Afghanistan: September 11, 2003


Afghan and US troops continue to run combat patrols through Zabul province, where Operation Mountain Viper left at least 124 Taliban dead. Another operation (Warrior Sweep) is underway in the Shahi Kot valley 120 kilometers south of the capital. This one is being hailed as the first major operation for the Afghan army.  Previous efforts used pro-government Afghan irregulars or militia forces to assist US troops. These two operations are the largest since the March 2002 Operation Anaconda in the Shahi Kot valley. 

The Taliban are still out there, but mainly in the form of Islamic conservatives trying to impose the ancient tribal traditions on fellow Afghans who want to educate their daughters (or, in some cases, their sons), or let their wives work outside the home. This conflict has been going on for over a century. The conservatives have been losing, and not very graciously. Violence, often with fatalities, commonly marks disputes in the back country, especially if one, or both, sides are invoking tribal tradition and religion. It wasn't until the Taliban came along that anyone had really organized their conservative attitudes into a political movement.  But it's a movement without a future. You can't reinstate the past, at least not for long. But you can make quite a mess while trying to do so. 

Another Afghan tradition, corruption, is a major obstacle to rebuilding the country. It's difficult to find local officials to give money to, and not have most of it stolen. Oh, you get some imaginative excuses, but basically, the teachers don't get paid and the roads and buildings don't get repaired. But the local official is building a large new house and driving a new SUV. Funneling the money through foreign aid organizations (NGOs) works, except that it is dangerous for non-Afghans to work in many parts of Afghanistan. Local officials have no incentive to protect the NGOs, because if the NGOs go, the local officials might get their hands on the aid money.


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