Afghanistan: April 16, 2002


British Royal Marine Commandos entered combat, with several hundred of them going after suspected al Qaeda camps in east Afghanistan. 

Lacking an army, the government has been using mediators with some success. Because the interim government is generally recognized at home and abroad, government officials have some stature and authority they can use to call for peace meetings between the participants in several local feuds. There are such armed disputes active in eastern, northern, central and western Afghanistan. The government can also depend on some assistance from U.S. special forces and civil affairs troops (and the cash these American soldiers can pay out in an emergency.) The special forces are highly respected for their willingness to learn local languages and customs, and their ability to call in death from (the B-52s) above. This sparing use of force and willingness to negotiate is something Afghans traditionally favor. The Afghans like to fight, but they'd rather negotiate a deal than just see everyone get killed. However, when the talks fail, as they sometime do, fighting commences and it usually continues until one side is wiped out (all the warlords territory taken, all his men killed or captured, all his weapons seized.) The negotiations will often just confirm to the government which side they should back in a local feud. 

The US believes Osama bin Laden is hiding out in some Pakistani mountain village along the Afghan border. American diplomats are trying to get permission from the Pakistanis to send in Delta force to get bin Laden (or at least search the places he's suspected to be hiding out.) Pakistan has been cooperating with the CIA and FBI inside Pakistan and a number of key al Qaeda officials have been arrested and interrogated. American reconnaissance aircraft continue to monitor the border area with cameras and electronic listening equipment. It's likely the Pakistanis won't give permission for these raids, but will not make a big fuss when they are carried out anyway. The Pakistani government does not control these border areas and never has. If the Americans are willing to mollify the locals with money and other gifts after the raid, there will be no long term damage. 

The deposed king of Afghanistan is to return in the next few days and members of his family fear for his safety. While many Afghans have fond memories of the monarchy (there's been near constant war since the kind was deposed in the early 1970s), there are still many around who want the ex-king dead. Afghanistan is the kind of place where its easier to kill someone than keep them alive.




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