Afghanistan: May 6, 2004


The Taliban raids this year are trying to shut down reconstruction and voter registration efforts in most of the areas along the Pakistani border. The groups of Taliban gunmen get most of the headlines, but most of the damage is done by pro-Taliban tribesmen in the region who deliver the verbal threats to other Afghans and foreign aid workers. There are very few of the armed groups in action, probably not more than a dozen, and they spend most of their time hiding from American UAVs and patrols. Once a bunch of armed Taliban are spotted by coalition troops, it's usually all over for them. Helicopters and warplanes quickly arrive and thermal and night vision sensors make it very difficult for the Taliban to get away. But if the Taliban can scramble into a pro-Taliban village or town before the airpower shows up, they can usually find shelter from like minded Afghans (who prefer to live a 14th century kind of life.)

Another obstacle to reconstruction and voter registration is the growing power of the drug gangs. Some of these are from pro-Taliban tribes, but all the drug gangs are hostile to any strangers visiting their valleys. When government troops come in to destroy drug crops, they have to do it as if it might turn into a major battle. But for the moment, the major threat is seen as the Taliban gangs operating out of Pakistan. The drug gangs will have to wait for later.


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