Back to the ‘Stan

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.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • leaddog2 says:

    Are these really Taliban forces or not? It seems they could be Pakistani tribesmen (the Waziri’s, or perhaps the Iranian financed cadres of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar?

  • bubba says:

    …the location, Uruzgan province, would make it most likely that these are ethnic Pushtuns. And after all the recent defections his group has suffered, I’m not sure Gulbuddin Hekmatyar could concentrate 75+ gunmen in one spot (and haven’t the Iranians severed, at least officially, contacts with Hekie?).

    As for them possibly being Waziri’s, do you think local Pushtuns would tolerate such a prescence?

    Thus, I’ve got to think they were/are Taliban.

  • starling says:

    thanks for the update on the GWOT in Afghanistan. One of the things I have wondered is why the fighting in this theatre has been so minimal relative to Iraq. Or perhaps I should say, the pace and dynamics of the conflict has been so different. While several possible explanatory variables come to mind, I lack the understanding of war strategy and geo-politics that might help me make sense of them. Among the things I have thought of are:
    1) we have fewer troops there and/or different kinds of troops there
    2) the Afghan climate doesn’t allow year-round military operations;
    2) we’ve been there longer; we’re gettign help from the Pakistani’s;
    3) Afghanistan is not as ethnically divided as Iraq
    4) most Al-qaeda left after fall 2001 and/or the Afghans are not hospitable to Arab fighters
    5) geography, particularly that is is much harder for would be “insurgents” and other assorted holy warriors to walk on to the field of battle
    6) the political transformation has been smoother
    I am sure that any of these things play a role in explaining the difference in the conflict as I perceive it. Also, some may be a correlated and some may be effects of other factors, stated or unstated above. Still, any thoughts you or anyone else can share would be most appreciated.

  • Jack says:

    It is a nice article.I enjoyed reading this article.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Hi Starling,
    Afghanistan as more ethnically divided as Iraq. The Taliban/AQ were a known element, and were not very popular, despite what the media says. We were able to exploit the tribal structure more easily in Afghanistan. And Afghanistan is much less accessable to the Arab fighters pouring into Iraq.
    What I find curious is there is considerably less use of suicide bombings in Afghanistan. I have some ideas but am still thinking them through.


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