Afghanistan

A Tale of Two Bottlenecks

Afghanistan has a mountain ridge bisecting the country from its centre to the east, the 500 mile long Hindu Kush. This difficult typography means there is only one road connecting the capital, Kabul, with the North, Highway AH76.

This, in turn needs a 1.66 mi tunnel, the Salang Tunnel built by the Soviets, to punch through under the Salang Pass. Anyone controlling the highway and the tunnel controls all north/south commerce. The traffic is very considerable, estimated at between 7,000 and 10,000 vehicles per day.

According to Spiegel International, anti-Taliban forces have taken over the Highway, effectively cutting the country in half. They were able to do this because the Panjshir Valley, with its narrow entrance, is only a few miles from Highway AH76.

When and if the hot war starts between the National Resistance Front and the Taliban, these two bottlenecks will show their importance. The Taliban will try to bottle up the NRF in the Panjshir Valley and the NRF will try to block, tax, or divert, traffic on AH76.

Both are possible, indeed both are possible at the same time, since the one is within artillery distance of the other.

The image at the top is of Highway AH76 at Doshi, north of the Salang Tunnel, showing two of the many transport trucks that use it daily.

Tajikistan helicopter landing in Panjshir Valley

Update

According to RepublicWorld, the NRF has received arms, ammunition and food from Tajikistan. A number of Tajik army helicopters flew into the Panjshir valley August 30. A RepublicWorld commentator speculated that the Tajiks don’t want the Taliban on their doorstep and so are arming the NRF.

A second report from Sputnik news, repeated by Continental-Defence, says an air bridge is being built up between Tajikistan and the Panjshir with regular deliveries of arms, ammunition and even troops.

All this is very remarkable because while there was speculation a few days ago this would happen, there now appears to be factual evidence it is happening.

Update II

The Afghan service of Sputnik is reporting a clash between the NRF and the Taliban in the Andarab Valley in which 85 insurgents were killed and seven others were captured. It also reports that Internet and cell phone service has now been restored to the Panjshir.

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