Afghanistan: November 27, 2001


The aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, deployed for the Afghan Air War, includes in its air group a squadron of Marine F-18s (VMFA-251).--Stephen V Cole

Fighting continues in the fortress of Qala-e-Jangi (ten kilometers west of Mazar-I-Sharif). Most of the 500 rebellious Taliban prisoners are dead and only a handful continue to hold out although some Northern Alliance commanders say there may be up to a hundred left). The fortress is huge (several hundred meters by several hundred meters) with many different levels (above and below ground). U.S. warplanes bombed the place heavily over night. The surviving Taliban were foreigners who were not carefully searched after they were captured. This was the result of an Afghan cultural custom. Men with guns in Afghanistan are very touchy about their honor. When you surrender or switch sides, it's important to maintain the charade that you are not "losing" or "beaten." No, you are just going over to the camp of your friends (the guys you were trying to kill a short while ago) and be accorded all the hospitality a guest deserves and Afghanistan is famous for. You don't pat down a guest or take his weapon. While the foreign Taliban were to be put in a camp, and had their rifles taken, they were not thoroughly searched for grenades, pistols, knives and the like. Sometimes, the habit of hospitality and honor can backfire. 

Fighting continued around Kunduz as small groups of Taliban continue to resist. So far, 5800 Taliban (both Afghan and foreign) have surrendered so far. 

Another journalist was killed in Afghanistan, this one by armed robbers trying to get into his hotel room. Eight journalists have been killed. Until the late 20th century, war correspondents were relatively safe. They generally wore some kind of uniform and had military escorts. But as media outlets proliferated, journalists covered more of the smaller, and less organized wars, Journalists generally come into the war zone with lots of money (by local standards) and expensive equipment. They also come unarmed and largely unaware of who is who. Wars tend to create a lawless atmosphere populated by a lot of men with guns. As a result, the journalists are prime targets for bandits as well as stray firepower. 

Negotiations by Afghan factions in Germany are being heavily influenced by diplomats from neighboring countries (especially Iran, Pakistan and Russia) and promise of over $10 billion in aid if a deal can be reached. UN and American officials, however, expect that the best that they may get is a shaky ceasefire and the country split into autonomous ethnic regions. 

A convoy of unmarked Russian trucks rolled into Kabul to reestablish the Russian embassy. The convoy was guarded by men in unmarked blue uniforms (who appeared to be Russian.)

The battle for Qala-e-Jangi caused five U.S. casualties when a smart bomb wasn't and came down in the wrong place. Several Afghans were injured as well. The casualties were evacuated to an army hospital in Uzbekistan.

In the south, the U.S. marine airbase 120 kilometers southeast of Kandahar immediately got down to the business of preventing any Taliban or terrorists from escaping to the east (Pakistan.) Marine helicopters spotted a column of 15 armored vehicles and trucks. A navy F-14 was called in and the vehicles were destroyed. The helicopter could have attacked the convoy with its Hellfire missiles, but it was easier to let the F-14 do it. The helicopter missiles have to be flown in from ships a thousand kilometers to the south, or U.S. bases in Pakistan, Central Asia or the Persian Gulf. The marine base is in the middle of a large, dry plain (that is, a desert), so the only thing the marines have to worry about is the Taliban sneaking a truck mounted multiple rocket launcher to within 10-20 kilometers and letting lose a volley. But the marines have ample recon resources to keep an eye on a wide area around the airbase. More troops and supplies are coming in via C-130 four engine transports. The helicopters coming in from marine amphibious ships off the Pakistani coast have to refuel in the air to get there and this takes a lot of time and effort. The C-130s can bring in construction equipment and fuel that will allow helicopters to operate from the base. Even this takes time, as marine helicopters carry a ton or more of fuel. 


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