Afghanistan: December 7, 2001


The Taliban have surrendered Kandahar to anti-Taliban Pushtun forces. There has been some looting, but the anti-Taliban troops are in control of the city. The Taliban were supposed to surrender their weapons, but many did not and have fled the city. Some of these Afghan and foreigner Taliban apparently ran into U.S. marines southeast of Kandahar and seven were killed. The leader of the Taliban, Mullah Omar, has not been seen He was supposed to come under the protection of the anti-Taliban Pushtun tribes, but the new government announced that Omar would be tried for crimes committed during Taliban rule. Omar had been publicly calling for Taliban to fight to the death in defense of Kandahar. But more moderate members of the Taliban have been negotiating with anti-Taliban Pushtun tribes over the last few weeks to surrender the city and get themselves off the hook. The current deal allows any Taliban who surrender their weapons to just go home. This apparently extends to any Taliban leaders who are not on a U.S. wanted list. America is interested mostly in the Taliban leaders who worked with bin Laden to support terrorist operations. The negotiations were apparently three sided, with the foreigner Taliban wanting to fight it out. Without coming right out and saying it, a compromise was reached whereby those Taliban who wanted to surrender, turned in their weapons and left. Those who wanted to fight on, have taken their weapons and left the city. Those who head for Pakistan will run into U.S. marines and special forces. Those who go in other directions will run into a hostile (to foreign Taliban) population. The U.S. may end up offering a bounty for Afghans to hunt down and bring in foreign Taliban and terrorist suspects. That sort of thing appeals to the Afghan sense of adventure and making a few bucks. 

Taliban officials in Kandahar say up to 10,000 Taliban soldiers (and some civilians) were killed by U.S. bombing. Every time the Taliban tried to build fortifications around the city, bombs would hit them, killing most of the troops in the fortifications or in the process of building them. It's not known how many foreigner Taliban were among the dead, but the casualties were high enough to prevent the foreigner Taliban from forcing the Afghan to continue defending the city. When the Taliban lines were weak enough, the anti-Taliban forces advanced, pushing the Taliban closer to the city. U.S. special forces troops with the anti-Taliban forces were in constant communication with aircraft overhead, ready to bring down bombs when Taliban resistance was encountered. The 2,000 pound bombs were favored, as past experience (going back to World War II) showed that only very thick cement fortifications could withstand such a weapon. The Taliban had neither the resources nor the time to build such fortifications, so they were systematically blown out of their earthen bunkers and trenches. Unlike World War II, where 2,000 pound bombs might land hundreds of meters from where their intended target, smart bombs hit within 30 meters of their targets over 95 percent of the time (and not much farther than 30 meters when they "miss.") During World War II, it took several dozen 2,000 pound bombs to do what one can do now. Moreover, back then, you had to keep friendly troops farther away. During World War II, low flying fighter-bombers like the P-47 could drop 500 pound and 1,000 pound bombs with more accuracy, but those smaller bombs were less likely to take out enemy fortifications and the aircraft were more likely to be damaged or shot down by ground fire. Smart bombs using GPS, or guided by laser designators on the ground, are a lot more accurate than even the low flying P-47s (which were in turn more accurate than the low flying jet fighter bombers that had to move at a higher speed during their bomb runs.)

The U.S. has been leaning on the anti-Taliban forces not to make amnesty deals with Taliban leaders or terrorists. The Afghans are willing to turn over the foreigners, but tend to make deals with Afghans (even if they will not protect these guys too strenuously if Americans show up to get them.)

Some Taliban are still resisting in the north, and still control areas throughout the country where anti-Taliban forces have not shown up yet. 

The town of Spin Boldak, on the Pakistani border, has been surrendered by the Taliban. But several anti-Taliban Pushtun tribes are competing for control of the place. A major border crossing like this is a valuable commodity, as lucrative deals can be made with smugglers. Plus, fees can be levied on foreigners crossing in and out of the country. 

Anti-Taliban Pushtuns say they have seized most of the Tora Bora tunnel complex and found no trace of bin Laden or any other terrorists. But other Afghans report seeing foreigner Taliban moving through other parts of the White mountains (that contain Tora Bora ) These mountains extend north, along the Pakistan border, to the higher Hindu Kush mountains. Most of the men defending the Tora Bora area have been described as "Arabs" (foreigner Taliban and followers of bin Laden.) Many of the passes in the White mountains have received their first snow falls and are difficult to get through on foot or horseback. Helicopters, however, have fewer problems getting around. Wind and show storms still make flying in the mountains difficult. U.S. bombers have been providing support for the anti-Taliban troops fighting in the mountains. 


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