Afghanistan: Taliban Spring Offensive Sputters Forward

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April 24, 2006: The Taliban are making a major effort, but are squeezed by thousands of NATO troops moving into southern Afghanistan, and 80,000 Pakistani troops operating along their side of the border. In the last week, four Canadian soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb. The Canadians are newly arrived in a Pushtun area that favors the Taliban. Pushtun tribes are on both sides of the province, and it's southern Afghanistan where the Taliban always had most of their support. Taliban casualties have been much higher. By the time this "offensive" is over, it will be a lot harder to recruit for the next Taliban offensive.

The war along the border is one of patrol, ambush and raid. The small groups of Taliban (a dozen or so gunmen, enough to overwhelm most police patrols) sneak about, trying to avoid American patrols (who are better armed and trained, and get air support very quickly). The Taliban are looking for Afghan army and police patrols they can ambush. They hope to wipe out the patrol, after which they can steal weapons and other gear off the dead. If the ambush is not a success, the Taliban must flee, quickly, because they are now the prey. These are the situations which often lead to a dozen or more Taliban being killed or captured by pursuing Afghan and American forces. In addition to ambushes, the Taliban units look for villages they can go to, and make sure the locals are still pro-Taliban (will provide food and shelter for Taliban men, and not inform on them.) Threats will be made, and sometimes carried out, in villages that have been less loyal. Unlike Iraq, there are not a lot of cell phones, or any kinds of phones, in the back country of Afghanistan. So when the Taliban come by, they have a captive audience. But eventually an army or police patrol will come through, and the villagers will have to decide what is less dangerous, supporting the government or the Taliban. The villagers know of the UAVs and recon aircraft, that can often document Taliban visits, eliminating the possibility of lying about it. It's a nasty war, out there in the hills.

The Taliban and al Qaeda terrorists are tying to turn Kabul into Baghdad, but the bad guys don't have the numbers, local support or technical skill. More bombs are going off, but the timing and placement are wrong, and few casualties result. But the explosions are loud, and out of place in Kabul. The terrorists put out a press release, claiming non-existent casualties and promising more of the same.

 

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