Afghanistan: December 27, 2001


Plans to send 500 marines to Tora Bora to search caves for al Qaeda information has been put on hold. The special forces operating in the area preferred to hire local Afghan fighters for the task. This is the sort of thing special forces are trained to do, and the special forces were very successful, during the Vietnam war, organizing mountain tribesmen into mercenary units. Afghans have hired themselves out as mercenaries for thousands of years, so the arrangement is not unfamiliar with the locals. And there is a need for jobs throughout the country.

The Afghan government believes that bin Laden escaped over the border to Pakistan and is being sheltered by a pro-Taliban tribe. The Pakistani Pushtuns deny this, pointing out that they have been pro-Taliban, but not pro al Qaeda. The bad reputation al Qaeda developed in Afghanistan (arrogance, simply being foreign) was shared by many, but not by all, Pushtuns in Pakistan.

UN demining teams are back in operation, especially around Kabul, where work is underway to clear the road from Kabul to Bagram airport of unexploded bombs and mines. 

A team of Russian 21 engineers and technicians has arrived to survey the damaged Salang tunnel begun making repairs on the south entrance. The tunnel is the quickest way to travel from north to south Afghanistan through the Hindu Kush mountains. The retreating Northern Alliance blew up the two entrances in 1998, but locals cleared away enough of the rubble so that you could get through on foot and with pack animals. The Russians have brought bulldozers to deal with the heavier rubble. 


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