Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Taliban - Playing By The Book

Of course it's not our book they're using. Jonathan Landy of McClatchey Newspapers reports that the Taliban and al-Qaeda seem to have gone back to classic insurgency tactics, "...of avoiding U.S and NATO forces and staging attacks in provinces that haven't seen major unrest and on easy targets such as aid organizations and poorly trained Afghan police."

In essence, the insurgents are exploiting our main and possibly fatal weakness - our lack of numbers. We're long on firepower but very, very short on soldiers and that means we can't do the one thing our side has to do in this sort of conflict - secure the population.

Because we can't secure the villagers against the Taliban, the insurgents are free to control these communities, running the show when we're not there. Once your survival and that of your spouse and your kids depends on the whim of one side, the one that is constantly in your life, do you think you would support the other side, especially if you saw that other side, the government side, as corrupt and predatory anyway?

But aren't these Taliban religious nutjobs? Sure they are but, in Afghanistan, who isn't? Tribal peoples who pay fealty to warlords and hold sacred the right to sell their children might be excused for finding our values, our ways just a little curious. They may not like the Taliban any more than they like Kabul's marauding police and security services but I'm sure they don't see the Taliban anything like the way we see them. We just expect the Afghan people to see them the way we see them.

While the brilliant, pseudo-journalists of the National Spot may proclaim that we've got the Taliban "on the run" in fact they've just moved on to target NGOs and the police and bringing their war to new corners of Afghanistan.

"Operationally, the Taliban appear to be putting more resources into attacking in provinces where allied forces are weaker and which are less accustomed to clashes," says an April 6 analysis written by John McCreary, a former senior intelligence analyst for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for dNovus RDI, a Texas-based contracting firm.

"They are starting to show the manifestations of a strategy" of keeping under-strength U.S. and NATO forces tied down in the south and east while stoking instability elsewhere, McCreary said in an interview

Spreading out of the south and east means moving out of the Pashtun homeland and into the turf of the supposedly rival Uzbeks, Tajiks and Hazara - the Taliban's mortal enemies, the former Northern Alliance. With different language, different customs, even different ethnicity than some of these other tribes, it's hard to imagine how the Taliban could operate in these other territories without the support of these former enemies.

Is this the first sign of a Pan-Afghan insurgency, one in which NATO will be placed in the same spot as the former Soviet forces and the Kabul government of Karzai in the same, unenviable position as the former Marxist government?

In a nation built on a history of shifting alliances serving narrow self-interests, just about anything is possible. But, of course, we don't see it that way.

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