March 23, 2004
The government has flown an infantry battalion to Herat, in western Afghanistan, where the governor, warlord Ismail Khan, is fighting a rebellious subordinate warlord, Zaher Naib Zada. The central government has handled Khan gently in the past, because Khan is very capable, and quite popular in the west. But Khan is also independent minded, and ignores orders from the capital when it pleases him. By sending troops to Herat, the government is getting physically involved in running things out there. The government plans to station a brigade of troops in Herat. Khan has been under pressure to exercise more control over the various private armies in western Afghanistan, and to crack down on the drug and smuggling gangs. Zaher Naib Zada apparently was angered when he was asked to stop his troops from abusing civilians. Most warlords "pay" their troops by allowing them to plunder civilians.
In the east, the fighting across the border in Pakistan is sending refugees across the border. Some of those fleeing are Taliban and al Qaeda members. In one case, Pakistani troops found a tunnel/cave escape route, over a mile long, from a village to a location near the Afghan border. Many American "Special Forces" troops have been seen in eastern Afghanistan, probably indicating that Task Force 121 commandos are in the area.