NATO is exploiting the growing brutality of the Taliban to
consult more closely with tribal leaders, who are now less likely to back the
Taliban. Tribal wars are the norm in this part of the world, and the Taliban
represent one faction that wants to rule everyone. NATO is basically taking
sides in this tribal war, on the theory that its side represents more people
than the Taliban. NATO has more firepower and mobility, and is using that, and
the cold weather, to go after the Taliban in the Winter, when Afghan warriors
traditionally stay home. The NATO campaign includes dropping pamphlets warning the
Taliban to get out of areas where reconstruction projects are underway. This
makes the Taliban into the bad guys, because reconstruction is much more
popular than the return of Taliban rule.
Taliban, meanwhile, have a plan. The Taliban have made deals with the drug
gangs, and gained a powerful ally. The deal is simply assurances that the drug
lords will be able to operate as they did when the Taliban ran country in the
late 1990s. The Taliban only went through the motions of banning drug activities
for one year, when they were in charge. And this was to qualify for some
foreign aid. The rest of the time, the Taliban taxed the drug gangs, and didn't
otherwise interfere. Now, with the aid of these "drug taxes", the
Taliban can afford to hire thousands of gunmen. By attacking schools and
reconstruction projects, the Taliban can keep people poor, ignorant, and easier
to control. The literacy rate in southern Afghanistan is under 25 percent, and
that suits the Taliban just fine. Long term, the Taliban believe they will win.
They may have a point, as the illiteracy, conservatism and poverty have been
part of the local landscape for thousands of years. The Taliban stands for the
old ways, and believe these new ideas (democracy, education, economic growth), will
never catch on.
20, 2006:NATO radio intercepts, and informants, indicate that some of the
Taliban fighters are Chechens and Arabs. These are believed from the al Qaeda
fighters who have been living in Pakistan.
19, 2006:As NATO troops began a search for Taliban east of Kandahar, the
Taliban displayed the bodies of 26 decapitated men in a village, as a warning
to Afghans who do not cooperate with the Taliban. Such desperate measures
indicate that the Taliban cannot rely on a lot of voluntary support, and must
use strong measures to scare the locals into cooperating. Meanwhile, in western
Afghanistan, a American Special Forces led an operation that captured a senior
Taliban commander. Throughout southern Afghanistan, some fifty Taliban were
killed in the last few days. The operation west of Kandahar is meant to exploit
intel information on the location of suicide bomb making workshops, and bases
for Taliban leaders.
eastern Afghanistan, another al Qaeda cell was busted, with ten people
arrested. These groups are responsible for the increased number of suicide bomb
attacks. This sort of thing is not popular in Afghanistan at all, and there
have been a lot of tips from civilians about possible bomber activity. Several
dozen al Qaeda have been located and arrested in the last few months as a
result. There have been 115 suicide attacks in the country this year, but
security forces have managed to clear out the suicide bomber operations in the
capital. There has not been a suicide attack in Kabul for over two months.
There had been five suicide bombings in Kabul earlier in the year.
18, 2006:It was revealed that an afghan general had been arrested after
getting caught selling information to ISI (Pakistani intelligence.)
17, 2006:The Taliban practice of using civilians as human shields is not
having the desired effect. While there have been a few hundred civilians killed
when Taliban were hit with smart bombs, the number of Taliban killed in these
actions is much larger than the number of civilians. The Taliban try to use the
civilian deaths against the U.S. (and NATO) attacks, but this merely
serve to warn people to run away if Taliban come to your house. The Taliban, in
turn, must then use force to keep the civilians around, which makes the Taliban
more unpopular. So far this year, about 1,100 smart bombs have been dropped in
all of Afghanistan. About 150,000 rounds of (not as accurate as the bombs)
artillery ammunition has been fired as well.
15, 2006:Opinion polls indicate 75 percent of Afghans still approve of
foreign troops being their to fight Taliban and al Qaeada. The Taliban remain
the most hated group in the country, and, while 33 percent of Afghans believe
the Taliban gained ground in the past year, 37 percent believe the Taliban lost
ground. Afghans are becoming angrier at their own government for corruption and
the slowness of economic reconstruction. As the poorest country in Asia,
Afghans are more concerned with economic matters, than anything else. Most
Afghans see the Taliban situation as a combination tribal dispute, and
continuing efforts by Pakistan to interfere in the affairs of Afghanistan. This
is a big deal in Afghanistan, as Pakistan is largely held responsible for the
decade of strife that followed the Russian departure in the late 1980s.
14, 2006:Pakistan has arrested some 500 Taliban so far this year, and
handed 80 percent of them (who were Afghans) over to Afghanistan. What bothers
Afghanistan is that Pakistan, in general, goes after Afghans in Pakistan, as
part of its "Afghan refugees go home" program, but not Pakistanis.
It's the Pakistani Taliban that most bothers the Afghans, and these Islamic
militants are much less likely to be arrested by Pakistani security forces,
because of tribal connections, and the risk of unrest if too many Pakistani
Taliban are rounded up. Pakistan proposes that Afghanistan negotiate with the
Taliban, and other Islamic conservatives, and get them into the government.
This highlights a basic difference in perception between Pakistan (where
Islamic conservatives have been part of the government for a long time) and
Afghanistan (where most people hated the Taliban rule and want no part of doing