Afghanistan: December 8, 2001


Allied support for Afghan Operations;

@ Italy has sent 10 officers to Central Command headquarters to observe, learn, and provide coordination for Italian forces sent to the war. Italy is sending eight Tornado strike fighters, a 707 tanker, and a C-130 to provide support for the other aircraft. The carrier Garibaldi is being sent, along with a frigate and a supply ship. A battalion of 850 troops is being made available.

@ Japan has sent two destroyers and a support ship to the Arabian Sea.

@ The Czech Republic has sent the 9th Chemical Defense Company (160 troops) plus a support company (another 140 troops) to a classified location in the theater.

@ Germany has sent 100 commandoes, 800 troops with 30 Fuchs nuclear-biological-chemical recon vehicles, a 250-strong medical evacuation unit, several C-160 transport aircraft (with 500 support personnel, going to Turkey), two frigates and a supply ship (sent to the Somali coast to block smugglers known to be linked to al Qaeda).--Stephen V Cole

Fighting continues all over the country, for different reasons. In the southeast, around the Tora Bora tunnel complex, non-Afghan Taliban continue to resist. With the fall of Kandahar, more anti-Taliban warlords are headed for Tora Bora to get in on the last major battle of the war. While the prospect of multi-million dollar rewards for capturing senior terrorist leaders may motivate some of these Afghans, most are motivated by the sense of adventure and the prospect of big, positive, changes in the country once the terrorist "foreigners" are finally defeated. There are reports of hundreds of Taliban vehicles (mostly pickup trucks) parked near Tora Bora, indicating that thousands of Taliban and bin Laden followers have gone to the area for a last stand. American B-52s seem to be always overhead, and from time to time the hills reverberate with the detonation of a 2000 pound bomb, or the lesser sounds of mortar shells and gunfire. 

Anti-Taliban tribesmen in the Tora Bora area say they have sent spies into the areas held by Taliban troops and have spotted Osama bin Laden in the area earlier in the week. 

In the north, groups of Taliban continue to hold out. But with Winter coming and few tribes providing outright support for the Taliban, surviving out in the open becomes rather more questionable. So many of these Taliban have been willing to negotiate. But most of the foreign Taliban don't want to talk, seem to be interested in getting out of the country and will fight if anyone gets in their way.

As the Taliban loses control, the tribal leaders who supported the Taliban (and enforced the Taliban rule locally) now have to hustle to maintain their leadership positions. Some of these chiefs now defer to anti-Taliban kinsmen returning from exile to take over leadership positions held before the Taliban arrived. In other cases, there is a power struggle within tribes and clans over who shall be the boss. 

Many groups of armed Taliban are still wandering around in the south, although they are going to have to settle down somewhere pretty soon. Even Afghans can't survive outside in the Winter. Although American and Pakistani troops are trying to prevent it, many armed Taliban are getting into Pakistan. But president Musharraf of Pakistan has announced new crackdowns on Taliban operations within Pakistan. This could be tricky, as the Pakistani Taliban are armed and willing to fight. The Pakistani border is grudgingly recognized by Pushtuns on both sides, and there are ample places to cross undetected if you move cross country. 

U.S. marines operating from their base (Camp Rhino) southeast of Kandahar, have had several encounters with Taliban troops in the last 24 hours. It's pretty much open terrain between Camp Rhino and Kandahar, and marine helicopters and ground patrols are watching the area 24 hours a day. To the north of Kandahar, there are hills and mountains, where some of the Taliban are fleeing. To the west of Kandahar there is also open terrain, and much of this area is still occupied by armed Taliban groups. 

Anti-Taliban Pushtun tribes are arguing over who should control what in Kandahar and the surrounding province. There has been some shooting, but a tribal council has been arranged to try and sort it all out. With the Taliban gone, everyone sees an opportunity to get something. The problem is, there isn't enough stuff (government positions, loot, territory) to satisfy everyone. Taliban leader mullah Omar is said to be still in the vicinity of Kandahar. 

Uzbekistan is finally going to reopen the bridge between Uzbekistan and Afghanistan. This will allow a lot more humanitarian aid to enter Afghanistan.

Three Americans have been discovered among captured Taliban. Several senior and mid-level Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders have been captured. Some may have been taken out of the country, perhaps to Guam, for interrogation.


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