Afghanistan: Taliban Changing Tactics

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October 27, 2006: The Taliban appear to be changing tactics, scaling back on the use of large groups of gunmen and relying more on individual suicide bombers, or small assassination squads. The new tactics are a reaction to the heavy casualties over the Summer. About a third of the Taliban who went to war this Summer were killed, captured or wounded. This was bad for morale, and the image of the Taliban as an outfit that knows that it's doing. The use of large groups made it possible to terrorize segments of the population into supporting, or at least tolerating, Taliban control of rural areas. Doing this with suicide bombers and assassins is much more difficult, and turns more people against the Taliban (even if they agree with the conservative, misogynist, Taliban policies.)

October 26, 2006:Defeated on the battlefield, the Taliban are increasing their efforts to manipulate the media to their advantage. Currently, the Taliban are drawing attention to civilians killed when, for example, Taliban gunmen take refuge in residential areas, and use the civilians there as human shields. When NATO or Afghan troops return fire, civilians are sometimes hit. The Taliban are trying, with some success, to recast these casualties as deliberate attacks on civilians. While there is no logic to this, "dead civilians" is always an easy sell to headline starved journalists.

October 24, 2006:Afghanistan has the highest number of children in school, six million, in its history. About a third of the students are girls, and this is a prime irritant to the Taliban, who consider educating women to be sinful. Not educating women is an ancient tradition among many ethnic groups in Afghanistan, especially the Pushtun tribes (who are 40 percent of all Afghans) in the south. This is where the Taliban enjoys its greatest support.

October 23, 2006: Unhappy with the success of European NATO troops in southern Afghanistan, the Taliban have threatened to launch terror attacks against civilians in Europe if the NATO nations do not pull their troops out of Afghanistan.

 

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