Afghans blame Pakistan, specifically the Pakistani security agency,
the ISI, for creating the Taliban in the early 1990s (among Afghan refugees in
Pakistani camps), and then keeping the Taliban going after their defeat in late
2001. Many Afghans believe Pakistan is trying to keep Afghanistan weak, by
encouraging Taliban violence and terrorism. In reality, the ISI is dominated by
men who believe Islamic conservatism is the way to solve the problems
(corruption, poor government) of the region. But the Islamic conservatives in
Pakistan are not strong enough to take over the government, but they are strong
enough to survive government attempts to destroy them. Meanwhile, the people of
Afghanistan are caught in the middle.
Afghan government is dominated by Pushtuns, who are 40 percent of the Afghan
population. The Taliban is also largely Pushtun. There are twice as many
Pushtuns in Pakistan, as there are in Afghanistan, and the ISI has encouraged
pro-Taliban Pushtun tribes in Pakistan to support Islamic terrorists. In
addition to being an Islamic conservative religious movement, the Taliban is
also a terrorist organization. When preaching fails, the Taliban will terrorize
Pushtuns into supporting them. The fighting in Afghanistan this year is all
about Taliban gangs (of a few dozen, to a few hundred armed men) moving around
southern Afghanistan, trying to compel Pushtun tribes into supporting, or at
least not actively opposing, Taliban control. This has met a lot of opposition,
but has also succeeded in turning over a hundred villages into safe places for
Taliban fighters to hide out.
12, 2006: Another suicide bomber tried to kill a governor, this time the head
of Helmamd province. There have been about 250 suicide attacks in Afghanistan
this year (killing 261 people, mostly civilians, in addition to the suicide
bombers). The Taliban and al Qaeda recruit the bombers from poor families, some
in Pakistani refugee camps. The families of the bombers receive payments
ranging from a few thousand dollars, to over $10,000. Most of the suicide
attacks have failed to hit their target, largely because the support staff for
the operations are inexperienced or poorly trained themselves.
11, 2006: The Taliban are increasing their attacks on Canadian troops,
apparently because the Taliban are keeping track of Canadian politics via the
Internet. The Canadian government is under pressure the opposition to get out
of Afghanistan, or get other NATO countries to take a greater role in combat
operations. NATO is split over how to deal with the Taliban. About half the
NATO troops in Afghanistan are from countries that will not allow their
soldiers to go south and fight the Taliban. Although they won't admit, these
nations (like Germany and France) believe that by keeping their soldiers out of
combat, they make their homelands less likely to suffer attacks by Islamic
terrorists. The NATO countries that are doing most of the fighting (Britain.
Canada, and the U.S.) are getting increasingly vocal in their criticism of the
NATO countries that will send troops to Afghanistan, but won't let them fight.
The 32,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan have lost 56 troops in combat this year,
and another eleven to non-combat causes (mostly vehicle accidents). Total dead
this year from Taliban violence has been about 4,000, most of them Taliban
fighters, and Afghan civilians.
9, 2006: In southern Afghanistan, the Taliban created a PR nightmare when they
killed two women teachers. The two had ignored Taliban threats to stop teaching
at a school. The Taliban are against education for women, and the idea of women
working outside the home. Taliban are trained to threaten people first, then
beat them, then kill them if they refuse to cooperate. These Taliban had
skipped the beating, as touching women you are not related to is discouraged by
Islamic custom. However, killing women, and trying to shut down schools,
are two things that get most Afghans, even Pushtuns, very angry. This
anti-woman, anti-education stance is a major Taliban vulnerability, and the
Afghan government is using cases like this to build support among Pushtun
tribes that were never very pro-Taliban to begin with. So far this year, the
Taliban have killed twenty teachers and burned down about 200 schools. Many
more schools have closed down because of the threats.
7, 2006: In Helmland province, near the southern city of Kandahar, a two month
old tribal truce with the Taliban was broken when Taliban clashed with British
troops. The tribal elders insisted this wasn't a truce violation, but it's
expected that the pro-Taliban tribesmen in the area will try to use the truce
to expand their control and provide cover for their terrorist activities. Also
in the area, a suicide bomber attacked a civilian security firm run by
Americans. Eight people were killed.
6, 2006: The growing production of opium and heroin in Afghanistan is leaving
more Afghans addicted to the drugs. At present, about a million Afghans (three
percent of the population) are believed to be users. The number is growing, and
causing health and crime problems wherever there are a lot of addicts.