Afghanistan: Go To Heroin Country And Die


December 9,2008: Afghanistan is suffering from a bad case of future shock. The 21st century is being met with intense hostility by many Afghans. The idea of women being literate and voting is abhorrent to many tribesmen. Not all, not even a majority. But an armed and homicidal minority. Afghans are not particularly warlike, but many are armed and violence is common. There are not many courts, and policing has never been effective. So disputes are settled personally or via a mediator (tribal elders, warlord, drug gang leader). Since the blood feud is still a popular tradition, personal disputes are often settled by an ambush, with one party dead and the other unknown. You can't start a feud with suspicions, although some do anyway.

Arguments over how much of the country the Taliban, or the government, controls, misses the point. No one controls the country, and no one ever has. Afghanistan has always been a patchwork of tribal and warlord fiefdoms, with lots of no-man's land in between. You can look it up. Efforts to recruit and train an effective national police force, and competent government officials is hampered by low literacy and education levels, and general preference for corrupt practices. There's also a long tradition of using violence to settle disputes. It's going to take decades to change the Afghan fundamentals.

Iran, in another attempt to curb violence along its Afghan border, has speeded up (to about a thousand people a day) the expulsion of Afghani illegal residents. Most of these are from the 1980s Afghan war, and Iran blames many of them for supporting the drug smuggling and distribution in Iran, and high crime rates in general. This is hurting Afghanistan economically, as the million Afghans still living in Iran send half a billion dollars back to kin in Afghanistan each year (about six percent of Afghanistan's GDP). Jobs are easier to find in Iran, and pay rates are four times higher. But much of that money is from criminal activities in Iran. There used to be two million refugees in Iran, but since 2002, about half of them have left, most for Afghanistan. Pakistan has a similar problem, and recently arrested dozens of armed Afghan refugees living in Karachi, Pakistan's largest city. Pakistan is also expelling over a thousand Afghans a day, although some of these are Pakistani Pushtuns fleeing the fighting between the army and pro-Taliban tribesmen along the Afghan border.

The hundredth Canadian soldier was killed in Afghanistan. Adjusting for the size of the population (ten times more people in the United States), Canada has suffered 58 percent more fatalities in Afghanistan. The higher losses are largely because Canadian troops have been operating in the heart of Heroin Country, where most of the drugs are produced and where the drug gangs and their Taliban hirelings are most active at trying to protect the money crop. In addition, the Taliban make no secret of their attempt to kill more Canadians in order to demoralize the Canadian population and cause a withdrawal of Canadian troops from Afghanistan.

December 5, 2008: In western Herat province, police busted an terrorist cell that made roadside bombs. Two terrorists were killed, two arrested and a workshop closed down.

December 4, 2008: Two suicide bombers attacked near Khost (in the southeast), killing four people. One bomber went for the headquarters of the local counter-narcotics unit, while the other went after a military intelligence headquarters. Both attacks appear to be aimed at taking the heat off drug gangs.

December 2, 2008: The terrorist attack in India last week is having an impact in Afghanistan. Pakistan has been forced to crack down on several Islamic terrorist groups it has been tolerating. Several divisions of Pakistani troops continue battering the Taliban on their side of the border.




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