Afghanistan: Taliban Moving At Half Speed This Year


May 14,2008: Afghan and security forces waited, and waited, for the Taliban Spring Offensive, but it never came. Gun battles with the Taliban were down 50 percent so far, compared to last year. Roadside bomb attacks were about the same. But Taliban casualties were up, as more Afghan and NATO forces went looking for them. Last year, 8,000 people died in Taliban violence. So far this year, the death toll is 1,200, indicating casualties for the year will be about half what they were last year. This year, a higher proportion of the dead are Taliban and al Qaeda, and a lower proportion civilians. While some Taliban commanders have tried to develop new tactics to reduce casualties (smaller units of Taliban, and avoiding contact with police and troops), nothing has worked. The Afghan army is larger (76,000 troops) and better trained than last year, and there are more foreign troops. Worst of all, more tribal leaders have sided with the government this year, meaning tribal militias are also ready to fight Taliban moving through previously pro-Taliban territory.

This year the Taliban switched to terror bombings, and threats against civilians. The suicide bombing campaign has not been very successful. This year's threats involve demands that civilians limit cell phone use, stop watching TV and shut down schools for girls. None of these demands were very popular, and nothing much happened except in areas where the tribal leaders were too scared to stand up to the Taliban. This depended more on tribal politics than anything else. The Taliban movement has always been about tribal politics, with ambitious, and often religious, tribesmen seeing the movement as a way to work themselves into a tribal leadership position. That meant more money, as well as more power.

More Taliban and al Qaeda are being captured, and this provides more information on the state of the terrorist forces, and what their plans are. For example, police recently intercepted a car, rigged as a car bomb, as it was being driven from Pakistan to Kandahar. The driver was paid $150 to deliver the explosives filled car to Kandahar. He, like the three other terrorists in his escort car, were Pakistanis doing it partially out of religious conviction, and partly because it paid well. Over half the Taliban in Afghanistan are from Pakistan.

Al Qaeda has been more prominent in the Afghan fighting this year, and have been taking more losses. Afghan and NATO commanders were taken by surprise when a pro-al Qaeda website reported that one of their leaders, Abu Suleiman al Otaibi, had been killed recently in a battle with foreign troops. Until last year, al Otaibi had been sought in Iraq, where he was a known leader of terrorist forces. But many al Qaeda leaders and technical experts have departed Iraq in the last year. Some have "retired" (gone inactive, and into hiding), but most of those who have disappeared from Iraq have been showing up in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The ones who come to Afghanistan find themselves constantly under attack by Afghan police and foreign troops. In Pakistan, the Taliban is trying to arrange a ceasefire with the government, and negotiate safe havens from which Islamic terrorists can operate against the Afghan government. The Taliban leadership is taking a beating in Afghanistan as well, and also want a safe place to hide out.




Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close