Afghanistan: December 30, 2001


Troops from the U.S. Army 101st Airmobile division will relieve marines stationed at the airport outside Kandahar. The airport also contains a prison camp for captured al Qaeda and Taliban fighters held by the United States. There are 135 captives there now, and more arrive daily from Tora Bora, Afghan prisons in the north or wherever they are captured by U.S. and Afghan forces. The prisoners are screened by Arabic speaking FBI agents and some are then flown out of Afghanistan for further investigation.

Despite protests from some Afghan tribes, the government has announced that American air raids will continue until al Qaeda and Taliban forces are rounded up. Many of these armed groups are taking refuge in villages. Intelligence information tries to pinpoint the exact location of the wanted men, and if they cannot be talked into surrendering, they are often bombed. The explosions sometimes kill or injure nearby civilians. 

Special forces led Afghan troops continued to search Tora Bora. In a deal used successfully during the Vietnam war, the special forces have hired hundreds of armed Afghans to conduct the search. In these mountains, the Afghans are more efficient than American troops. The Afghans are more familiar with the terrain and can more readily sort out who is who and what is what up there. The special forces had the same experience in the Central Highlands of South Vietnam during the Vietnam war. The only problem, as first encountered during the Vietnam war, was that the locals were prone to sell their services to the highest bidder. Before the special forces put the Afghans on the payroll (for cash, winter clothing and other goodies), some Afghan commanders made deals to get al Qaeda members across the border for a payment of up to $5,000 per man. In any event, many al Qaeda made the desperate run across the border without running into anyone. The mountains and forests in the region are made more for escaping than stopping someone from doing so. Even putting American troops up there weeks ago to help with the blocking operation would have been impractical because logistical problems has limited the number of American troops that can be moved into Afghanistan, and particularly a remote place like Tora Bora. 


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