Taliban and al Qaeda commanders shed light on the global nature of the war and the status of fighting in Afghanistan
Combat operations in Afghanistan have tapered off over the past month and violent attacks have decreased by half. The operational tempo is declining as the summer fighting season comes to a close. The Taliban continues to suffer heavy losses when openly engaging Afghan and Coalition forces. Over the weekend, 72 Taliban were killed in during engagements in Uruzgan and Helmand province. Fifty-two Taliban were killed in a single engagement in Uruzgan. On Wednesday, 20 more Taliban were killed during fighting in Uruzgan by Dutch troops.
FOX News reports Mullah Nazir Ahmed Hamza, described as a “The regional-level commander”, has indicated that while the Taliban has taken heavy losses, they are still prepared to fight. “The Taliban still has thousands of fighters despite NATO reports of heavy losses in recent battles, that support for the hardline movement is increasing every day and that U.S. and NATO forces would have a tough time beating the fighters without air support.” With a sanctuary, training camps, ample supplies of recruits and support from Pakistani intelligence in Western Pakistan, unfortunately Mullah Hamza may very well be correct.
Mullah Hamza’s lament about NATO airpower is quite telling. Last weekend the Telegraph reported on Pakistani intelligence’s role in the fighting in Kandahar up to and during Operation Medusa. “Hundreds of Taliban reinforcements in pick-up trucks who crossed over from Quetta – waved on by Pakistani border guards – were destroyed by Nato air and artillery strikes,” according the Telegraph. The initial battle assessment was about 500 Taliban killed, but the number was revised upward to 1,000 – 1,500 after heavy engagements in the deserts of southeastern Afghanistan. The Taliban repeatedly massed in large formations, and was destroyed at a ratio of 100 to 1, horrendous losses for both conventional and insurgent forces.
The Toronto Star also highlights the role airpower has played in battling the Taliban during Operation Medusa. Charlie Company from the Royal Canadian Regiment had to be pulled off the line during the fighting, but not because of the Taliban’s combat power. Four soldiers were killed from 7 Platoon while engaging the Taliban in a school house, but 8 more were killed and 40 more injured during a friendly fire incident. An American A-10 close air support strike aircraft accidentally attacked the Canadian unit during the operation. Air power did what the Taliban could not accomplish.
Canada, Britain and the United States have born the brunt of the fighting in southern and eastern Afghanistan. Gordon O’Connor, Canada’s minister of defense minister, has demanded that the NATO countries deployed in the northern sectors remove the restriction on troops deployments that prevent them from entering the hot combat zones. The Taliban, with their base of operations in neighboring Pakistan, do not suffer from such restrictions.
Elsewhere, Abu Yahya al-Libi, who escaped from Bagram prison in summer of 2005, has issued yet another videotape. In the latest tape, al-Libi is seen exhorting Taliban to fight a global jihad. “Allah will not be pleased until we reach the rooftop of the White House,” said Abu Yahya al-Libi, “You have to get well prepared by starting with exercise, and then you have to learn how to use technology until you are capable of nuclear weapons.”
Over 1,200 miles away, Multinational Forces Iraq has confirmed via DNA testing that Omar Farouq, Al-Libi’s companion and fellow escape in Bagram, has been killed. Farouq was killed in Basra, and was acting as an al Qaeda facilitator of weapons, cash and personnel into Iraq.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.