Afghanistan: March 1, 2002


U.S. bombers have been hitting a target in Paktia province (on the Pakistan border) where some 500 Taliban and al Qaeda members (and some of their families) had taken refuge. For weeks, information gathered by U.S. troops has indicated that there were groups of Taliban and al Qaeda fighters up in the hills. The problem has been getting a precise fix on which fortified village contained the bad guys. Getting close to these places is dangerous, as the defenders tend to shoot first, and on sight. There are about 600 Afghan troops involved in the operation, as well as several dozen U.S. troops. 

Uzbek and Tajik warlords continue to battle for control of territory in northern Afghanistan. When negotiations with the central government fail to halt this fighting (which has been the case so far), the only other option is force. The big problem is trying to find officers who can do the job and not turn into warlords.

When Spring arrives, the UN plans to put over half a million armed Afghans to work on rebuilding infrastructure (roads, irrigation and reconstruction in general.) Supervision and corruption will be problems, but by having that many men exchanging guns for shovels, Afghanistan will be a safer place. 


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