I was reading a book about the war in Afghanistan recently. It made me wonder if even some of the professional soldiers sometimes fail to understand what’s going on there. One was quoted as showing contempt for Taliban because of battlefield evidence that they were hopped up on drugs for the fight. I don’t doubt it. But these are the $10-a-day Taliban hired from the ranks of the boisterous under-employed teenagers to be seen in nearly every Afghan village. The Taliban are led by highly professional and experienced guerrilla fighters who have handed Brits, Americans and Canadians some very bloody noses over the years – much as they once did to the Soviets with training and equipment supplied by the West. I pick those three because outside of the various special forces units from around the world, they are the only ones who have really been fighting. The hard core of the Taliban fighters are Al Qaida fanatics from Pakistan, the Middle East, and the Muslim diaspora of Europe and North America.
Sometimes it’s not clear who has been firing at western troops. There are drug gangs and even Afghan police taking shots. Some Afghan police may be professionals dedicated to law enforcement but they are sadly appear to be in the minority. The Afghan National Army seems to be more reliable in many ways. But the vast majority are from the minority groups and not the majority Pashtun population. Just what’s going to happen when NATO and the Americans pull out and civil war ensues is far from clear. Many Pashtuns in southern Afghanistan have already worked out which side their bread is buttered on.