The International Security Assistance Force claimed today that the high tempo of operations against the Taliban over the past three months has put a dent in morale among the Taliban ranks. Also, ISAF provides an estimate on the number of Taliban leaders and fighters killed and captured (“365 insurgent leaders and 2,386 fighters”) over the past 90 days. From the ISAF press release:
Intelligence reports indicate some pockets of low insurgent morale, with some insurgent fighters reluctant to keep fighting and some refusing to assume district commands when commanders are captured or killed, International Security Assistance Force officials in Afghanistan said today.
In a written statement, officials said the low morale among enemy fighters and insurgent leaders can be linked to successful security operations by Afghan and ISAF forces.
Coalition and Afghan forces conducted more than 2,800 counterterrorist operations over the past 90 days, the statement said, killing or capturing more than 365 insurgent leaders and 2,386 fighters. These counter-insurgency successes have also led to a growing sense of distrust among insurgent fighters, heightened fear of spies in their midst and increased suspicion among rival tribes, officials said.
“While the coalition strength and capability of the [Afghan forces] are on the rise, we are seeing evidence of low insurgent morale, which is affecting their capability across the country,” said German Brig. Gen. Josef Blotz, an ISAF spokesman. “The coalition will continue to neutralize insurgents and eliminate their safe havens, expanding areas that are secure enough for improved governance and development.”
The ISAF statement cited the Taliban commander in Helmand province’s Marja district as an example, noting that he openly acknowledged to his fellow insurgents that the Taliban are losing Marja and that their chances of winning are poor.
ISAF officials said intelligence reports indicate the Taliban commander based his assessment on battlefield losses — insurgents killed or captured by the coalition forces — and increasing resentment of the insurgent methods by average Afghans.
Popular estimates of the Taliban forces put them at between 20,000 and 30,000 fighters. With more than 2,600 killed or captured over the past 90 days, the Taliban may have suffered a loss of an estimated 10 percent of their forces.
ISAF special operations forces are conducting an average of 31 raids a night. At The Long War Journal, we’ve highlighted some of the more high-profile raids, particularly the ones targeting elements of al Qaeda’s network in Afghanistan. These raids have taken place throughout Afghanistan, not just in the south, where the bulk of ISAF forces have been deployed.
The uptick in tempo of the raids was detectable almost immediately after General Petraeus took command on July 23 following President Obama’s dismissal of General McChrystal. The raids most certainly began well before McChrystal left his post. But it seems that McChrystal must not have directed his public relations team to highlight these operations. Instead, he took great pains to de-emphasize combat operations and special operations forces raids during his command.
Almost immediately after Petraeus took command, however, ISAF’s public affairs team began dumping information about the raids. Also, ISAF began to define more clearly who was being targeted, and where.