Afghanistan: In Memory of Alexander the Great


January 4, 2006: Fighting in 2005 took the lives of some 1,500 Afghans, and 80 Americans. Quite different from Iraq, which has about the same population, but ten times as many deaths from Islamic and tribal violence. The situations in the two countries are quite different. There is a lot more ethnic and tribal strife in Afghanistan, but the violence is not as intense. While there are Islamic radicals in Afghanistan, most of them are more concerned with maintaining ancient tribal customs (like not educating females or listening to popular music), than in supporting global Islamic conquest. Most of the troublemakers are from a few Pushtun tribes. The Pushtun people are about 40 percent of the Afghan population, but most Pushtuns live across the border in Pakistan. The radical elements operate on both sides of the border, and have done so for thousands of years (long before those borders were drawn.) The Pushtuns still talk about giving Alexander the Great a hard time 2500 years ago. Change does not come quickly in this part of the world, but it does come. Alexander the Great defeated the Pushtuns, but then he left, and the tribes carried on as before.

January 2, 2006: Another suicide bomber came up short, when he detonated his explosives in the southern city of Kandahar. The target was a nearby convoy of U.S. troops. The bomber died, while two civilians and an American soldier were wounded.

December 31, 2005: NATO is sending 6,000 troops into southern Afghanistan, where warlords and drug gangs are strongest. The NATO force will help the central Afghan government assert control over the area. This could produce a lot of fighting, or not. In Afghan politics, peace has been achieved in the past when the government in Kabul could present a force too powerful for the tribal warriors to take on.

December 30, 2005: Two Taliban died when a portable anti-aircraft missile they were preparing to launch. It was reported to be an American made Stinger missile. It that were the case, the missile would be nearly twenty years old, and well past it's useful life. There are plenty of, just as old and unreliable, Russian missiles being hoarded in Afghanistan. Western bomb disposal crews are amazed at the age, and instability, of some of the munitions they find in Afghanistan. The tribesmen seem to think munitions last forever, and don't catch on that the older the stuff gets, the more likely it is to either just explode, or not work the way you want it to.

December 28, 2005: The Taliban and al Qaeda are becoming more aggressive, but not any more effective. A recent al Qaeda attack on a Special Forces camp failed, with several hundred attackers fleeing, leaving over a dozen dead bodies behind. Al Qaeda then bragged about the attack, which was a desperate ploy, given the large number of Afghans who witnessed the operation. Al Qaeda has been eager to use the suicide bombing and roadside bombs as in Iraq, but these tactics have not translated well at all.


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