Afghanistan: November 3, 2001


This may be known as the FedEx War, at least for the troops operating from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. The transportation infrastructure in those two countries is a mess. The railroads are in bad shape. You need armed guards on all trains to prevent theft and breakdowns are common. The roads are worse, especially in Winter. Flying stuff in is expensive, but if you absolutely, positively have to get it there. You fly it in. Weather, especially in Winter, can also limit air freight. There is also a limited number of military transports, so you cannot maintain a large (several divisions) force this way. But using civilian air transports, plus the military ones, plus what ever straggles in by rail or road, large quantities of material can be delivered. Building materials, some food and other supplies can also be procured locally. Buying a lot of stuff from locals also gives them, and the government, an incentive to improve the transportation system and use what is available more efficiently. Buying locally also builds good will, and some additional protection from local unrest. Fewer people will want to upset the apple cart if they are sharing in the goodies. 

Some 200 kilometers southwest of Kabul, Taliban troops captured three monarchists and hung them. The Taliban have always used prompt execution to keep people in line and have loudly proclaimed they will use the death penalty for those caught advocating the overthrow of the Taliban. There are apparently several groups with people going around and talking to Taliban leaders who might be tempted to switch sides. Only a few percent of the Afghan population are hard core, true believer, with perhaps ten percent energetic supporters. The rest of the Afghans range from various degrees of pro-Taliban (mainly Pushtuns) to largely anti-Taliban (non Pushtuns.) 

A district southwest of Mazar-i-Sharif switched side, with some 800 Taliban troops switching sides and another 80 killed and some 200 being taken prisoner after a Northern Alliance attack. The Taliban launched two counterattacks, which were repulsed. More Taliban troops were seen moving into the area. As more attack helicopters and Specter gunships move into the area, such Taliban attacks and troops movements will become more costly. A favorite Afghan battle tactic is to surround a town too well protected to attack directly. A siege, in effect. Especially with Winter closing in, troops inside Mazar-i-Sharif will quickly run out of ammunition, food and fuel (for heat and cooking). Bombing attacks on Taliban supplies speed up the process. 

JSTARS ground surveillance aircraft and long range Global Hawk UAVs are being sent to Afghanistan. These aircraft will allow for 24/7  surveillance of Taliban vehicle movements. Warplanes and attack helicopters can be quickly directed to any Taliban vehicles.

There will be no ceasefire during Ramadan. The Taliban and Northern Alliance rarely observed such cease fires and it not customary in Islamic military history to do so. Note that in the Islamic world, the 1973 Arab-Israeli war is called "the Ramadan War" because the Egyptians began the war with an attack during Ramadan (and on the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippor.)

The UN reports increasing thefts of food supplies in Taliban controlled territory, Some six million Afghans are dependent on food aid delivered by the UN and other aid organizations, and largely paid for by the United States. Some 36,000 tons of food was delivered to 2.8 million Afghans in September and October, with 10,000 tons delivered just last week. The Taliban are still imposing a tax on food aid entering the country.

Most of the tribes north of Kabul are non-Pushtun and many are reluctant members of the Taliban alliance. The Taliban rules most of the country through alliances with local warlords. This is a common Afghan practice, going back thousands of years. If someone rolls in with overwhelming military force, the local strongman usually cuts a deal to avoid getting whipped. The US hopes to speed up this process by offering cash, food, jobs and whatever it takes. Getting removed from the B-52 target list will not doubt become a more powerful incentive as time goes by.

A special operations MH-53 helicopter went down in bad weather (a cold front recently moved into the area.) The crew was rescued and American warplanes destroyed the helicopter. The Taliban promptly claimed they had shot down the chopper. But the Taliban press releases are steadily losing credibility. When Western journalists were recently allowed into Afghanistan for a guided tour, it was quickly apparent that the Taliban were wildly exaggerating the extent of bomb damage to civilians. Journalists have taken to calling one Taliban spokesman "Mullah Make-It-Up."

The bombing continued, with raids on villages Taliban troops have taken over for housing. With the weather getting colder,  the Taliban will spend more time inside buildings, where they are easier targets. 


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