After the Taliban failed to conduct successful attacks on Afghanistan’s election day, the counting of ballots begins. al Qaeda’s number two in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, weighs in on the election. Apparently the will of six million Afghans is illegitimate.
“These elections are a farce more than anything else,” he said, echoing pre-poll comments from a Taliban spokesman. Zawahri insisted the Taliban were still powerful and said U.S. forces had to “hide” in their bases.
To disrupt the vote, the Taliban were not restricted to attacking polling places, candidates and voters. They could also intercept the ballot boxes as they are in transit to the regional vote counting locations. This would destroy the chain of custody of the voting process and put the results of the election in doubt. Reuters gives a brief description of the methods used to move the ballots; “Donkeys, camels, horses and helicopters have helped fleets of trucks bring ballot boxes from southern deserts and northern mountains to counting centres after one of the most logistically tricky polls ever staged by the United Nations.”
Despite this precarious logistical chain, which is highly vulnerable to attack, the Taliban yet again cannot flex its “power” .
Newsweek reports that the Taliban is now receiving training and additional funding from al Qaeda, and is sending members to Iraq for assistance with explosives and tactics. This is nothing new or surprising. Al Qaeda has been supporting the Taliban since its ouster, and al Qaeda frequently moves fighters between theaters to gain expertise (foreign fighters are often found in Chechnya, Kashmir, the Philippines, and other conflicts).
The story was written a prior to the election. The Taliban chief interviewed, “Commander Daud” , reports that recruitment is high among the Taliban and he can move freely in some towns. Let’s assume everything Daud says is true, even though the recruitment and freedom of movement statements are most likely enemy propaganda designed to bolster the Taliban’s strength in the public eye.
Think about this for a minute.
Afghanistan was the the center of al Qaeda’s jihad against the West. The country contained numerous training camps and arguable up to a hundred thousand foreign and domestic jihadis. The Taliban was its proxy government. It would be reasonable to assume that Afghanistan would still retain a significant level of expertise despite any actions by the Coalition to destroy its network and facilities.
Yet the Taliban is now forced to outsource its training and expertise. Like the failure to disrupt the election, Daud’s deadly pilgrimage to Iraq for guidance on weapons tactics speaks volumes about the real strength of the Taliban. Daud’s vaunted “resistance” couldn’t even disrupt the voting in the areas he supposedly had free access.
This is not to say the Taliban has been completely defeated, or are no longer a threat. The Taliban are still an al Qaeda proxy, and receive support and maintain safe havens in the lawless tribal belt of Pakistan. They must be hunted down and destroyed. The problem of the Taliban will not die until Pakistan takes serious action to assert control in the tribal regions, and recent arrests and increase in troop deployments along the border are a small step in the right direction.
But the projected image of a resurgent and powerful Taliban that is poised to escalate the conflict and destroy the democratic process has become a tired clich
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