June was the bloodiest month
in a long time, with about a thousand dead (700 Taliban, a hundred government
and foreign troops and 200 civilians). For the first six months of the year,
about 3,200 were killed, compared to about 4,000 for all of last year. About 70
percent of the dead are Taliban. The high Taliban casualty rate is the result
of high losses among Taliban leaders, and recruiting many younger,
inexperienced Pushtun tribesmen. The more experienced Pushtun gunmen noted the
losses from last year, and took a pass on a Taliban paycheck this time around.
Their misgivings were well founded, with most Taliban war bands getting chewed
up pretty bad. A few survivors, some of them wounded, eventually straggle back,
to tell of being caught by American aircraft and Afghan soldiers, and even
being picked off at night. These guys have only a vague knowledge of UAVs and
night-vision goggles. All they know is they went into battle as warriors of
Islam, and quickly became fleeing survivors. More than half of these holy
warriors were recruited from Pakistan Pushtun tribes. The money was good,
more than local cops made, and there were prospects for loot. But it was all a
lie. No one is coming back with loot, and many aren't coming back at all. But
the money is still there to hire holy warriors for operations in Afghanistan.
The drug gangs, and the couriers from wealthy Islamic conservatives in the
Persian Gulf, see the holy warriors as a useful way to keep the Afghan
government busy. Despite all the defeats, the Taliban still have believers on
both sides of the border, and always have. Calling these religious fanatics
"Taliban" is relatively new, but this kind of bullying bigotry is
nothing new. The fact that the religious zealots actually ran Afghanistan for
most of the 1990s is an inspiration to Islamic fanatics throughout the
region. It's going to take a lot of defeat to put out this fire.
July 11, 2007: As promised, the Taliban have
been shifting more of their operations towards terrorist attacks. This can be
seen in the growing use of roadside bombs and suicide attacks. While the
remotely controlled roadside bombs can usually avoid civilian casualties,
the suicide bombers cannot. As a result, the Taliban are increasingly seen,
even by Afghan Islamic conservatives, as a bunch of murderers. The recent
attack that killed thirteen kids, was a major propaganda defeat. The
revelations that the Taliban have been terrorizing villagers into claiming
inflated, or non-existent casualties from smart bomb attacks, has not helped
July 10, 2007: A Taliban suicide bomber set
off his explosives in a crowded market in southern Afghanistan, killing 17
people, including thirteen school children. The target was a group of Dutch
soldiers, and eight of them were wounded.
A Pakistani man was allowed to visit his 14
year old son in Kabul. The boy was captured in May, when police raided a
terrorist safe house. Also arrested was a Taliban suicide bomb expert, and
several bomb vests. The boy had been recruited in a Pakistani religious school,
and persuaded to carry out an attack on a provincial governor in Afghanistan.
The boys father did not know the boy had joined the Taliban until several
attempts to contact the boy at the boarding school failed.
July 9, 2007: Aid groups have resumed
food shipments in parts of the south that had become too dangerous back in May.
Since then, the Taliban groups that had been interfering with aid efforts, have
been driven out or destroyed.
July 7, 2007: The minister in charge of
fighting the drug gangs, has resigned. This is apparently the result of his
failure to decrease drug production. The U.S. has been offering a herbicide
that kills poppies, and nothing else. The Afghans resisted this because they
feared there would be side effects. There were, as many government officials
were bribed to resist the spraying. But now the bribes may not be generous
enough to stop a spraying campaign.
July 6, 2007: The sudden spate of claims that
many civilians are being killed by smart bombs was traced to Taliban
telling villagers to make these claims, or face retaliation. The Taliban have
largely abandoned efforts to win civilian support, and are increasingly
dependent on pure terror to gain what they need from civilians (silence,
support, lies). Taliban attacks on civilians are increasing. These includes
beatings, kidnappings and murder. As a response, villages are increasingly
fighting back. Taliban have to be careful entering villages. If the villagers
have too many guns, the Taliban will be driven back.