Afghanistan: Taliban Winning on One Front


p> May 1, 2007:  The Taliban are having more success with paper bullets, than with real ones. On the ground, over a hundred Taliban fighters have been killed in the last week, as NATO troops continue their own Spring Offensive, which appears to have cancelled the long threatened Taliban Spring Offensive.  NATO troops are forcing the Taliban to fight, by going into drug producing areas of Helmand province. This area is Heroin Central, where a disproportionate amount of drugs are produced. The Taliban have to try and defend this, because their share of the drug profits pays many of their gunmen. No pay, and a lot fewer guys will carry a rifle for the cause.


Meanwhile, the Taliban are doing better in the Information War. They have thoroughly intimidated the French, with both candidates in the current French presidential contest promising to pull out of Afghanistan if elected. To help that along, the Taliban released one of the two French aid workers they had recently kidnapped. The Taliban also have an information war campaign going against Canada, hoping to strengthen Canadian anti-war groups sufficiently to get Canadian troops withdrawn. This would be a major win, because the Canadian troops have been particularly effective against the Taliban.


Unable to score any success against foreign or Afghan troops, the Taliban go for easy, if empty and expensive, triumphs. The most typical ones involve attacking a small district capital in a remote area. These are usually defended by only a few police, and easily overrun. The Taliban publicists then quickly proclaim "district capital captured," knowing that the mass media will pick that up and make it sound like the Taliban were taking over. The reality is that Afghan security forces and NATO air power quickly shows up, and usually catch a number of  fleeing Taliban. As a result, these propaganda victories are expensive in terms of Taliban lives, and the Taliban foot soldiers have come to look at these "conquests" as suicide missions.


The Taliban also tried to convince the world that their leader, Mullah Omar, and al Qaeda head, Osama bin Laden were still in charge and supervising operations. Bin Laden has not been heard from since January, 2006. Back then, his sickly voice was heard exhorting followers to kill more energetically. But for the last few months, there have been persistent rumors that bin Laden himself has died of disease.