The Taliban are spinning their recent "Spring Offensive" defeats as victories, because they demonstrated that the Taliban was still around, and still able to attack and be defeated, as it has done so often in the past. For the last month or so, the Taliban have been promising a major "Spring Offensive," to begin on May 1st. Since Osama bin Laden was killed by the Americans on May 2nd, the Taliban reflagged their Spring Offensive as the Bin Laden Revenge Offensive. Different name, same result. All the attacks failed, and most of the dead were Taliban. That wasn't the only embarrassment. Taliban dying for al Qaeda does not go down well with many Taliban. Al Qaeda is seen as a bunch of arrogant foreigners who look down on all Afghans. This attitude is not appreciated by Afghans, and has led to the deaths of hundreds of al Qaeda members (at the hands of their Taliban allies) over the last five years. But for appearances' sake, the two terrorist groups still go through the motions of being the best of friends.
While the foreign troops are in Afghanistan to deal with international terrorism and the heroin (90 percent of it comes from Afghanistan), most Afghans see all this foreign intervention as a splendid opportunity. It's as if Afghans were saying to foreign troops, "to you it's a war, to me it's an opportunity." This is an ancient Afghan attitude. Afghanistan may appear to be at the corner of no and where, but it is actually astride the primary invasion route from Central Asia to India (including Pakistan which is still, historically and culturally, part of India). The Afghans have long since learned to step aside as the foreign invaders move through. Actually, many Afghans would join the invaders, so much so that these invasions, and the loot and stories the survivors brought back, have become a major part of the Afghan collective memory. Most Westerners have not got a clue about this cultural tradition, and how much it influences the behavior of most Afghans. Such culture shock is not unusual, but because of the greater isolation of Afghanistan from the rest of the world, there is more of it.
Part of the culture shock is the realization that Afghanistan is not a country, at least not in the Western sense of the world. In Western terms, Afghanistan is a feudal monarchy. That means that the "king" (president Karzai) serves, and survives, at the sufferance of the local barons (warlords, drug gang leaders, provincial governors, tribal leaders). Until the last few centuries, this was how things worked in the West. But in many parts of the world, and especially in Afghanistan, the medieval mind, and form of government, is alive and well.
While many residents of Kabul (the capital and largest city) would like a modern (efficient and much less corrupt) Western style government, the "rural aristocracy" (corrupt local leaders) have no interest in this kind of central control. Thus the rural leaders do whatever they can to prevent the creation of an efficient national army or police force. Local leaders will attempt, often successfully, to corrupt the military and police units in their neighborhood. National level politicians also like to "own" army or police units, and if they can't do that, they will try to steal money meant for the security forces. So NATO commanders have come to evaluate the effectiveness of Afghan police and army units based on the honesty of the commander, and his ability to deal with all those officials who want to buy him off. There are not many Afghan unit commanders who make the grade. To do so means you must behave in a decidedly unconventional manner.
The May 2nd American raid into Pakistan, to kill Osama bin Laden, has led the Afghan government to imply that the same fate awaits the most senior Taliban leaders, who have been hiding out in Pakistan for a decade. Most are in Baluchistan (southwest Pakistan), an area that Pakistan will not even allow American UAVs to operate. But U.S. intel efforts have located where the Taliban are in this area (just across the province from Kandahar and Helmand provinces (the homeland of the Taliban, and source of 80 percent of the world's heroin.) The U.S. has not threatened (to Pakistan) launching such raids.
May 11, 2011: Security forces arrested fourteen terrorists in the last week, and foiled several terror attacks. The Islamic terrorists are apparently making an extra effort to launch attacks to honor their recently (May 2nd) killed (by American commandoes) hero (Osama bin Laden.)
May 10, 2011: In northern Afghanistan, about a hundred Taliban on motorcycles rode towards a village (Abduraman) after dark and attacked. The village had recently agreed to join the government ALP (Afghan Local Police) program, and the Taliban raid was meant to discourage such unfriendly (to the Taliban, and local bandits) behavior. When a village joins ALP, several men in the village are selected to receive weapons, equipment (radio and such) and training. These men became part time cops, as they are now equipped to better deal with Taliban coercion (usually just extortion) and attacks by bandits (a common rural problem). The ALP men are also trained to quickly call in outside help (local soldiers or police, as well as foreigner air support or troops). The Taliban do not like the ALP, and have learned to discourage villagers from joining. But like many villagers, many of those in Abduraman already had weapons, and were ready for the raid, which led to a two hour gun battle, and 17 dead Taliban. One villager was also killed. The villagers were able to call for reinforcements, which arrived and caused most of the casualties (which included the local Taliban leader).
Cell phones are often the way villagers call for help, which is why, once the Taliban have enough control in an area, they force the cell phone companies to turn off service at night. This only works in parts of southern Afghanistan, where the Taliban are really strong. Getting cell phone service turned off completely has proved impossible, as the phones are enormously popular with all Afghans (including most Taliban). But because the cell phones allow anyone to report Taliban activity, the Islamic terrorists want it shut down. The Taliban still have a few satellite phones, and lots of walkie talkies, to handle their communications needs.
In northeastern Afghanistan (Nuristan), several hundred Taliban crossed over from Pakistan and attacked several border posts. Local police quickly gathered reinforcements and drove the enemy back into Pakistan after three hours of fighting. Most of the shooting was inaccurate, and there were fewer than twenty casualties on both sides. The Taliban attack was apparently another effort to avenge the recent death of Osama bin Laden. In the southeast, members of the Haqqani network (based in Waziristan in Pakistan) came over and tried to launch some attacks. This did not end well for the invaders.
May 7, 2011: In the southwestern city Kandahar, over a hundred Taliban launched several attacks to avenge the recently deceased Osama bin Laden. For 27 hours, Taliban and security forces fought. Then the surviving Taliban fled. There were about 60 casualties (Taliban, security forces and civilians). The Taliban sent some suicide bombers into government buildings. Some two dozen Taliban were killed during this part of the operation.
May 6, 2011: Police arrested five children, all under age 13, who had been sent into Afghanistan to serve as suicide bombers. The kids were Afghan, but had been sent to study at Islamic schools in Pakistan. These schools are often used to indoctrinate their young students to be suicide bombers.
In eastern Afghanistan, police killed ten members of the Haqqani terrorist network (based in Waziristan in Pakistan), who had crossed over from Pakistan to help their Taliban allies.
May 4, 2011: Afghans are out in the streets, protesting peace negotiations with the Taliban. While these discussions have resulted in some pro-Taliban tribes switching sides. But many of the individual Taliban said they switched, but hadn't. Especially annoying were the Taliban who got out of jail by saying they had switched. Lots of these guys went back to their outlaw ways, and a growing number of Afghan victims of these outlaws are tired of it.