26 August 2008
What is the Taliban's strategy in Afghanistan?
Why are the Taliban doing so well in Afghanistan? A couple of years ago the warmongers were convinced that victory was just around the corner, so what has happened since 2006 to change things so dramatically?
The first is time. The guerrillas used the period between 2001 and the end of 2005 to recruit new fighters and wait for the enemy to start making mistakes. The mistakes came thick and fast. Some were just acts of cultural stupidity such as trying to educate girls. For the western warwanker all that was a sign that Afghanistan had turned the corner into modernity, and maybe it was for some of the inhabitants of Kabul as well, but for the bulk of the population it was about nothing more than trying to impose an alien set of values on their society.
The west may like to think that the government in Kabul is a democratic entity, but the problem is that President Hamid Karzai has to govern via the regional warlords who are more concerned with keeping their provinces under their thumbs than they are with democratic niceties. Thus Karzai has felt constrained to pardon three rapists and allow any number of other crimes to go unpunished just to keep these men inside the tent and pissing out. The problem is that every time they shoot outside the tent the local peasants get covered in a slash stream - and that helps recruit yet more men to the Taliban cause.
If you add to that the American talent for killing civilians by the bucketload, a talent that was on display only the other day when they managed to slaughter roughly a 100 Afghans in one air strike, then the reason for the Taliban resurgence becomes pretty obvious.
Looking at the fighting over the past couple of years and it starts to look as if the Taliban are strategic geniuses. Actually, they are just waging the war that Afghanistan has always waged against the foreign occupiers. The key to losing Afghanistan is Kabul, which is why the Taliban are trying to put a stranglehold on it. The nice thing from their point of view is that Kabul is not essential to their war strategy. If they are defeated in the battles that are currently raging less than twenty miles from Kabul city centre then they just go back into the hills and keep their war going from there. However, if they can cut Kabul off from its supplies, then they know that the city will likely fall. If that happens then the west will have lost its only base inside the country and the war will be over.
What the Taliban are doing is fighting brutal battles in Helmand Province in the south to keep as many troops as possible away from Kabul. At the same time they are concentrating their other forces in Wardak Province, in an attempt to capture the town of Maidan Shah. By all accounts it is a shit hole of place, but it does sit on the road to Kabul. If it falls then supplying the capital will be almost impossible. If the Taliban can then push on the few miles into the hills that surround Kabul and keep the few roads into it blocked, then the city could fall within days through lack of supplies.
It really is too early to say with certainty that the Afghan endgame is now being played out, but from the reports that your friendly Exile has read over the past few days, it does look as if the Taliban are going to try to mount a push for victory sometime soon.