Afghanistan: To Get Rich, Get High, Get Laid Or Simply Get Your Way

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July 16, 2014: Afghanistan claims 80,000 Pakistanis have fled across the border into Khost and Paktika provinces so far. These refugees are fleeing air raids and ground combat in North Waziristan (an area of 4,700 square kilometers, with 500,000 people that is the only sanctuary Islamic terrorist groups like the Taliban and Haqqani Network have in the Pakistani tribal territories). The air strikes began on June 15 th and the ground offensive on the 30 th . About one percent of the people in North Waziristan are Islamic terrorists and while the military controls some of the larger towns, the tribes and Islamic terrorists control the countryside. Most of the people in North Waziristan have fled the fighting, which has killed over 500 (or over a thousand, depending on who you listen to) so far.

The Pakistani and Afghan governments have agreed to cooperate in dealing with the recent Pakistani offensive into the long-time Islamic terrorist sanctuary of North Waziristan. The Afghans had asked for this offensive for a long time and the Pakistanis asked the Afghans to put more troops on the border North Waziristan shares with Afghanistan to catch or kill any Islamic terrorists fleeing into Afghanistan. Unfortunately fleeing Islamic terrorists can bribe or threaten the Afghan border guards to let them pass. That often works.

In Afghanistan the Taliban have ignored heavy losses and the inability to carry out a successful warm-weather offensive for over a decade. Worse, heavy losses have persuaded many pro-Taliban tribal leaders to try and negotiate peace with the government. Yet the senior leadership (safe since 2002 in Quetta, a city in southwest Pakistan just across the border from Helmand province) refuse to consider making peace. The official reason is the belief that after the foreign troops are gone (most by 2014, the Americans by 2016) the various other tribes (Tadjik, Uzbek and Hazara) will not be able to remain united and the Pushtuns, led by the Taliban, will take back control. In contrast the Taliban leaders inside Afghanistan don’t see any serious lack of unity among the non-Pushtun tribes (who comprise 60 percent of the population and an even higher portion of the military personnel) and remain with the Taliban because it pays well. That is the case because the Taliban income grows with the amount of activity by the gangs that produce and export opium and heroin. The drug gangs have some armed men on the payroll but their most formidable weapon is cash. The gangs bribe anyone who might interfere with business and only call on the Taliban (or other armed groups on the payroll) to apply force to prevent some hard ass official from threatening what produces so much cash for so many people (about ten percent of Afghans share in this). In addition to their cut of the drug business, the Taliban have established themselves as regular gangsters as well with growing income from extortion and protection (payments from tribes and businesses to protect them from Taliban attack). The more pragmatic Taliban leaders don’t care what the old men in Pakistan are hallucinating about as long as the money keeps coming and there are no major threats to this ancient way of life. The foreign troops were definitely a threat, but there were not enough of them and there were plenty of government officials and security force (army and police) commanders willing to take a bribe. It was still dangerous, but with the foreign troops gone it is a lot less dangerous. Where does this leave all the Taliban religious baggage? It’s still there but diluted more and more by even more powerful urges to get rich, get high, get laid or simply get your way. The Taliban religious baggage is the exception while greed is still the rule.

July 15, 2014: In the east (Paktika province) a suicide truck bomber detonated in a crowded market, killing 89 people. The driver of the truck was apparently being pursued by police and the market may not have been his primary target. The Taliban denied any responsibility. The area is often the scene of Haqqani network attacks. Haqqani is based just across the border in Pakistan. This is the worst such attack (in terms of dead) since 2001 and most Afghans want revenge for something like this. Thus no one is taking credit, although Haqqani usually does not take credit. Haqqani is already quite unpopular in this area and are regarded as a bunch of murderous gangsters.

July 12, 2014: Both candidates in the presidential runoff election agreed to an American arranged full vote recount and agreed to abide by the result of the recount, which will be overseen by foreign observers. The result of the June 14 runoff has been in doubt because of fraud allegations. The two candidates are Abdullah Abdullah (a long time Karzai rival and widely believed to have lost the 2009 vote because of fraud) who had 45 percent of the votes in the first (April) election and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai (a former finance minister and World Bank official) who had 31.5 percent. Abdullah Abdullah is part Tajik and backed the Northern Alliance against the Taliban during the 1990s. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai is a Pushtun from a powerful tribe. He was attending college in the U.S. when the civil wars and subsequent Russian occurred in the late 1970s. He was in exile until 2001. His family suffered many losses during this period, both because of the Russians and the civil wars. To Puhstuns Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai is the more acceptable candidate because he is all Pushtun and the Pushtuns have traditionally been the kinds or leaders of Afghanistan, even though they are a minority (although the largest one at 40 percent of the population). Ahmadzai and many of his supporters insist that a lot more Pushtuns turned out to vote in the runoff in order to keep a Pushtun in the top job. On the other hand Abdullah Abdullah was the victim of Pushtun voting fraud in 2009 when president Karzai was running for reelection and sees it as happening again. This is a major political crises and its outcome will be in doubt for weeks until the recount is complete. There were a lot of foreign observers who reported that there was some fraud but not a lot more than the first election in April. There were nearly 600 formal complaints of fraud and there was an effort by Pushtun leaders to get out more votes for Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai. 

