The U.S. is transferring combat support troops from Iraq to Afghanistan, in preparation for a showdown with the Afghan drug gangs, and their Taliban allies, this Summer. The U.S. is also trying to put together economic reconstruction teams to quickly rebuild the economy in areas, like Helmand province, where military operations will remove the heroin income. Well, not replace it, because many Afghans are getting rich off the heroin and opium business, but replace it with something that will provide a living. While the Taliban like to make it sound like it's all about religion and tradition, it's mostly about money.
While the Taliban have adopted terror tactics to try and get people in southern Afghanistan to keep quiet about drug gang and Taliban activities, U.S. and NATO forces have adopted the successful-in-Iraq tactics of going after the Taliban leadership and the technical personnel behind the growing use of roadside and suicide bombs. Particularly bothersome to Afghans is the Taliban use of religious instruction to persuade teenage Afghans to become suicide bombers. This technique was developed in religious schools across the border in Pakistan. Many of the suicide bombers used in Afghanistan are from these Pakistani schools, but more and more of the suicide bombers are Afghan kids. The Taliban, in cooperation with the drug gangs, are also using death squads to assassinate government officials and tribal leaders that get in their way. A lot more such people are using bodyguards, and great care in how they move around. The campaign against girls schools continues, along with attacks on merchants who sell music and videos. The attacks on schools and entertainment are not very popular, except with a minority (less than a quarter of the population) in southern Afghanistan. So the violence is partly a culture war, where the upholders of the old ways are willing to kill to keep out new ideas like education for women, music and movies.
The campaign against the Taliban leadership is hurting the enemy. Australian commandos, in the past three weeks, killed several high ranking Taliban, and their entourages (bodyguards, assistants and the like), killing about 80 people in all. The U.S. noted the Israeli success with this approach against Palestinian terrorists earlier in the decade, and successfully applied it in Iraq. Now the Taliban are on the receiving end of the decapitation (kill the leaders) attacks, and they do not like it.
April 25, 2009: The Taliban sent three suicide bombers to try and get into the governors compound in Kandahar province. Five policemen and the bombers were killed. Every week there are several roadside (mostly) or suicide bomb attacks, which are increasingly directed at Afghan security forces. That's because the Afghan troops and police are increasingly active, and effective, in the south.
April 22, 2009: The U.S. and Tajikistan have signed an agreement to ship non-military cargo via Tajik railroads (from Russia and ports on the Baltic). The U.S. has similar agreements with other Central Asian nations and is now moving most supplies via these routes and ports in the Baltic and Black Seas.
April 21, 2009: In southern Afghanistan, the Taliban have been offering big money (a few thousand dollars) for old (from the 1980s) Russian 14.5mm anti-aircraft machine-guns. U.S. and NATO forces were tipped off about this, found the machine-guns (at least two of which were mounted on pickup trucks) and bombed them.