April 10, 2012:
NATO troops continue to chase down Islamic terrorists. So far this year nearly 500 have been killed and twice as many captured. The American intelligence system, developed in Iraq, quickly identifies Islamic terrorists, especially the leaders. Using UAVs, electronic monitoring, informants, and vast databases that can be quickly searched the resulting NATO raids quickly capture or kill suspects (usually during night raids). This has resulted in less terrorist violence as the Islamic radical groups and drug gangs scramble to cope with the constant losses of leaders and other resources.
The U.S. and the Afghan government have reached a new agreement over night raids, which the drug gangs have been trying to halt (via bribes and intimidation of government officials). The new arrangement establishes a panel of Afghan officials who must approve each raid. In addition, the Afghan troops, who normally accompany these raids, will now take the lead. As a practical matter, American commanders see all this as PR stunt and NATO commanders will still have control over the raids. This is seen as essential to limiting casualties among foreign troops. Moreover, many of the Afghan army and police commanders agree that the raids are a crucial weapon for fighting the Taliban and drug gangs (who would kill many current Afghan army and police commanders if they took over). Afghanistan is a place where self-preservation is a full time occupation. The Taliban and drug gangs send death squads after Afghan leaders who refuse to cooperate, making the war there very personal for Afghan decision makers and opinion leaders.
The Taliban and drug gangs have gone to great lengths to try and stop all this damage the foreign troops have been inflicting. Although most of the foreign troops are to be gone by the end of 2014, the continuing success of the attacks on terrorists and drug gang leadership gives the leaders all the incentive they need to do whatever they can to defend themselves. The most successful weapon has been money, not violence. Bribing government officials (often quite senior ones) and Afghan media has created a steady call from the Afghan government and media to halt the night raids and get foreign troops out of the countryside (where the drug operations are). Fewer than ten percent of Afghans benefit from the drug production, so most Afghans appreciate the efforts of the foreign troops to take down the drug gangs and Islamic radical groups (especially the Taliban). Over 80 percent of the civilians killed in this battle are victims of Taliban or drug gang violence, usually deliberate attacks intended to intimidate civilians to do whatever the Taliban and drug gangs want. The war in Afghanistan, at least in terms of who is getting killed, is largely a battle between the drug gangs and Taliban against the Afghan population. The drug gangs and the Taliban want to control the government, to return things to the way they were in the late 1990s (until 2001), when the Taliban ran most of the country and the drug gangs did whatever they wanted by simply paying the Taliban taxes. Most Afghans suffered during this period and don't want to go back.
It is feared that after 2014, warlords, civil war, and increased corruption will return. Foreign aid donors (especially those with troops in Afghanistan) and most Afghans agree that reducing corruption is key to building a prosperous and peaceful country. But while most Afghans back clean government too many Afghans, once they get some power, demand payoffs.
April 9, 2012: In the north a new senior leader (Osmani Sahib) of IMU (Movement of Uzbekistan) was killed. In addition, a key organizer of terror attacks was captured. Sahib was promoted last month after his predecessor was killed. There have been several IMU leaders captured or killed in the last week, indicating a major intelligence break. Many of these Central Asian Islamic terror groups have been driven out of the Pakistani tribal territories, which were a sanctuary for several years after September 11, 2001. But many of the Central Asians did not get along with the Pushtun tribes in Pakistan and eventually found themselves at war with their former hosts. Some of these terrorists went back to Central Asia but most fled to Afghanistan.
April 6, 2012: The government revealed that Afghanistan would not allow American UAV patrols and missile attacks against terror targets in Pakistan after 2014. That may change between now and then but it will be expensive.
April 4, 2012: In the north a Taliban suicide bomber set off his explosives in a popular park, killing ten people, including three American soldiers. This was a rare terrorist operation in an area that has always been very hostile to the Taliban. The Taliban have never been able to carry out a lot of attacks up there, so the few they do make simply angers, rather than terrorizes, the northerners. This leads to more vigorous counter-terror activity up there and more northerners volunteering for the army and police, to undertake operations in the hostile (to non-Pushtuns) south. Elsewhere in the north (Baghlan Province) two bombs went off in a market place, wounding 24 people, most of them school children.
March 31, 2012: In the east (Wardak Province) Haqqani Network leader Sayf ul Rahman (and two of his aides) were captured.
March 30, 2012: In the east (Paktika Province) Taliban bribed (or intimidated) a policeman to shoot nine of his sleeping companions while the killer was on watch.