Afghanistan: Preparing For The Apocalypse

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March 11, 2014: The Taliban announced that they would make a maximum effort to kill, kidnap or otherwise intimidate anyone who had anything to do with the upcoming (April) presidential elections. To foreigners this is alarming but to Afghans it’s normal. Foreigners who have spent much time in Afghanistan, especially out in the countryside, know that this is a very violent place and has always been so. Weapons, especially firearms, are common as are short tempers and a culture of violence that a lot of Afghans take for granted. Other local customs that appall foreigners is the acceptance (unofficially) of homosexuality, especially with male children and the extent of domestic violence (especially against wives and children). There’s also a lot of drug addiction and, of course, corruption and tribalism. It’s no wonder that Afghanistan has been a major source of refugees since the 1980s.

The government revealed that it has paid death benefits for nearly 14,000 soldiers and policemen since the new security forces were organized in 2002. Given the culture of corruption and how often money for salaries and support of troops is stolen, this number is probably an exaggeration of the actual number killed. While that averages about a thousand dead per year it’s actually been much higher in the last few years as the size of the security forces grew and Afghans took over security responsibility for more of the country. Thus most of those death benefits were paid out in the last five years. The Taliban don’t release data like this and it’s been U.S. and NATO practice to not make public intelligence estimates o f enemy losses. But from data that has leaked out it appears that the Taliban has lost at least five times the number Afghan and foreign forces (3,427, two-thirds of them American) have lost. In other words nearly 80,000 since September 11, 2001. This is not particularly high by Afghan standards, even after you add in the 15,000 or so civilian dead. Most of these civilian losses were the result of Taliban terror, which was limited by the fact that there were many civilians the Taliban could not attack because the potential victims were well armed or well connected (belonged to a tribe that was capable of hitting back vigorously). While the Russians killed over 100,000 civilians a year during the 1980s, the Western forces were much less lethal because most civilians sided with the foreigners and the widespread use of precision weapons. Afghans are more concerned with what happens when all, or nearly all, of the foreign troops are gone at the end of the year. There are about 55,000 troops left in Afghanistan now and they provide essential (air support, logistics, intelligence and training) support for the security forces. The foreign troops also reassure many of the foreign aid workers in Afghanistan. If the violence increases after 2014 the foreign aid workers, and most of the money they bring in, will leave.

More violence and less money is a bad combination for most Afghans. The exception is the ten percent of Afghans benefitting from the drug trade. They are bribing and threatening government officials to get all foreign troops out of Afghanistan by 2015 . At that point all that drug money will be the most powerful political and military force in the country. NATO would like to leave about 12,000 troops (most of them American) behind after this year but that depends on a Status of Forces agreement being signed. That is being held up by a few key officials (including president Karzai) and that is believed to be the result of the Karzai clan’s long association with drug gangs . While foreigners may not believe a lot of the stories about corruption in the Karzai clan and connections with the drug gangs and Taliban, most Afghans accept this as perfectly normal.

By the end of 2013 t he U.S. had finally negotiated terms for keeping U.S. troops in Afghanistan once most foreign troops had left after 2014. Some Afghan politicians played hardball with the Americans on this, refusing to agree to continue American immunity from the corrupt Afghan justice system after 2014. The U.S. told the Afghans that if they didn’t get a Status of Forces (immunity) agreement by the end of 2014 then the U.S. would withdraw all their forces and most of their aid money. This finally got most Afghan leaders to agree to U.S. terms, even if president Karzai continued to invent excuses to not sign. Afghans, most of whom want the Status of Forces agreement signed, see these drug gang links as the main reason Karzai will not sign the agreement. Non-Pushtun politicians are hoping to solve this problem by electing a non-Pushtun as president in April. The Pushtuns and Taliban will attempt to prevent this using traditional methods (lots of terror and dead people). Karzai really believes that he can negotiate a peace deal with the divided Taliban and arrange for another pro-Taliban Pushtun to succeed him. He also knows that many Taliban leaders have become very corrupt and willing to make peace. A lot of the cash from drug gangs (for security and other services) goes to buying SUVs, trucks and nice houses for the Taliban leaders. These same Taliban seek out equally corrupt army and police commanders to share the wealth (in return for occasional inaction). In many cases this works, but there’s still a problem with the fact that most people in the security forces are not Pushtun and oppose the Pushtun dominating the non-Pushtun majority. There has always been some of this but now the non-Pushtuns want to share power not just take whatever the Pushtuns give them (from the foreign aid and other national income there is to share). The non-Pushtuns see an end to Pushtun domination while the Pushtun see any attempt to impose that as something worth fighting and dying for. Karzai also knows that the Taliban are running out of cash, because many foreign donors have stopped giving because of the growing number of women and children killed by Taliban violence. These donors also know of the corruption among the Taliban leadership and at the moment are more attracted to Islamic terrorists in Syria.

The corrupt Afghan leaders, including many members of the Karzai clan, have moved most of their money and many family members out of the country. The UAE (United Arab Emirates) is a favorite exile location because the governments there have long been hospitable to such exiles and their money. Western nations used to be favorite destinations but the growing number of investigations and prosecutions of corrupt officials has made the West much less hospitable.

March 2, 2014:  The Taliban bribed 11 prison guards and officials at a Kandahar prison to create a forged document that got 12 Taliban released. The government has since recaptured at least two of the prisoners.

February 26, 2014: In Pakistan the military announced that it would halt efforts to negotiate a peace deal with the Pakistani Taliban. The main cause of this is the fact that the Pakistani Taliban have violated all earlier peace deals and have continued carrying out terror attacks inside Pakistan. For this reason the Pakistani generals call them the “bad Taliban". These are mostly Pakistani Taliban who want to establish a religious dictatorship in Pakistan and some of them have been increasingly active attacking other Pakistanis. This has caused a shift in public opinion against these Taliban, although there is still a lot of support for Islamic terrorists who only attack India, Afghanistan or Western nations.

That includes the Afghan Taliban, who want to establish a religious dictatorship in Afghanistan. To the Pakistani generals these are considered "good Taliban" along with the minority of Pakistani Taliban who don't want to overthrow the Pakistani government. Meanwhile there is growing pressure in the Pakistani tribal territories for the army to shut down the various terror groups based in North Waziristan. In large part that is because over the few years the Pakistani Taliban have caused over a thousand of casualties among pro-government tribesmen throughout the tribal territories. The army has long hired tribesmen in the tribal territories and puts them in dangerous situations to minimize army casualties. The army cannot afford to lose the support of the loyal tribes up there and these tribes are demanding some relief from the attacks of these Islamic terrorist groups. All this has put pressure on the army to eliminate the refuge the killers can flee to in North Waziristan.  Several times, because of the demands of Pakistani and American politicians, the Pakistani generals have said they will consider advancing into North Waziristan. But it hasn't happened yet. Despite that, in the last week the generals have openly talked about actually going in on the ground and eliminating the North Waziristan Islamic terrorist sanctuary. The Pakistani military explicitly declared that it would not attack its longtime and loyal terrorist allies (especially Haqqani Network) in North Waziristan or anywhere else in the tribal territories or any other terrorists who do not attack targets inside Pakistan. This annoys the Afghans, especially the leaders who complain to their Pakistani counterparts and are told that the civilian government does not have enough clout to get the generals to obey elected officials. A lot of the terrorist violence in eastern Afghanistan can be tracked back to groups in Pakistan. This causes much anger in eastern Afghanistan and tribal leaders are demanding retaliation against Pakistan for officially supporting these attacks.

 

 

 

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