Afghanistan: January 20, 2004


Fighting the Taliban and al Qaeda out along the Pakistan border is tough going. The Taliban can rely on tribal connections to get support from the local tribesmen. That, and terror. The Taliban will kill, or otherwise abuse, anyone who is caught providing information to the Afghan government, or the Americans, about where the Taliban or al Qaeda are. Still, the American and Afghan troops continue to make there way through the hills. The Afghan troops can sit down with the villagers and chat, and get a sense of what the real situation is. The Americans bring better fighting skills (the Afghans are great warriors, not great soldiers) and goodies. The item the Afghans like the most is medical care. There is very little out in the countryside, the U.S. medics can sure a lot of medical problems with, to Americans, simple medical tools. No MRIs and Cat Scans needed, just a lot of antibiotics, some simple surgery and a knowledge of what the common ailments are up in the mountains. 

You don't make friends quickly up in the hills. The Special Forces have been working these areas for over two years now. The Special Forces now know which chiefs they can trust, which ones they can't and while tribesmen are willing to work with them. While American soldiers have to stay on the Afghan side of the border at all times, the Special Forces can pursue into Pakistan, but not very far. There are U.S. FBI, CIA and plainclothes Special Forces inside Pakistan, working with the Pakistani army and police. The Pakistani tribes, and police, will tolerate a certain amount of hot pursuit across the border. It's understood that the Taliban are crossing over into Afghanistan to kill and terrorize people. But the Pakistani tribes on the Afghan border don't want the war on their side of the border.

The tribesmen on both sides of the border are conservative and wary of outsiders, especially outsiders who aren't Moslem. Foreign armies have been coming in for thousands of years, killing locals on a large scale, and eventually leaving. There is no memory of foreigners coming in with good intentions. Winning any good will, and cooperation, takes years, and yields small results. But the tips are coming in, and are paying off. American troops know who they are looking for now. U.S. forces are also finding themselves in the middle of an ancient civil war between Afghans who wish to embrace change, and those (the Taliban) who would kill it. 


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