Afghanistan: November 14, 2001


British plans to swiftly move a force of 3,200 troops into Afghanistan have been "thrown off stride". The military wanted better intelligence reports on where the main Taliban and al Qaeda units are located and on the various cave complexes. The Blair government had wanted to be conducting at least ground raids if not actual ground operations by now. Britain had ten aircraft (tankers and recon) in theater but has boosted this to 14, including C-130s to resupply other units. The carrier Illustrious has been moved from wargames in Oman to the Pakistani coast, but its Harriers have been replaced with Sea King helicopters for use by commandoes. Britain's 40th Marine Commando Battalion was in Oman and the British had intended to use it in Afghanistan. About two hundred of its troops will be kept in the area (on the dock landing ship HMS Fearless) while the other 400 will be sent back to Britain (and held in a high state of readiness. Fearless and Illustrious will be protected by the destroyer Southampton and the frigate Cornwall. Three submarines (two of them with cruise missiles) remain on station. Seven auxiliary ships (Sir Tristam, Sir Percivale, Fort Victoria, Fort Rosalie, Bayleaf, Brambleleaf, and Dilligence) will provide logistical support. --Stephen V Cole

The Pushtun areas are rebelling against the Taliban, with many towns declaring themselves independent of the Taliban and the Northern Alliance. Pushtuns have long been unhappy over the strict form of Islam imposed on them by what they considered a bunch of Kadahari Pushtuns. Even Kandahar has been abandoned by the Taliban, as local tribes rose up against the Taliban. Even the pro-Taliban city of Jalalabad, on the Pakistani border, has been attacked by anti-Taliban Pushtuns. The Pushtuns in the south have declared themselves independent of the Northern Alliance. 

The Northern Alliance has seized all of Kabul. There has not been a lot of violence between non-Pushtun Northern Alliance troops and Kabul residents. But the Northern Alliance soldiers have sought out non-Afghan Taliban fighters and killed them. 

The Taliban quickly abandoned Kabul and American warplanes are hitting the Taliban convoys moving south. American special forces soldiers are operating in southern Afghanistan, independent of the Northern Alliance. American troops and aircraft are stepping up their search for bin Laden in the many caves U.S. troops have found over the last few weeks.

With most Afghans finally willing to throw off Taliban oppression, the Taliban supporters need a place to seek refuge. Taliban support is still strong in northern Pakistan, among the two million Afghan refugees, and many more Pakistani Pushtuns. The Taliban and bin Laden followers can easily get into Pakistan. This could make things difficult for Pakistan, which has long tried to keep the peace with their excitable Pushtun minority.

Taliban troops appear to be fleeing into rural areas, where they will have a hard time staying alive in the Winter. These Taliban guerillas can take food from rural Afghans, but this will just make the locals more willing to provide information to searching Northern Alliance and American troops. The U.S. plans to use money and humanitarian aid to reward those who provide information and armed help in finding bin Laden and his men. But many Taliban are also fleeing to Pakistan, where pro-Taliban Pushtuns and two million pro-Taliban Afghan refugees present the Pakistan government with a difficult problem. One thing Pakistan has always sought to avoid is open warfare in the "Northeast Tribal Areas" (as the Pushtun populated region is called.) Large (several hundred each) groups of Taliban troops are still active in northern Afghanistan. 

The United States has announced that it will allow captured terrorists to be tried by American military courts, a policy not used since World War II. The United States is planning to establish bases at Mazar-I-Sharif and Baghram air base outside Kabul. 

The former king of Afghanistan says he will return soon to call the Loya Jirga (grand assembly) to form a new government. Meanwhile, the Northern Alliance has moved its officials into Kabul and reestablished the government that was driven out of the city in 1996. The Northern Alliance says it will hold elections within two years. Meanwhile, the government will be headed by Burhanuddin Rabbani, current head of the Northern Alliance and former (1996) Afghan president. The Northern Alliance has said it will work with the former king and the UN. Meanwhile, the UN is calling for other Moslem nations to send in troops to help keep the peace. It's uncertain if the Northern Alliance or Afghans in general, would tolerate this. 


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