Springtime Offensives in Afghanistan and Pakistan

Drawing the battle lines on the Afghan-Pakistani border

Since the fall of the Taliban during the winter of 2002, predictions of the resurgence Taliban and successive devastating springtime offensives have been all of the rage. Defying the conventional wisdom, Afghanistan held successful elections and slowly developed its security forces, a process which continues to this day, while the Taliban and al Qaeda failed to influence events. As an indication of the cautious view of the development of the army, Afghanistan’s defense minister believes it will take four to five more years before the army can assume a large part of the security. However, this year’s round of resurgence prognostications have an air of truth. The reason for the newfound strength of the Taliban movement is contained within Afghanistan’s borders, but from the rise of Talibanistan within Pakistan’s tribal belt.

During testimony to Congress, Rear Admiral Robert Moeller, CENTCOM’s Director for Plans and Policy, predicts “a fairly violent spring and summer and then an improvement in overall conditions” as the Taliban “appeared tactically stronger on the battlefield this year and they demonstrate an increased willingness to use suicide bomber and IED tactics… The Taliban do not have capability to exercise control over large areas of Afghanistan, but they are disruptive to reconstruction and reconciliation efforts.”

The battle lines in eastern and southern Afghanistan are currently being manned by U.S. and NATO forces, and some units are entering areas previously untouched. The Stars & Stripes looks at the three major NATO contributors and their mission in Iraq. The Canadians are deploying in Kandahar, the British in Helmand and the Dutch in Oruzgan. The Canadian troops hit the ground running and are aggressively pushing into “isolated pockets” of Kandahar province during Operation Peacemaker. The U.S. is deploying the 3rd Battalion, 71st Cavalry Squadron into Khost, and is devoting the entire battalion to reconnaissance operations, a first in the region, and an indication of the importance of provided intelligence and interdiction on the border.

The operations are not being relegated to the Afghani interior only. Adnkronos International reports “U.S. surveillance aircraft have begun flights across the tribal belt of North Waziristan,” perhaps a precursor to the strikes such as the one in January which killed up to five senior al Qaeda commanders. Pakistan claims it “will fence its border with Afghanistan and plant landmines to stop the infiltration of foreigners.” While the Pakistani government complains of the infiltration into Pakistan, the reality is the infiltration is occurring in the other direction.

The Taliban have already begun their offensive, with the kickoff being the assault on Miranshah in North Waziristan, Pakistan. In Afghanistan, the Taliban targeted “Former mujahideen president and chairman of the Afghan senate or Meshrano Jirga Sibghatullah Mujaddidi” using a car bomb attack. Four of his security personnel were killed. Mujaddidi is a former mujahideen commander, and chairman of the reconciliation commission, which is designed to peel off moderate Taliban fighters from the fight, and has had some good successes. Mujaddidi is also an ally of President Karzai and influential member of the Pashtun tribes. The Taliban have also claimed to have murdered four foreign workers.

Afghan and Coalition forces are generally in reactionary posture at this time. After four U.S. troops were killed in a roadside bombing in Kunar province, U.S. Marines and soldiers, and Afghan troops “backed by artillery, attack helicopters and AC-130 gunship planes swept the Pech valley after encountering small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades.” Eleven suspected Taliban were detained. During an attack on an Afghan police post in Helmand province, the Taliban were beaten back, with two confirmed killed and “bloodstains on the ground that showed that a number of wounded Taleban had escaped the area.”

Syed Saleem Shahzad believes “the current situation in North Waziristan suggests that an all out war is looming in the valleys of this tribal belt.” The war with the Taliban will not be contained within Pakistan alone, and the eastern and southern provinces of Afghanistan will also bear the brunt of the fighting, particularly if Pakistan refuses to hold up its end of the bargain and wage the war.

