Afghanistan: The Taliban Have a Plan

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June 5, 2006: Beginning in late March, the Taliban's "Spring Offensive" has seen an increase of 50-to 100-percent in the number of attacks in Afghanistan, depending upon the province. One reason for the increase is that weather conditions make operations in the mountainous regions of the country easier, and permit more effective movement of men, money, and munitions across the very mountainous frontier with Pakistan. Another is that NATO troops have begun relieving U.S. forces in many critical areas, and Taliban leaders believe that if they can inflict some heavy casualties on these personnel, they might reap some political benefits in NATO capitals, causing the withdrawal of some NATO contingents. While Taliban forces have had some success, in general, this increased activity has largely resulted in heavy losses to the Taliban and a lot of casualties to - and consequent anger among -Afghan civilians.

 

The one region where the offensive has made some serious gains is in Helmand Province. This is largely due to the leadership of Mullah Osmani, who commanded a corps during the Taliban regime. More than any other Taliban regional commander, Osmani has stressed organization and training. In addition, he has shifted the focus of Taliban operations in Helmand away from attacks on Coalition and Afghan National Army forces, which are usually both costly and relatively ineffective, to attacking the Afghan government infrastructure in the province, to discredit the government. Attacks on Afghan National Police, as well as provincial, town, and village officials, and government development and aid workers have increased markedly. Meanwhile, Osmani has initiated programs that provide charitable support to the local people. So far it's not clear the extent to which Osmani's program is working. One result, however, is that government efforts to reduce the size of tribal and clan militias have run up against a brick wall, which suggests tribal and clan leaders are worried about the extent to which the government can provide protection, and also are wary of cooperating too closely with the Taliban.

 

So far this year, about 900 have died in the Taliban violence. There are 32,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan (72 percent of them U.S.). That force will increase about 20 percent, as more NATO troops arrive. There are only a few thousand Taliban active, facing over 100,000 Afghan police and troops, plus the foreigners.  

 

June 4, 2006:  In the southern city of  Kandahar, a suicide bomber attacked the local governor, who was traveling with Canadian troops. The governor was unhurt, but four Afghans died. 

 

June 3, 2006: In the south, many Taliban were arrested without a fight in several locations, while in Zabul province, a Taliban assassin killed a local official. 

 

June 2, 2006:  Another suicide bomber attack outside Kandahar failed to hits its target, but killed three nearby Afghans. 

 

June 1, 2006: Taliban made several more attempts to take over small towns in remote areas, but these attacks failed, with heavy losses.

 

May 31, 2006: Taliban seized control of the town of Chori, in the south, and held it for two days. When government troops showed up, they killed about twenty Taliban.

 

 

 

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