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Meanwhile in Afghanistan
Posted by: mcq on Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Good grief.

Afghanistan has its own set of problems, that's for sure. But a competent enemy doesn't seem to be one of them at the moment:
Two battles killed more than 165 Taliban fighters and a U.S.-led coalition soldier in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday as President Hamid Karzai prepared to discuss the escalating violence with President Bush in New York.

One of the clashes began Tuesday when several dozen insurgents attacked a joint coalition-Afghan patrol with machine guns, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades near the Taliban-controlled town of Musa Qala in Helmand province, with Taliban reinforcements flowing in all day, a coalition statement said.

The coalition said it returned artillery fire and called in fighter aircraft, killing more than 100 of the Taliban fighters. One coalition soldier was killed and four wounded.
I bring this up because of a conversation I had a couple of weeks ago with one of our generals in Afghanistan who said that the level of competence among the Taliban had been severely degraded by the constant pressure both coalition and Afghan troops had kept on the Taliban. You remember the Taliban's promised spring offensive that never materialized?

That's because CF and the Afghan army went after them all winter, something that they're not at all used to or prepared for. Consequently when spring rolled around, they were in no shape to mount a patrol, much less an offensive.

But they keep trying and the results are consistently bad in terms of kill ratios.
In neighboring Uruzgan province, more than 80 Taliban fighters attacked a joint Afghan and coalition patrol from bunkers near the village of Kakrak in a six-hour battle Tuesday night, the coalition said.

Coalition artillery and air support bombarded Taliban positions, killing more than 65 insurgents, it said.

Three civilians were wounded in the crossfire, it said. No Afghan or coalition forces were hurt.

The battle took place near an area where more than three dozen insurgents were killed as they prepared an ambush six days ago, the coalition said.
The Taliban haven't yet accepted they're no match for CF/Afghan forces in set-piece battles. They don't have the firepower or flexibility to succeed. And, from all the reports I hear, the Afghan army has become a pretty good army (but it suffers from some of the same problems that the Iraqi army suffers from, i.e. sustainment -logistics- problems). The general I mentioned said that in the south, where he was, most attacks are concentrated against the police and not the CF or Army who the Taliban mostly avoid (except, obviously, when they think they have the numerical advantage as in the two recent battles cited - and you can see the result even then).

I have to wonder when the Taliban will shift to the tactics of the Iraqi insurgency. To me it seems inevitable and we see the importation of some of those tactics even now (IEDs, etc). However they seem to stubbornly resist that at the moment and are paying for their overconfidence with huge losses in conventional battles. I'm sure the CF/Afghan forces hope they continue to mount their campaigns exactly as they have recently. With victories like the two described their level of competence can only become worse, not better, and that's a plus for our side.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

I don’t think they will resort to the Iraqi tactic: the Taleban is trying to retake control of the region, something they will never accomplish if the civilian death rate sky rockets with suicide bombings and the like.

Besides: they’re loosing enough people daily by fighting. They don’t have the human resource to waste by blowing themselves up.
Written By: Joel C.
URL: http://
If the Taliban do go the Iraqi insurgency route, then I figure the cost to Candian Forces troops will make the whole political solution untenable for Canadian politicians.

The current political structure is a minority government with conservatives holding the gov for now. If large casualties start to mount based on above then they will lose and the liberal party will take over. The liberal party is supposed to be a center left party but the US netroots would be very happy with them as they would cut and run almost immediately.
Written By: capt joe
URL: http://
EWverything you say makes sense except for this part of the report:
the Taliban-controlled town of Musa Qala
What’s up with that?
Written By: Retief
URL: http://
Don’t really know if the Taliban can go to the insurgent model without discarding all face and credibility.

It’s a great big step from "We rule you" to "We are so badly beaten that we fight from within civilian centers and use attacks that kill more civilians than oppressors." I only know a handful of Afghanis and, while they would not hesitate to use such tactics if they were threatened, they likely would not respect a former power that did.
Written By: Uncle Pinky
URL: http://
I don’t think they can depend on a sympathetic populace to shelter them.
Written By: spongeworthy
URL: http://,2933,298099,00.html
Taliban militants overran Musa Qala in February, four months after British troops left the town following a contentious peace agreement that handed over security responsibilities to Afghan elders. Musa Qala has been in control of Taliban fighters ever since.
Hmmm, so why didn’t the locals buck up and take care of themselves after the British so kindly left them.
Written By: Keith_Indy
In Iraq, a car bomb doesn’t stick out. In Afgahnistan, a regular car sticks out.
Written By: jpm100
URL: http://
It sounds like the Taliban have the odds in their favor in manpower on the ground, but our artillery and air power are reversing the odds. Is this why we are hearing so many complaints about our "over reliance" on air strikes?
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
Is this why we are hearing so many complaints about our "over reliance" on air strikes?
You use what you got and are a fool if you don’t. Air power is not something you have at your immediate beck and call. Even with fast aircraft on ready alert, 15 minute response time for takeoff and then approximately 15 minutes to arrive on scene and get ordnance delivered is about as fast a response as you can expect. And 30 minutes is an etermity when you are under fire.

In the first battle discussed, the Taliban ambushed a joint patrol and then continually fed the fight with reinforcements all through the day. If the patrol was a movement "in force" then there could have been support aircraft already airborne waiting commitment. But if that were so, the Taliban commander would be a total idiot to take on that kind of a force much less continually "feed the fight".

No, for the most part, McQ is right. The Taliban is not what I would call a "competent" force. Never underestimate your opponent but if he seems eager to get to his 72 virgins - help the poor sod along!
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://
I was more referring to the critics of air-power perhaps wanting us to fight less well, i.e. give the Taliban an edge by restricting our forces.

Note they also have artillery support which is faster than the airpower.

Written By: Harun
URL: http://
Note they also have artillery support which is faster than the airpower.
True statement. Army and Marine troops are taught early on to depend upon internal support first and foremost, air support Air Force style is gravy.
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://
In fact, in Operation Anaconda that lesson had to be re-learned a bit when many units opted not to bring their mortars along (only to face an enemy who had mortars.)
Written By: Harun
URL: http://

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