The Taliban have embarked on what
amounts to a large scale suicide strategy. In addition to dozens of individual
suicide bombers, they have dozens of field units, each of about a hundred
gunmen, looking to score spectacular (from a media, not a military, standpoint)
victories. Such attacks are being deliberately made against foreign troops from
specific countries. France and Canada are particular targets. Month by month,
the Taliban lose far more troops than they kill, in going after specific
national contingents, but they are heartened by news reports of political
unrest back in these countries, and calls for withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.
The Taliban don't really understand how democracy works (since they consider
democracy un-Islamic and sinful), and make more of the media and political
ruckus these attacks generate, than is justified by the actual results. But the
Taliban have found that their followers get a boost out of the foreign angst
over the casualties.
are depending more and more on terrorizing the population into compliance and
cooperation. Battles between Taliban and villagers are more common, as are
Taliban executions of those considered un-Islamic. This can include foreign aid
workers, Afghans who work for the foreigners, teachers in girls schools plus
religious and tribal leaders who don't agree with the Taliban. But the new
suicide tactics also incorporates the increasing use of human shields. Taliban
are now stopping civilians from leaving combat zones, and forcing civilians to
remain in villages and compounds the Taliban are using. The Taliban know that
this discourages the use of smart bombs or artillery against them. And if these
weapons are used, the Taliban denounce the deliberate slaughter of civilians by
the foreign troops. No death goes unexploited. But the widespread use of
suicide bombers is very alien to Afghan culture (which very much believes in
"he who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day.") It's
telling that the Taliban have become the bogeyman that mothers now use to frighten
small children. Scary monsters, indeed.
Taliban are overlooking is that they grabbed power fifteen years ago because five
years of civil war had made the people eager for anyone who could stop the
fighting and general lawlessness. But this time, the Taliban are the main
source of unrest and destruction. The Taliban demand "taxes" to fight
their holy war and freely kill civilians. The main pro-Taliban tribal chief in
Pakistan boasts of collecting over $6 million a month in such taxes.
phone has become the most powerful weapon used against the Taliban. The
government has a nationwide media program promoting the quick use of the phone
to report suicide bomber attacks. Tips are provided on how to spot a suicide
bomber, and the number to call. So far this year, the Taliban and al Qaeda have
set off nearly a thousand bombs, killing mostly civilians. This, despite the
fact that the target for most of the bombs are foreign troops. The Taliban make
a big deal about infidel (non-Moslem) soldiers defiling a Moslem country,
ignoring the fact that the Taliban are more feared and hated than the foreign
troops. But the Taliban cannot cope with the foreign troops in head-to-head
combat. Some 80 percent of foreign troops casualties are caused by suicide and
problems in Afghanistan; corruption and the drug trade, are taking a back seat
to counter-terrorism work. But the drug gangs are running their own terror ops.
In particular, the drug lords are getting their leased politicians to go after
crusading journalists. Media stories about corrupt politicians are popular, but
they bring unwelcome heat on the drug kingpins, who like to fancy themselves
latter day Robin Hoods, not warlords with a good cash flow. So more and more
investigative reporters are being harassed by the police.
2008: An ambush near the capital killed
ten French peacekeepers, an event that prompted the president of France to
announce a trip to Afghanistan to boost troop morale. What the troops want now
are more special operations units, so they can extract some payback. The
Taliban unit that pulled off the attack will probably be shot to piece in
another operation before the end of the year. That's the usual fate of Taliban
units that are that active. Meanwhile, another Taliban attempt to attack a U.S.
base failed. The attack used suicide bombers and over a hundred gunmen, but
failed, with great loss of life to the attackers. These attacks are high risk,
even if they succeed. But the foreign troops know the Taliban attack tactics
now, and have adjusted their base defenses to deal with it.
2008: A series of Taliban attacks over
the last three days have left nearly a hundred dead, mostly among the
attackers. The Taliban are freely using suicide bombers and untrained gunmen in
attempts to kill foreign troops. The Taliban police have also been a target,
and police deaths are up fifty percent this year, compared to last year (when
about a thousand died). The local cops are largely seen as corrupt and inept,
but they usually can defeat the Taliban. The Afghan Army is much more
respected, even though a disproportionate number of its officers are recruited
from the north (among the Tajik tribes) and few of the troops come pro-Taliban
areas of southern Afghanistan.
2008: The government, responding to
months of complaints, removed Asadullah Khalid as the governor of Kandahar
province. Khalid had been accused of corruption and poor rule in general.
Kandahar is the traditional center of Taliban support in Afghanistan, and the
source of 90 percent of the heroin production. The new governor is an army
general, and expected to resist Taliban threats and drug gang bribes. It's a