Afghanistan: January 21, 2002


Interim leader Hamid Karzai wants to form a national army of 50-100,000 troops. This would give him some leverage against the warlords who currently control most of the country. Karzai isn't a warlord, or at least not one of the major ones. Karzai is a Pushtun, so he can easily recruit Pushtuns for an army. Karzai has developed good relations with the other ethnic groups, and if he has money, he should have no trouble recruiting them for the new army. A well paid, well equipped army allows the central government to bargain more fairly with the warlords. Money is what the warlords want, but how much it will take to make them happy depends on how large and effective the national army is. Ultimately, many would like to see elections for provincial and national leaders, but many warlords might resist this with force. 

Although interim leader Hamid Karzai is a Pushtun, he doesn't have a lot of power with the Pushtun warlords in the south. To make matters worse, Islamic fundamentalists in Iran are supporting (with guns and money) like minded groups in Afghanistan. 

In the north, warlord troops belonging to Uzbek warlord Abdul Rashid Dostam and Tajik Burhanuddin Rabbani (the previous leader of the Northern Alliance) fought for control of territory along the Tajik border. Drug (and other) smuggling is a major business along this border, and whichever warlord controls it gets to "tax" the smugglers. The current fighting has left at least eleven dead. Similar battles have been going on near the Iranian and Pakistani borders for several weeks. 

With the help of Russian engineers and construction equipment, the 2700 meter long Salang tunnel has been reopened to truck traffic. The tunnel cuts through the Kindu Kush mountains, providing the shortest route between north and south Afghanistan. Russia is also providing mine clearing and medical assistance. 

U.S. special forces, arriving be helicopter, raided a house in the eastern province of Khost and arrested for men, one a former Taliban official. A lot of Taliban officials, and followers, are still around, some of them openly trying to revive the Taliban movement under a different name. 

The lack of discipline among warlord forces has led to misunderstandings. For example, one warlord militia group, told they would get a truck load of food, simply seized the first truck of food that came their way. This has happened several times and the warlord's men's reaction generally is, "what's the problem?"


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