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As Afghanistan's September 18 election approaches, fighting intensifies in country and along the Afghan-Pakistan border. In an assault on a Taliban base camp, 50 were killed and 25 captured. Reports indicate more dead are being discovered. This follows on the heels of battles along the Pakistan border, as well as in Pakistan's tribal region of North Waziristan, where about 100 Taliban were killed or captured (Security Watchtower has the details). While Pakistan's efforts to secure the border leaves much to be desired, the murder of tribal leaders working with the Pakistani government indicates the Taliban/al Qaeda supporters view the cooperation as a threat.
The upsurge in violence in Afghanistan began last spring, when Coalition forces executed Operation Vigilance to preempt Taliban and al Qaeda offensive. Since March, it is estimated that over 500 Taliban have been killed in a series of battles and skirmishes, with many more captured. The only real victory the Taliban can claim is the downing of a Special Forces helicopter and the destruction of a SEAL element on ground, resulting in the loss of 11 SEALs and 8 Special Operations soldiers. One SEAL escaped (Froggy helps tell the story).
The Taliban's high casualty rates have taken a toll. Maj. Gen. Jason Kamiya states the Taliban has been forced to conscript children to make up for their losses. So much for a popular Islamist movement in Afghanistan.
[T]he ranks of Taliban in some areas have been so devastated by heavy fighting that the rebels are forcing families "to give up one son to fight."
"They have been hit so hard they now have to recruit more fighters. They are recruiting younger and younger fighters: 14, 15 and 16 years-old," Kamiya said. "The enemy is having a hard time keeping its recruit rates up."
He said part of the reason the rebels have suffered such unprecedented losses recently was that they have been caught gathering in large groups three times and pounded by airstrikes and ground forces. Some 170 suspected insurgents were killed in a weeklong battle in June in a mountainous militant hide-out.
Since the fall of their idealistic Islamist state, the Taliban has not been able to effectively influence the direction of Afghanistan's future. Minor skirmishes, attacks on provincial police stations and assassinations of government officials and aide workers have been all they could muster against the forces of democracy. The Afghan people have rejected the Taliban's vision, and al Qaeda's model government for its global caliphate recedes further into obscurity.