Afghanistan: Greed and Guns


October 3, 2007: For thousands of years, Afghans have viewed foreigners as a source of loot. Whether it was in the form of extortion payments or ransom, the opportunity was always there for the greedy, ruthless and well armed. Things have not changed. For example, because Western troops will pay compensation when a civilian is killed in the crossfire, but Afghan troops will not, any nearby foreign troops will be badgered for "compensation" for civilians recently killed by Afghan troops, or even Taliban action. A demonstration will be organized for any media present, and compensation demanded. This scam is well known to most foreign troops, and doesn't work as well as it used to. Another money making opportunity, kidnapping aid workers, is growing in popularity. The recent $20 million ransom paid for 21 South Korean aid workers has been a major inspiration. This has backfired, however. Twice, landmine removal teams were seized. Tribal leaders threatened war with the Taliban if the mine clearling people, who make the land safe for everyone, were not released. The kidnappers relented, fearing tribal retribution. Same thing is happening with UN aid workers. Four were recently taken, and the Taliban promptly insisted it was not them. Then the Taliban admitted it might have been some of their guys, freelancing in search of a big payday. The UN threatened to pull out, the Tribal leaders did the math and made threats. The four UN staffers were released after a few days.

October 2, 2007: In the last week, the Taliban have carried out two suicide attacks in crowded urban areas, leaving nearly forty dead. This has angered more than terrorized the population, killing over 150 civilians so far this year. There are about 550 attacks a month now, with over 70 percent aimed at foreign troops. The U.S. has responded with a "Most Wanted" rewards program ($20,000-200,000), and distributed 300,000 posters showing the men responsible for most of the hated suicide and roadside bombing. This gives Afghans a chance to personalize their dislike for the bombings, and earn some serious money if they come across any of those responsible. The enemy need all the victories they can get. So far this year, some 5,000 have died in Taliban and al Qaeda violence. But some 70 percent of the dead have been terrorists, and less than four percent foreign troops. The rest were Afghan civilians and security forces. The Taliban seemed to have missed the memo pointing out that every use of terror by Islamic radical groups in the past few decades has failed.

September 30, 2007: As expected, the senior Taliban leadership refused to negotiate with the government, but several tribal leaders offered to talk. What the tribal leaders fear the most is the persistence of Taliban death squads. The Taliban have enough money from Islamic charities and drug gangs to keep the death squads on the payroll throughout the Winter. That's when Afghans are most vulnerable, and there's fear the Afghan army and police won't be able to cope with this expected terror campaign.

September 26, 2007: In two battles, the Taliban lost 165 gunmen, with one Afghan soldiers lost, and about a dozen wounded. The Taliban lost as they usually do, trying to carry out an ambush, but losing to better training and smart bombs.




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