The Taliban continue to earn their pay from the drug gangs by disrupting government efforts to halt the production (mostly in Helmand and Kandahar provinces in the south) and exporting drugs via routes in the south, east, north and west) of heroin and other drugs. Because of this there there is lots of violence in the north, which is largely non-Pushtun (the Taliban is largely a Pushtun outfit) and hostile to Pushtuns and drugs (Pushtuns dominate the drug trade nationwide). There is also a lot of violence in the east, despite the presence of a lot more Pushtuns living there. That’s because Pakistan backed Islamic terrorists have long sought sanctuary along the Pakistan border and often try to control the local tribes via terror. The situation in the east has gotten worse since mid-2014 because of thousands of Pakistani based Islamic terrorists being chased out of their sanctuary (North Waziristan) by a major army offensive. This has meant nothing but trouble for the Afghans living in those border areas, which have now turned into a war zone.
The drug gangs prefer to use bribes to create safe smuggling routes but if that doesn’t work the Taliban supply the muscle. That gets the headlines while the bribes rarely do. When a large group (usually less than a hundred) of soldiers or police, including their commanders switch sides the cause is usually cash. Mercenary attitudes are acceptable in Afghanistan and an ancient tradition. Afghanistan is on the “highway” to India and passing armies often offered lucrative, if dangerous, opportunities for Afghan tribesmen. Those who returned with loot told exciting stories that became part of the folklore and tribal history. In this part of the world the legends are a lot more meaningful than elsewhere.
The United States and Pakistan have agreed to try geting the peace talks in Afghanistan with the Taliban resumed. The problem is that the Taliban are in the midst of an increasingly violent civil war. The main Taliban leadership (who favor peace talks) believe they will have their dissident factions crushed by the end of the year or early 2016. That may well be, but this internal violence is yet another unpredictable variable to deal with. Another problem is the growing anger in Afghanistan against Pakistan for the flood of Islamic terrorists Pakistan has driven into eastern Afghanistan and the continuing abuse of Afghan refugees in Pakistan (because of Afghan involvement in crime and Islamic terrorism inside Pakistan). Afghanistan also blames Pakistan for the current civil war within the Taliban.
The Afghan security forces have been taking advantage of the chaos within the Taliban and similar problems inside other Islamic terrorists groups. Afghan and American intelligence is pretty good inside Afghanistan and when Islamic terrorists are detected having leadership or morale problems, that’s where the security forces often decide to have a major clearing operation. This is meant to find and destroy Islamic terrorist bases and kill or capture as many as possible. The locals (a regular source of information) become more cooperative in situations like this because for the civilians the Islamic terrorists are a constant threat that are usually too numerous for most Afghan communities to openly defy. But a successful clearing operation can decisively change the odds.
November 23, 2015: Mullah Mansour, leader of the OT (Original Taliban) has ordered another offensive in the south (Zabul Province) against the forces of rival Taliban leader Mullah Rasool. This marks a major defeat for the Taliban as they have now lost a major asset; unity. The OT is believed to be planning similar offensives in the west (Farah and Heart provinces).
November 21, 2015: A government investigation into why the northern city of Kunduz fell under Taliban control for three days in September (before government forces could force them out) concluded that the problem was ineffective senior government and military leadership. Part of the problem was the complicated leadership structure which made it difficult to know who was actually in charge under some conditions. Left unmentioned, but certainly implied, was the role of corruption. The investigators called for more care in selecting people for senior jobs. That was another way of saying that letting bribes and favoritism dominate promotions could have serious and deadly consequences. Corruption has long plagued Afghanistan and now it is working its malign magic on Islamic terrorists and the newly established democracy.
November 20, 2015: In the east (Pakitia province) police tracked down and arrested three members of the Haqqani Network, including one who supplied landmines to the Islamic terrorists.
November 16, 2015: In the east (Nangarhar province) police arrested 27 students at Nangarhar University for displaying Taliban and ISIL flags at a demonstration and burning the Afghan flag.
November 14, 2015: In the east (Nangarhar province) an American UAV used a missile to kill twelve Taliban, including a Taliban commander. Nine of the dead were foreigners (probably Pakistani). This is an area where there has also been a lot of fighting between Taliban and ISIL forces and this has caused ISIL nearly 200 casualties since late October.
In Kabul thousands of Afghan Shia (mostly Hazara) marched through the capital to protest the growing violence (by Sunni Islamic terrorists) against the Shia. These attacks are also a problem in Pakistan. Iran, which is majority Shia, has been pressuring Afghanistan and Pakistan to do more about the anti-Shia violence.
November 10, 2015: In the south (Zabul province) fighting between rival Taliban factions has left more than a hundred dead in the last week. This all goes back to the collapse of the Taliban peace talks back last July. That was triggered by the unexpected Pakistani confession that Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar had died in a Pakistani hospital in 2013. This revelation caused much anger within the Taliban that has gotten worse within the Afghan Taliban leadership. The breakaway faction has elected Mullah Mohammad Rasool as their leader and consider him the leader of all the Afghan Taliban. Since October it has become clear that this was not going to be resolved peacefully. In addition all Taliban have a growing and often violent problem with local ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) groups.
November 9, 2015: In the south the fighting between Taliban factions included a suicide bomber attack on the headquarters of the mainstream faction (led by Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour) which killed several senior officials (but not Mansour).
November 6, 2015:
India has agreed to provide Afghanistan with four used Mi-24 helicopter gunships. Afghanistan, India and Pakistan already operate some M-24s as well as the upgraded version (Mi-35). India is replacing its Mi-24s with American AH-64s. India has also agreed to provide specialist training (inside India) for Afghan officers and special operations troops.