July 7, 2014: In the south the Taliban banned polio vaccinations in most of Helmand province because the Islamic terrorists believe the vaccination teams are spying for the government. This could be a health disaster for southern Afghanistan. Earlier this year it was confirmed that a young girl living outside Kabul had caught polio and was partially paralyzed. This was the first known case of polio in Afghanistan since the Taliban were overthrown in late 2001. Many people can catch polio and not become sick so it is unclear how far polio has spread. The reason for this is that the Taliban changed their policy of opposing polio vaccinations once they were out of power after 2001. Not so the Pakistani Taliban, which still officially opposes vaccination. This is now a problem because of the large number of Pakistani Pushtuns fleeing to Afghanistan to get away from the recent Pakistani offensive into the terrorist sanctuary of North Waziristan. Most Taliban, on both sides of the border, believe the polio vaccination program is really a Western plot to poison Moslems. Thus even though the Afghan Taliban support vaccinations there is still violence. For example on January 24th a 16 year old medical volunteer was murdered by a Taliban death squad down south (Helmand province). The young man was administering polio vaccinations. There are many active cases of polio just across the border in the Pakistani tribal territories, one of the few places on the planet where people are still being infected. This has caused small outbreaks in countries where people from the tribal territories visit (including Syria, where many Pakistani Islamic terrorists have gone and triggered at least dozens of polio cases so far).  Afghanistan has been increasing vaccination efforts in response to all this.

July 5, 2014: Outside Kabul a guarded (by only four armed personnel) parking lot for fuel tanker trucks moving to and from Pakistan erupted in fire as one tanker, still loaded with fuel, exploded and the fire began spreading to other tankers. There were some 500 tanker trucks in the facility and 300 were destroyed or damaged as the fire spread. The cause of the explosion turned out to be a magnetic time bomb attached to the bottom of one truck. The trucking companies pay bribes to the Taliban and criminal gangs that could attack the trucks to prevent attacks. This bombing may be the result of a new gang trying to get some of the bribe money. This sort of thing usually leads to some violence among the criminal groups as they sort out who gets paid and who gets killed.

July 4, 2014: For the first six months of 2014 civilian deaths were up 17 percent (compared to the first six months in 2013). There were some other differences. In 2013 the majority of civilian deaths were from roadside bombs, as they had been for years. In 2014 the majority were from gunfire, rockets and mortar shells. This appears related to Afghan soldiers and police taking over security duties (from foreign troops) all over the country during the last year. Warlord and Islamic terrorist groups are now attacking the Afghan security forces (in order to terrorize them into submission) and the soldiers and police live among the people rather than in isolated bases the foreign troops used. The Taliban have also deliberately reduced the use of roadside bombs because they caused so many civilian casualties and turned so many civilians violently against the Taliban.

July 3, 2014: In the south (Helmand) two major clashes between the security forces and the Taliban left 90 Islamic terrorists dead and many weapons, vehicles and other gear captured.

Outside of Kabul several rockets landed in the military side of the main airport, setting a hanger on fire. There were no casualties.

July 2, 2014: Bowing to pressure from Afghan bankers, president Karzai signed into law regulations that made it more difficult for criminals, terrorists and corrupt officials to use the banking system. This is part of an international program and when Karzai made it clear earlier in 2014 that he would not sign the law foreign countries began refusing to do business with Afghan banks. Thus the pressure from Afghan bankers eventually forced Karzai to enact the law. Karzai and his corrupt cronies will now try to circumvent the law.

June 28, 2014:  In the south (Helmand province) over a week of fighting with over 800 Taliban who attempted to take control of areas foreign troops had recently withdrew from ended with over a 250 Islamic terrorists, 28 Afghan soldiers and police and 50 civilians dead. There were also several hundred wounded. The Afghan security forces retained control of the area. The Taliban denied they were defeated but the Taliban were definitely not in control of the four districts they attacked.

June 27, 2014: Thousands of people demonstrated in Kabul against suspected fraud in the June 15th presidential runoff election. There have been several of these demonstrations already and the non-Pushtun candidate threatens to abandon the election process entirely. This could lead to civil war.

June 25, 2014: Pakistan asked Afghanistan to screen Pakistanis fleeing North Waziristan in to Afghanistan to catch Islamic terrorists. After some negotiation Afghanistan agreed. 

 

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