Afghanistan: July 11, 2002


 The war against the Taliban and al Qaeda continues out in the countryside. Special Forces and CIA agents on the ground continue the tedious and time consuming process of getting to know who is who and where loyalty lies, and what it will cost to change loyalties. In the air, UAVs, satellites and recon aircraft take pictures and sweep up any electronic transmissions. Enemy weapons and munitions stockpiles are regularly being found and destroyed, and every week a few more suspects are arrested. By media standards, it's a frustrating process, but historically, this is the way wars like this are won.

The central government is faced with growing autonomy by regional warlords. Out in the countryside, local strongmen have their traditional rackets and scams to occupy them and bring in money. Most of these angles involve drugs or smuggling. Nations pledging aid to Afghanistan want the illegal operations shut down. The warlords want a share of the aid money, no matter what. Running the central government is a balancing act, trying to keep the warlords and foreign donors happy. At the moment, the central government cannot survive without foreign aid, for it has no other significant source of revenue. Gaining control over major border towns would give the central government access to customs revenues. But the local warlords would resist giving up this revenue source. So there would either be a major fight, or a lot of negotiation and a revenue sharing arrangement.

Efforts to find out who killed Afghan vice president Qadir are complicated by the fact that warlord Qadir had lots of enemies. Many Pushtuns disliked him for working with a government dominated by non-Pushtuns. Qadir was one of the few Pushtuns to fight on the side of the Northern Alliance. Many non-Pushtuns hate him because he's a Pushtun. Qadir has been involved in the drug trade, which often results in murder and revenge as gangs battle for market share and raw material. Qadir was also active in Pushtun tribal politics, acting as a mediator for disputes. It was this skill that made him a valuable addition to the government. 


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