October 19, 2010

IT'S JUST NOT A LOSABLE WAR:

Time to Talk to the Taliban (RICHARD BARRETT, 10/19/10, NY Times)

Time, rather than resources or appetite for fighting, is beginning to run out for the Taliban. Until recently, they have argued that they will continue to fight until all foreign troops leave the country. Their other conditions are that certain Taliban prisoners must be freed from detention and that the United Nations Security Council should remove the names of Taliban members from its Qaeda-Taliban sanctions list.

But as it becomes increasingly clear that there will be only a limited drawdown of United States troops starting next July, and that the current intense air campaign and other attacks on Taliban leaders are likely to continue, waiting until the foreigners leave is no longer such an attractive option.

The Taliban’s command-and-control networks have stood up relatively well since their resurgence in 2006, but the campaign against their senior and middle leadership by American, Afghan and other special forces, aided by a much-improved intelligence picture and supported by drones, has taken a huge toll. The Taliban have not just lost many key commanders; the surviving senior leaders are forced to keep out of sight and now rarely travel within Afghanistan.

This lack of face-to-face contact with their subordinates and the enemy is sapping their authority. Taliban leaders have also had to limit their telephone communications for fear of giving away their locations, and have had to find less reliable and efficient ways to discuss strategy and pass orders to the field.

Personal connections, which have been essential to the cohesion of the movement, have been broken by the deaths of many mid-ranking commanders and their replacement by younger and lesser-known successors. Regional and local commanders have become more independent and less likely to follow orders that go against their personal interests; for example, in the way that they raise and use money, often keeping it for themselves rather than passing it back to their leaders for redistribution. Following Afghan tradition, local commanders are building independent fiefs that they will be reluctant to relinquish.


Were the Taliban to try to govern Afghanistan again it would only be making itself easier to target.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at October 19, 2010 6:39 PM
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