Afghanistan: March 15, 2004


In Zabul province (380 kilometers south of the capital), coalition troops fought Taliban fighters hiding in a cave complex. Three Taliban were killed and five arrested. Eight more Taliban suspects were arrested in the area. This action was part of an anti-Taliban offensive that began on March 7th. It's estimated that the Taliban have about a thousand armed men operating in southern and eastern Afghanistan, with many of them living in remote camps just across the border in Pakistan. So far this year, Taliban related violence has left 140 dead. The operations against the Taliban in the last week have killed at least a dozen Taliban fighters. Many weapons were seized, as well as some known Taliban leaders. Across the border, some key Pushtun tribes are refusing to turn over Taliban known to be living with them. The Pakistani army is moving in to apply pressure. But some of the tribes insist that the Taliban and "foreigners" (probably al Qaeda) refuse to leave and are taking refuge in isolated compounds (the typical housing complexes in the area that look like fortresses, and are.)

The central government has taken control, from provincial governments, of ten key border crossings. This is an attempt to cut down on the bribery that enables Taliban and terrorists to get across the border easily (without having to use the much more difficult and time consuming smugglers routes.)


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