Afghanistan: September 10, 2003


Uzbek and Tajik militias continue to shoot at each other in the north, particularly around Mazar-i-Sharif. The tribes have disputes going back generations. Added to this are real or perceived wrongs done during the last two decades of war. What's going on up north is not the exception, but the rule. Despite the veneer of government, the ancient tribal rules and traditions still predominate in many private, and public, matters. Government jobs, including very senior ones, are traded like livestock, guns or other valuables. Everyone tries to gain an advantage without triggering a feud. That isn't easy, as personal honor is a big thing, and slights are often returned with a bullet. 

In the south, four foreign aid workers were killed by gunmen 150 kilometers southwest of the capital. It's not known if the attackers were bandits or Taliban. It's often hard to tell the difference. Many aid organizations have stopped work because of the attacks. For centuries, wandering around the Afghan countryside was seen as dangerous in the extreme. The tribes are very territorial, and many tribesmen organize themselves into raiding parties that then go looking for loot outside their own tribe. The many peace agreements between the tribes and provincial governments, that made the countryside so much safer in the past, have been shredded by two decades of war. It will take years to pacify the countryside, and most of the work will consist of negotiation, not combat. The negotiation has been going on for the past two years, but that sort of thing is not sexy enough to make the news.

Confirmation that Osama bin Laden is alive, and apparently still in Afghanistan or Pakistan, was provided by a video clip aired on al Jazeera. Bin Laden praised the 911 attackers and urged Moslems to kill non-Moslems.


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