Afghanistan: Down But Not Out

 

Although most civilian casualties are caused by the Taliban, the Afghan government makes the most noise about those caused by foreign troops. This is despite the fact that the Taliban kill civilians as a tactic (both to terrorize, or use as human shields), while NATO takes extreme measures to avoid civilian losses (which are lower than any similar war in history). The reason for going after the foreigners (who have saved far more people than they have killed) rather than the Taliban (just the opposite) is money and personal safety. The Taliban will pay for media activity that helps them, and will kill those who do not help. Vote-wise, it’s always better to speak ill of foreigners, even if they are being helpful. Then there’s the Afghan custom, based on thousands of years of surviving because of it, to choose short-term gains over long-term ones. While many Afghans recognize that economic development, less corruption, less crime and more education would, in the long run, do more for Afghanistan, there’s always the temptation to take the bribe, or deliver the cheap shot to the generous and helpful foreigners. The struggle in Afghanistan is not just about religion, or heroin or tribal rivalries, it’s also about changing ancient customs. The old ways have a strong hold on most Afghans, even those determined to get away from the dismal past.

The war is not going well for the Taliban and their drug gang allies. In the last three months, foreign troops have carried out 15-20 operations (raids, patrols) a day. The main goal has been to capture or kill key Taliban personnel, and that happened to three or four Taliban leaders a day over the last 90 days. In addition, in the course of those 1,500 operations, over 1,800 lower ranking Taliban were captured and 500 killed. In part due to a rewards program for tips, over a thousand  weapons caches and workshops were found and destroyed. This has caused the Taliban severe supply problems, and is a major reason for the decline in roadside bomb activity.

Afghanistan: Down But Not Out

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