March 12, 2009:
The Taliban won a largely unreported victory last month, when the local commander of commando operations in Afghanistan (the Joint Special Operations Command) ordered his troops to halt most of their raids for two weeks. Only operations going after the most senior Taliban and terrorist leaders were allowed. This was because the Afghan government, and the Taliban, have been making lots of noise in the news whenever civilians are killed by foreign troops. This despite the fact that most civilians are killed by the Taliban, and the Taliban regularly use civilians as human shields. Moreover, the number of civilians killed is at a record low, historically. All this, in most cases, is not considered newsworthy.
In addition to the media campaign, the Taliban and the drug gangs have used their influence (via bribes or threats) on senior government officials to have them ask for restrictions on the activities of the foreign troops. While Afghan police and army commanders can be bribed or intimidated (via threats to their families), foreign commanders cannot. So the Afghan government is demanding that foreign troops stop using smart bombs whenever civilians are present, to only allow Afghan troops or police to do searches, and to let the Afghan government know the identities of all translators and other Afghans providing support services for foreign troops. This information would enable the drug gangs to either bribe or terrorize the translators into becoming spies for the drug gangs.
In most cases, the commanders of foreign troops remind the Afghan officials of the real facts, and ignore the demands. But in this case, the commander of the Joint Special Operations Command blinked, and ordered his troops to stand down, until their procedures and performance could be double checked. Then raids were resumed as usual.