Coalition forces continue to maintain the offensive against the Taliban in Southeast Afghanistan. A joint task force of Afghan and Coalition security forces encountered “organized armed opposition” from the Taliban during a joint operation near the town of Azizi in Uruzgan province. Twenty Taliban were confirmed killed, with up to 80 suspected killed after a combined ground and air assault on Taliban positions. This would put the number of Taliban killed in action over the past week between 220 to 280. In a separate raid, Mullah Mohibullah, the Taliban commander for Helmand province, was captured in a bazaar in Uruzgan province.
The engagement in Azizi follows a week of combat in the southeastern provinces of Kandahar, Uruzgan, Helmand and Ghazni. The majority of the fighting has been initiated by joint Afghan-Coalition operations designed to root out Taliban strongholds and safe havens in the region. Independent journalist Michael Yon recently traveled this region, and detailed the security problems and pervasiveness of the poppy crops. Afghan and Coalition forces are pushing into relatively uncharted territory and are now encountering resistance from the Taliban and their allies.
The lopsided results of operations in Azizi, Panjwai and Zangi Abad are indicative of what happens when Taliban forces mass to wage open battles against Coalition and Afghan security forces. Even when the Taliban has initiated the combat, such as the ambushes in Musa Qala, Afghan security forces have been able to fend off the attacks and call for reinforcements of ground and air assets. Well trained Western forces (and the Afghan Army in many instances) combined with Coalition air power has had a devastating effect of Taliban units attempting to fight in company-sized units or greater, and result high Taliban casualties. Lately, the Taliban have begun to focus on the Afghan police, which are easier targets as they are not as well trained or equipped as the Afghan Army and Coalition forces.
Every spring since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 the Taliban has initiated a new spring offensive. By the end of the summer, their energy is spent after suffering high casualties and lopsided defeats on the battlefield. But there is no shortage of Taliban fighters just as long as the Taliban can freely recruit, train, arm and stage forces from Pakistan’s tribal areas.
Also Read: Michael Yon interviewed me over the weekend, so head on over to Michael’s site to read “First Person Singular.”
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.