Leadership: Taliban Seek To Regain The Magic


June 27, 2008: In Afghanistan, the Taliban are trying out a lot of new tactics, trying to find something that works. The recent prison break in Kandahar worked, but partly because the government had been sloppy, and had ignored NATO warnings, over a year ago, about security vulnerabilities in that jail. Two suicide bombers and a few dozen gunmen got nearly a thousand prisoners out of the jail. There's also suspicion that there was some inside help. That, alas, is quite common in Afghanistan.

But elsewhere, the new Taliban ideas have been failures. Shortly after the jail break incident, nearly 500 Taliban rode into a dozen villages south of Kandahar, took control of ten villages, and basically challenged the government to do something about it. The government, and some NATO troops quickly did so, and the Taliban troops were promptly driven out, with about half of them being killed, wounded or captured.

The Taliban have brought over 10,000 gunmen into the country from Pakistan. They have learned to bring most of these guys in as civilians, because the millions of dollars the Taliban are earning by "taxing" the drug gangs, enables them to buy weapons in Afghanistan for their Pakistani recruits. Most of these kids, and a lot of them are teenagers, recruited from religious schools, are pretty green. They have been studying the Koran for the last year or so, not how to move around the hills and fire a weapon. But these youngsters do have religion, and that makes it easy to use them as enforcers for the lifestyle rules the Taliban wants to impose. That means all women are covered up when outdoors, do not work outside the home, and don't go to school. For the men, no barbers, no music, no videos, no booze, no sex before marriage, not much fun at all. Many of these kids only use their guns to bully Afghan civilians. When faced with Afghan or NATO troops, the Pakistanis tend to quickly die, or flee, or both.

Even with all this effort, the overall casualty rate so far this year has been less than half what it was last year. The Taliban are active this year, but so more it's mostly smoke, and not a lot of fire. It's the NATO and government forces that are on the offensive this year, and the Taliban is desperate to change this embarrassing state of affairs.



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