A Hard August for the Taliban in Afghanistan

The “Taliban Offensive” continues to produce Taliban bodies but the Taliban and al Qaeda continue to grow in Northwestern Pakistan

The Taliban’s summer of 2006 “offensive” continues to produce inordinately large numbers of Taliban casualties with little to show for the slaughter. But the Taliban still possess its bases of operation in northwestern Pakistan, and churns out fighters for the Afghan front.

The Taliban has largely eschewed the established hit-and-run harassment tactics common in successful insurgencies, and has chosen to engage Afghan and Coalition forces en masse. The results have been deadly – for the Taliban. In battle after battle, with Taliban forces on one side, and Afghan, U.S. and the NATO on the other, the Taliban have suffered blow after blow.

Nearly 1,400 Taliban have been killed over the course of 2006, and the month of August has been particularly devastating. On August 27, 10 Taliban were killed when assaulting a police station in Musa Qala in Helmand province; a commander and 28 Taliban were killed in Lagaman and Uruzgan provinces on the 25th and 26th; 7 al Qaeda were killed in an air strike in Kunar province on the 24th, and 80 defected the Taliban and joined the government reconciliation program; 47 Taliban killed in Kandahar and Zabul on the 23rd; 71 Taliban were killed in Kandahar, Helmand and Farah on the 21st; 15 were killed in a U.S. airstrike in Nuristan on the 10th; 12 killed in Kandahar on the 9th; 25 Taliban were killed in Kandahar and Helmand on the 4th; and another 18 in Kandahar on the 2nd.

All together, some 234 Taliban and al Qaeda were killed during the month of August during the “Great Taliban Shoot of 2006.”

But as long as “Talibanstan” exists across the border in Pakistan’s Baluchistan, Kunar and Northwest Frontier Provinces , the Taliban will continue to churn out fighters and send them to the maw in Afghanistan. Kunar province is the jump off point into northeastern Afghanistan, and Baluchistan is the base of operations in the southeast. The Pakistani Army has killed Akbar Bugti, the head of the Bugti tribe and leader of the Baluchistan Liberation Army. The ensuing fighting has led to 21 security forces personnel and 37 Baluchis killed, and rioting is breaking out elsewhere in Pakistan.

The Pakistani government continues to operate as if the Taliban is a local problem to be dealt with politically, and is trying to cut a peace deal with the jihadis. The Pakistan Army is said to be close to negotiating a settlement with the Taliban. “It is the latest sign that a 2 ½-year campaign to oust the militants from Waziristan has failed. The militants, mostly local Pashtun tribesmen allied with an unknown number of Arab, Uzbek and other foreign fighters, in effect control North Waziristan, residents of the region say.”

Pakistan’s links to international terror continue to materialize. Six members of al Qaeda were recently arrested in the Northwest Frontier Province. “A captured terrorist in Jammu and Kashmir [last] Wednesday reportedly revealed that the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) had carried out the 7/11 serial blasts in the city,” reports the Times of India. The British government is calling for the extradition of Rashid Rauf, one of the main suspects in the London Airline Plot. The Pakistani government is also reigning in the Jamaatul Furqaan (JuF), which is the international front of al Qaeda linked Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM). JeM is said to be training ” hundreds of JuF activist…at one of its Waziristan camps” to “target western interests inside Pakistan.” To illustrate the interconnectiions between the Taliban and al Qaeda in Pakistan, the leader of is al-Jihad fi Waziristan is Sheikh Eisa al-Masri, who is also a leader of Egyptian Islamic Jihad. The Pakistanis are beginning to collect data on “mosques and madrassas in the provincial capital” of Peshawar.

Until the problem in Pakistan is addressed in a meaningful manner, Afghanistan will continue to see a flood of Taliban crossing the border and dying in droves.

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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