August 6, 2007:
The Taliban have changed tactics, now they favor kidnapping foreigners
and suicide bombings, to try and weaken the government. The traditional Taliban
tactics, of war bands (of 50-100 gunmen) roaming the countryside, attacking the
police and terrorizing villagers into supporting the cause, have failed. The
Afghan police and army are too well trained and equipped (with radios, to call
in NATO troops and airpower) to be defeated. The losses for the Taliban are
very high, with a third or more the men in these war bands being killed. Many
of the survivors are wounded, or captured. This is bad for morale, and makes
recruiting more difficult. It's been tough on the leadership as well. Last
week, U.S. forces detected a meeting of Taliban leaders in southern
Afghanistan. Smart bombs hit the meeting, which had gathered over a hundred
Taliban followers to witness the execution of two men suspected of passing
information to the government. Over a hundred people were killed. The Taliban
promptly claimed most of the dead were civilians. But they always do that, and no
one believes them anymore. Afghans know that the Taliban attract smart bombs,
and the Taliban have increasingly used force and threats to obtain human
shields. This will sometimes lead to gun battles between civilians and Taliban. The Afghans aren't
stupid, and the Taliban are desperate.
The kidnapping and terror approach means fewer
Taliban casualties, the possibility of ransom, and the higher enemy casualties.
True, many of the suicide bombs kill civilians. But the Taliban have now bought
into the Arab belief that civilians killed in these terror attacks become
involuntary martyrs to the cause. The Taliban don't really care if they are
hated, they never did. They just want to be feared, and obeyed. If a change in
tactics will make that happen, then it's all good.
The Taliban have also increased their death squad
activity against government officials. In the past month, five judges have been
murdered. The Taliban believe that only clerics should dispense justice,
according to Islamic law. Teachers are still being threatened, especially if
they teach girls, but the killing of teachers has declined. This was very
unpopular, and caused more armed resistance to the Taliban.
Kidnapping foreigners has not been very successful
of late, because the government refuses to cooperate and release Taliban from
prison, in exchange for the kidnapping victims. The Taliban have gotten
themselves into a terrible position with the 21 South Korean hostages they
hold. Two male hostages have been already been killed, and 18 of the remaining
21 are female. Most Afghans consider the kidnapping of women, particularly
foreign women, disgraceful. The Taliban are in a no-win situation there. If
they kill the South Korean women, they bring great shame on themselves. If they
release the women without gaining the release of jailed Taliban, they make the
Taliban look weak and ineffective. Even negotiating a large cash ransom from
the South Korean government doesn't do much for the Taliban image. That makes
the Taliban look like bandits.
Many government officials see the Taliban as a
rapidly declining threat, and are shifting their attention to the drug gangs,
who are growing in wealth and strength. The drug lords have more power than the
Taliban, and shun publicity.