June 21, 2013:
In the last two months the Taliban have been trying to get a proper “Spring Offensive” going. Despite all the hype, this year’s effort has not been very effective. At least not in the way the Taliban would have liked. The attacks are 20-30 percent more frequent and are causing about a hundred civilians casualties a week. Over 80 percent of these casualties are a direct result of Taliban attacks, with their bullets and bombs hitting civilians instead of the Afghan security forces or foreign troops. The rest of the civilian casualties come from Afghan or foreign troops shooting back, often in cases where the Taliban are trying to use civilians as human shields. This often works, but sometimes the foreign troops don’t know there are civilians among the Taliban or Afghan troops don’t care.
The Taliban declared the start of the Spring Offensive in early May. This one was supposed to be different from the failed efforts over the last six years. A Spring Offensive has come to mean, in reality, five months of the Taliban killing civilians and the security forces and foreign troops killing a lot of Taliban. This year the Taliban boasted that it would be different, with fewer civilians and more Afghan police and soldiers killed. So far it’s more of the same, with even more civilian casualties from Taliban attacks. These civilian losses were up 20-30 percent this year over last year. So far the Taliban have killed more police but have in turn suffered more losses themselves. It appears that this year’s Spring Offensive will be as much of a flop as the last six were.
Most Afghans ignore the Taliban and their talk of another Spring Offensive. That’s because most of the Taliban activity occurs in two (Kandahar and Helmand) of the 34 provinces. Some 40 percent of the Taliban violence is in ten Kandahar and Helmand districts (out of 398 in the entire country). Why that concentration of Taliban activity? It’s because of the heroin. The Taliban put most of their effort into protecting the districts where some 90 percent of the heroin in Afghanistan is produced. The other areas cursed with Taliban presence are ones that smuggling routes (to get the heroin to the outside world) go through. The Taliban don’t like to talk about this and they terrorize local media to stay away from it. International media avoid it as well, but on the ground it’s all about drugs and the huge amount of cash they provide for the drug gangs and their Taliban partners.