Afghanistan: A Karzai Pays His Debts

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June 21, 2012: The government fired four Pushtun academics for publishing a book on the ethnic groups of Afghanistan that described the Hazara as "liars, stubborn, violent, and anti-Islamic." Hazara politicians and non Pushtuns in general were enraged. That's because to the Pushtuns, anyone who is not Pushtun is "them" and nothing but trouble. Same deal with the northern tribes, who are weakened by their lack of ethnic and tribal unity (the Uzbeks are Turks, the Hazara are Mongols, and the Tajiks are, like the Pushtuns, cousins to the Iranians and Indians). Thus no matter how successful the Taliban might be in the south, among their fellow Pushtun (many of them anti-Taliban), they still have to face " them": the northern tribes, who now have powerful foreign allies that proved invincible in 2001, and can do so again if called on. The Afghan government survives by maintaining some form of good relations between the haughty Pushtuns and the real majority of Afghanistan (the non-Pushtuns). The Hazara have long been a particular target of Pushtun anger. In part, it's because the Hazara are Shia, while most Afghans are Sunni. Al Qaeda and the Taliban are Sunni radicals, and Sunni radicals consider Shia heretics and in need of killing. The other reason for Hazara hatred is that the Hazara are the descendants of the Mongol conquerors of Afghanistan. The Pushtun do not like to be reminded of what the Mongol invaders did to them.

 The Hazara are living reminders that the legendary Afghan warriors keep getting their collective asses kicked by better trained and equipped professional soldiers. This is nothing new, it's been happening for thousands of years. Alexander the Great's pros walked all over the Afghan tribesmen. Less gentle Mongol armies wiped out entire tribes. Persian and Indian armies regularly moved in, brushing aside the tribal fighters. The British were unwilling to use the brutal tactics and major efforts of earlier professional troops (going after the less mobile families and food supplies the tribes needed to survive and killing everyone in sight to make a point) and spread the myth of the indomitable Pushtun ("Pathan") warrior. But when the myth hits reality, reality wins. And so, the Pushtuns, who consider themselves the mightiest warriors of all, stick it to the Hazara whenever they have a chance.

The U.S. is demanding that the Afghan government stop taxing reconstruction and aid efforts paid for by the United States. These "taxes" are another form of bribe. The Afghans will resist this demand because so many Afghan officials are getting rich off the foreign aid.

The Taliban have returned to terror tactics because their groups of armed Taliban have failed to maintain much control in the countryside. The tactics of the foreign troops (UAVs and airpower in general, plus plenty of smart bombs and other guided weapons) have proved devastating for Taliban morale. Even Afghan security forces (police and soldiers) have access to this highly accurate firepower and surveillance. This constant surveillance has even made it difficult to plant the roadside bombs that have long been the most effective Taliban weapon. So now it's back to suicide bombs. Sometimes the suicide bombs are accompanied by some gunmen, who are also suicidal as they seek to get into a military base or government compound and commit some major mayhem. These attacks tend to fail as well, but you only have to succeed once in a while to score major media points.

Last year the government made a deal with China to allow Chinese oil companies explore for oil in the northwest (the Amu Darya basin). The government has had to send 300 police to guard the Chinese as a local warlord is demanding payments to allow the exploration.

June 20, 2012:  For the third day in a row the Taliban launched a major terror attack at American troops. Today a suicide bomber hit a checkpoint in eastern Afghanistan, killing three American soldiers and 18 Afghans (two police, 16 civilians).

June 15, 2012:  In eastern Afghanistan Afghan and NATO forces cornered and killed local Haqqani Network commander Eid Mohammad and several of his bodyguards.

June 11, 2012: President Karzai, succumbing to pressure from desperate drug gangs (who have made many members of the Karzai clan rich), has ordered that smart bombs and missiles no longer be used on Afghan homes or structures. This order is opposed by most Afghans, especially members of the police and army. NATO ignored Karzai's order, understanding it was made to keep the drug gangs happy. Locals often urge such attacks on Taliban, drug gangs, or bandits who have fled to a compound and are using civilians as human shields. The outlaws are much feared and most Afghans want them dead whenever the opportunity presents itself. Most Afghans understand the human shield drill and civilians flee when they see the bad guys coming. The Taliban usually have to hold their human shields at gunpoint. The foreign troops have a large array of smart munitions and will often still be able to pick off the gunmen without killing civilians. Afghans know that the Taliban and other gangs are responsible for over 80 percent of civilian deaths and that the foreign troops kill far more bad guys than civilians.

 

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