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

10 Comments

  • Marlin says:

    Syed Saleem Shahzad further reports today that the fighting on the Pakistan/Afghanistan border could be especially fierce this spring because Taliban have been sent to Iraq for training.
    —————-
    In putting together this latest offensive, the Taliban has also turned to Iraq. Sources told AKI that some 500 Taliban fighters travelled to Iraq where they were hosted by an organisation known as the Islamic Army of Iraq. The group provided them with training in guerilla warfare. The men learnt how to build improvised explosive devices, lay mines, spy on their target and carry out the attacks at the most appropriate time.
    […]
    Sources told AKI that from 2004 up to 2005, about 500 Taliban fighters were sent to Iraq in groups where they stayed with the Islamic Army of Iraq as well as Ansar al-Sunna.
    AKI: AFGHANISTAN: TALIBAN TRAINED IN IRAQ AHEAD OF SPRING OFFENSIVE

  • blert says:

    Sounds right: all are fronts for Iran. She is moving un-lawful combatants from the western front to the eastern front.
    Continued roll-ups in Iraq will have the western front parked at the Iranian border.
    Iraq needs an army sized to the Iranian threat. Think beyond 250,000 men. She needs to be pumping oil to pay for it.

  • Springtime Offensives in Afghanistan and Pakistan

  • hamidreza says:

    As said above, there is no way such Afghani and Arab insurgents can criss cross Iran at will and carry supplies and receive local assistance, without the involvement of the Pasdaran death squads of the government of Iran.
    The only way to combat this is to beef up the Iraqi and Afghani intelligence services and staff them with seculars and patriots, or even nationalists and Baathists. US policy to underdevelop the intelligence services does not make sense.
    As far as I can tell, the US anti-war bleeding heart crowd do not mind a ruthless intelligence service, if that results in relative peace. I mean this crowd happily tolerates Islamists blowing up innocents hundreds at a time. As long as it is Muslims killing Muslims, these poststructuralists will not mind it at all.

  • Rob says:

    The war on terror is being forced into the tribal areas of Pakistan. That is where Al Qaeda is and the battle is following them there. Say a few prayers for General Musharaff, he is going to have to deal with the political backlash from pushing the Pakistan army into the tribal no-go areas. Last time this happened, Al Qaeda or allies staged a terrorist attack in India and the confrontation between India and Pakistan that was provoked drew the Pakistan army back out of Waziristan. I hope that that India and Pakistan are smart enough to not allow that to happen again. I assume the Americans have mentioned this to both Pakistan and India.

  • GK says:

    Pakistan has been shown to be a paper tiger. They can’t subdue Al-Qaeda even in their own territory, when neighboring Afghanistan is not even propping Al-Qaeda up. Pakistan does not have qualms about using iron-fisted tactics, nor do they have a seditious media like we do. Can’t they stomp out these terrorists?
    Plus, the region in question, while mountainous, is not even that big.
    By thy way, here is a link on which countries hate America, and which don’t. Note the big gap between India and Pakistan vis-a-vis liking America.
    //futurist.typepad.com/my_weblog/2006/03/does_the_world_.html

  • blert says:

    Al-Qaeda has a big voting block in Pakistan, beyond the tribal areas. Too much push means civil war in a land of 48 acknowledged nukes.
    Better to soldier on with less than perfect than trip that wire.
    A smart strategist wouldn’t go any further than we already have.
    You might win WWIV without even engaging in Pakistan.
    It is not the true center of gravity: Saudi Arabia is. The WWIV is a war on Wahabbis. They are the absolutists with the wallet.
    We need to take down: Iran, Syria and KSA. If properly done, the last will shatter Islam. It’ll be a repeat of Japan in 1945: the death of Shintoism. ( aka Japanese militarism — a propaganda shift to supress the central role of Hirohito in WWII. By definition, the he was the head of the faith: a living god. )
    WWIV will truly go on forever until Islam is shattered. As Japan showed, that does not require liquidation of the society: merely catastrophic military defeats, mass semi-starvation, and the humbling of their icons.
    All of that can be delivered pronto, without weapons of mass distruction. The end of Islam does not mean the end of Muslim lives, just deprogramming.

  • GK says:

    What is the KSA?
    If Wahabbiism is the center of WWIV, then Iran would not fit into that paradigm, as Iran is certainly not Wahabbi (and actually detests them).
    The key is to get rid of the Iran Mullahs quickly and neatly, and then turn the far mroe reasonable Iranian general public into an anti-Wahabbi juggernaut. That is what will work.

  • desert rat says:

    Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

  • blert says:

    Infidels must crush muslim icons to shatter Islam.
    If one muslim faction or another runs Mecca: no effect regardless of fatalities.
    When America forced its way ashore, she fried Japanese braincells. Nippon had NEVER been invaded.
    Ditto for Mecca and Medina.

Iraq

Islamic state

Syria

Aqap

Al shabaab

Boko Haram

Isis