Afghanistan: July 23, 2002


 Afghan politics are showing signs of drifting back towards the bad old days. The government's attempts to crack down on drug running and private armies have been popular with most Afghans (who either don't get any economic benefit from the drug trade or don't belong to a warlord militia). But the warlords and drug gangsters are willing to use their traditional methods of persuasion; murder, to change the government's mind. In light of that, president Karzai has replaced his Tajik bodyguards with American ones. Karzai says this is temporary, while professional Afghan bodyguards are trained. No one believes him. Afghan bodyguards can be bribed, no matter how well trained they are. Americans are much more resistant to this kind of corruption. 

The Pushtun areas of southern Afghanistan are the most chaotic in the  country. Drug gangs, warlords and tribal militias all jostle for territory and power. Taliban and al Qaeda members can find refuge here, but the area is not safe because of hundreds of American and allied commandos prowling the area. Many of the local tribesmen are quick to fire on anyone in their territory that they don't recognize. Most tribes have heavy weapons as well, including rockets, mortars and artillery. When there is large scale fighting between the tribes, the heavy weapons are used against each other's villages. Killing women and children doesn't seem to bother these guys, as long as it's someone else's women and children.

The first battalion of the new Afghan army has completed it's training. The battalion lost about half it's 600 recruits during the training. Many of the recruits were unable to deal with military training, had physical or psychological limitations or were misled by Afghan recruiters about what they were getting into. Recruits got $30 a month during their training, and will receive $50 a month upon graduation. Most of the 300 men in this battalion are Pushtun and Tajik. 


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