Over 400 people were killed in May because of the Taliban attacks. Most of the dead were Taliban, and civilians killed by Taliban terrorism. The Taliban are basically taking a beating, but hoping that publicity from roadside and suicide bombs, raids on towns and the like will make it look like they are winning some kind of victory. To that end, the level of violence this month has increased, with the number of deaths for June likely to be 600-700. One thing the Taliban have not been able to change is the outcome of battles with police or soldiers (Afghan or NATO). The Taliban continue to lose big time, mainly because they possess more enthusiasm than military skills. This is fatal in the face of better trained troops, especially when those troops have bombers, UAVs and helicopter gunships overhead.
June 11, 2006: The government proposes to form local security units in the south, to give villagers protection against marauding bands of Taliban, and the increasing number of drug gangs. Both groups will come into a town or village and take over, using the place as a base of operations. The local security units would consist of tribesmen, using their own weapons, but equipped with military uniforms, radios and training (on when to fight, when to run and how to use the radio to call for reinforcements.) These tribal security forces would get about $70 a month for this part time work, which would involve guard duty and patrolling. It's a sweet deal for the tribesmen, but a headache for the provincial government that has to supervise the program. Some tribal chiefs will be tempted to steal most of the money (after insisting all the cash go through them), and some of the tribal security men will goof off, or work for local drug gangs at the same time. Life is hard up in the hills, and stealing from strangers is an accepted way to get by.
June 8, 2006: There were five suicide attacks in 2004, 17 in 2005, and 22 so far this year. Most of the roadside bombs and suicide bomb attacks are planned in training camps across the border in Pakistan. It's largely forgotten that the Taliban began in Pakistan, having been founded in Afghan refugee camps. The movement spread to local Pushtun tribesmen in Pakistan. When the Taliban were defeated in Afghanistan in 2001, the movement survived, and thrived in Pakistan. Remember that the Taliban was basically a movement based on traditions and customs of some Pushtun tribes in southern Afghanistan. This cultural imperialism was resented by the majority of Afghans (who were not Pushtun, or not those particular Pushtun tribes). But across the border in Pakistan, where most of the Pushtuns live, there was no such resistance, except from the government, and those Pushtuns who didn't want to live under a religious dictatorship. Since the Taliban is a terrorist organization, it takes a lot of armed force to get the terrorists to back down. So far, the Pakistani government has not applied sufficient force to disband the Taliban on their side of the border.
June 7, 2006: The current Taliban offensive is powered by heroin and opium. No, not by giving the terrorists drugs, although that is sometimes the case, but by Taliban promises to stop the government anti-drug operations. The farmers who can make more money growing poppies than wheat, see the Taliban as their friends. While the police and soldiers who force the farmers to revert to traditional food crops are seen as the enemy. People have a choice; drug dealing religious fanatics, or clean living and rule of law. For too many, money becomes the main attraction.
June 6, 2006: In the last week, two soldiers and nine civilians were killed by roadside bombs. This weapon, adopted by the Taliban in emulation of similar tactics in Iraq, has not had the same impact. For one thing, the Taliban have far less manpower and resources (explosives and money) than the Sunni Arab groups in Iraq. Afghanistan doesn't have any oil, and the many roadside bombs in Iraq were paid for with stolen oil money. The Taliban are also not as skilled at making the bombs. Many of them do not go off or, worse yet, when they do, they hit civilian, not military, vehicles. In fact, most of the casualties from these bombs have been civilians, not military.