With the end of Winter approaching, it is believed that the Taliban are preparing for a major "Spring offensive." Taliban information operations have been cranked up of late. In some areas of Afghanistan where economic conditions are still very hard, covert Taliban agents have been providing relief supplies and medical care, along with religious literature and exhortations to support jihad. Meanwhile, the Taliban has been recruiting fighters and "martyrdom volunteers."
The "spring offensive" will most likely occur in late-March or early-April. It will probably take the form of a very large number of suicide (up to 50) and IED (as many as 100) attacks across the country over the space of a few days or perhaps a week, including strikes in areas hitherto generally regarded as safe. The principal targets will be Afghan government officials and security forces, and non-U.S. Coalition troops. The objective is to inflict heavy casualties, especially on Allied forces, and grab headlines, while furthering the destabilization of the government.
February 23, 2006: In the south, the increase in terrorist violence is being propelled by more outside (Arab, for the most part) money. There are now $5,000 rewards being paid for Pushtun tribesmen who will kill local government officials. DVDs, showing Taliban executions and training exercises, are distributed to encourage young men to join the Taliban fighters. The Taliban is a minority organization that is being kept alive with foreign money, and assistance from like-minded tribes across the border in Pakistan. The Pakistani government cannot, or will not, shut down the tribes that support the Taliban. The U.S. and Afghanistan keep applying diplomatic pressure, which may, or may not, work.
February 22, 2006: One reason the Taliban remain a minority movement is their attitude towards the education of girls. The Taliban do not approve, and express their disapproval by burning down schools that teach girls. This makes the Taliban unpopular with the locals, who obviously did approve. In Helmand province, along the Pakistani border, twelve schools have been burned down in the last year, and six others closed because parents feared for the safety of their children. Afghan and NATO troops are moving into this area to provide more security for the tribal militias that are currently protecting schools and reconstruction projects. The Taliban are also determined to shut down foreign aid and reconstruction projects. The Taliban do not approve of such "outside interference." The locals do, but it's hard for rural villagers to argue when a large group of armed Taliban show up out of nowhere.
February 20, 2006: The DIAG (Disbandment of Illegal Armed Groups) program continues to make progress. It is believed that there are still some 2,000 armed groups in the country, most of the them tribe/clan/family militias. So far, some 60,000 men have been disarmed, with 11,000 heavy weapons (anti-aircraft guns, tanks, mortars) surrendered, and 35,000 lighter weapons. Men are allowed to keep their rifles, which are considered a necessity in the countryside. Recently, five militia commanders in the south surrendered fifteen tons of munitions and weapons.