a senior Afghan intelligence official in Kabul. It's intelligence that poses the biggest threat to the Taliban. The government intelligence services are becoming more effective, which makes the intel officials and operatives more frequent targets of Taliban death squads.

May 23, 2011: On the Pakistan border (Khost province), four suicide bombers attacked a police base, and killed six policemen. As police become more successful in formerly unpoliced areas, the Taliban and drug gangs often make a major effort to drive the cops out. This includes attempts to murder police commanders and destroy police bases. Sometimes it works, especially if accompanied by sufficiently large bribes. But the cash strapped Taliban are increasingly losing these turf battles.

The Taliban have become the main organizer of rural violence in southern and eastern Afghanistan. The Taliban financial arrangement with the drug gangs, and continued support of Islamic terrorism (which is the Taliban excuse for so frequently killing other Afghans, and especially foreigners). NATO finally recognized this obvious (to those dealing with the Taliban) fact and responded in the last two years with a campaign directed at the Taliban leadership and key specialists. This has done great damage to the Taliban and drug gangs. This "kill/capture" campaign has been criticized for sometimes killing innocents, a charge that ignores the chaos of the combat zone and demands impossible standards. Makes for great headlines and constant media attention, though, which is another goal of the Taliban and editors everywhere.

The kill/capture campaign, which often features night raids by special operations troops (like SEALs), has encouraged a growing number of Afghans to accept government amnesty programs, or otherwise seek a less violent line of work. That spotlights another problem; poverty. There never was much of an economy in Afghanistan, and the Taliban always saw that as a virtue, because wealthier Afghans tended to get ideas that were condemned as unIslamic by the Taliban. But more and more Afghans are finding out about the growing prosperity in areas where there is little, or no, Taliban. This is most of the country. Afghanistan has long been the poorest state in Eurasia, but that is changing in many provinces, and most Afghans see that as a preferable alternative to being a Taliban thug or belonging to a drug gang. But this program, like everything else, constantly runs into problems with corruption. Too many Afghans believe they have the right to steal whatever they can get away from (as long as it's not from family, or perhaps clan or tribe). The amnesty program involves handing out money, goods and jobs to non-family, which means a lot of the goodies are stolen before getting to their intended destination. Or amnesty comes with strings (kickbacks) attached. Same with economic development programs. Afghanistan has always been a difficult place to do business, which is one (of many) reasons it is so poor.

May 20, 2011: A suicide bomber attacked a dining tent at a military hospital in Kabul, killing six medical students and wounding twenty others. Police made arrests in the next few days, because this was a heavily guarded area. This made it easier to track down who aided the security breach. The attack was apparently plotted by the Haqqani Network, just across the border in Pakistan. Haqqani has long been responsible for most of the Islamic terrorism in eastern Afghanistan, including Kabul. Attacks against hospitals have a high priority, as medical care is a big boost to morale in the armed forces, and widely sought by civilians. Haqqani had the assistance of at least one medical student in Kabul, and was able to bribe soldiers to get uniforms and access to the hospital grounds.

May 18, 2011: In the north, Afghans attacked a German base, to protest the deaths of four Afghans during a raid led by American troops. German troops and Afghan security guards killed twelve Afghans. This kind of violence is a shock to Westerners, but is all too common in Afghanistan, where this kind of recklessness is a major reason why Afghans have the shortest lifespan in Eurasia.

 

 

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