Afghanistan: September 18, 2002


A gasoline truck headed for Bagram airbase (outside Kabul) was found to be carrying explosives. This approach has been tried before, the idea being to drive into the airbase (which is mainly used by US and allied troops) and detonate. US forces got a tip that "a gasoline truck" was rigged for a suicide attack and the truck in question was found at a checkpoint. The two men in the truck were arrested. 

The US has concluded that expanding the number of foreign peacekeepers would not be possible because of logistical problems. This was the same obstacles the Russians faced when they tried to pacify the country in the 1980s. The Russians required fewer goodies for their troops, but still could not get more than 100,000 soldiers into the country at any one time. Currently there are 8,000 US troops and 5,000 peacekeepers in Kabul. Any increase would put a major strain on air and road links to the outside world. UN calls for member nations to contribute troops for Afghan peacekeeping have not gotten any response. Right now, there's a lot of foreign aid and rebuilding material coming in. Some of this stuff would be delayed if more foreign troops came in. The US has told the Afghan government that the Afghan police and army must be expanded. But lacking professional officers and NCOs, this is very difficult. If not done right, the new forces just produce better troops for various warlords.

Meanwhile, friction between Special Forces is increasing. The Special Forces are older, better trained and more professional. They consider the regular army troops less skilled and reliable, and prone to be heavy handed. The Special Forces are trying to establish personal relationships with Afghan tribes and warlords, while the regular troops just come storming in searching for suspects and weapons. This often angers Afghans who were, before they were raided, pro-American and cooperative. The regular troops resent the Special Forces because, well, because they are weird and tend to look down on the regular infantry. The bad situation is made worse because most of the senior generals inherited a Vietnam era antipathy for the Special Forces (where the same differences in approach and experience levels existed.) Although the Special Forces work for SOCOM (Special Operations Command), which is run by a four star general, the generals with a regular infantry background are much more numerous. This situation is going to cause problems, back in Washington as well as in the Pentagon. 


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