Afghanistan: March 11, 2004


A large attack, by Afghan standards, took place against an American base 160 kilometers east of the capital. The attackers, apparently Taliban, launched 20 rockets, which all missed, and then opened up with rifles and machine-guns. The hundred marines and army Special Forces in the camp went after the attackers, who got away. But there was blood on the trail, indicating that at least one of the Taliban was wounded. Actually, one or more of the Taliban may have been killed, as the Taliban always try to take their dead with them. A dead Taliban can be identified, bringing suspicion on his family and tribe. 

Most of Afghanistan is at peace, or at least what passes for "peace" in this country. About a quarter of the country, in the south and east along the Pakistan, still suffers  armed activity by Taliban fighters. But in a country where every adult male (at least in the countryside) owns a rifle, and tribal and family feuds are carried on for generations, "peace" is a tricky thing to define. The weapons, banditry and lawlessness have long kept economic development out of much of the country. Too many people with guns who might object, or get angry because they didn't get a large enough piece of the action. There is something of a generation gap as well, with many younger Afghans wanting to "modernize." There are also those Afghans who have lived in Europe or American, and returned with tales of wealth and a different way of life. But the traditionalists call such radicals "communists." It was Afghan communists, backed by the Soviet Union, that first attempted to pull the country out of the 14th century. This led to unrest in the 1970s, and war with occupying Russian troops in the 1980s. The Taliban, representing the conservatives, took power in the 1990s, and now it's the turn of the more moderate reformers. But the conservatives are still here, and they still have their guns.


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