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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Taliban insurgency

Taliban insurgency facts,
The Taliban insurgency took root shortly after the group's fall from power following the 2001 war in Afghanistan. The Taliban continue to attack Afghan, U.S., and other ISAF troops and many terrorist incidents attributable to them have been registered. Al-Qaeda is closely associated with their activity. The war has also spread to Pakistan, in particular the Waziristan War. The Taliban conduct low-intensity warfare against the Afghan National Army and coalition forces.

In common usage, "the Taliban" may refer to the largest insurgent group in Afghanistan, known as Quetta Shura Taliban, or to the Afghanistan insurgents in general (which include the Haqqani network, Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin, and smaller groups, as well Quetta Shura Taliban).

After the invasion

After evading U.S. forces throughout the summer of 2002, the remnants of the Taliban gradually began to regain their confidence and launched the insurgency that Mullah Mohammed Omar had promised during the Taliban's last days in power. During September 2002, Taliban forces began a recruitment drive in Pashtun areas in both Afghanistan and Pakistan to launch a renewed "jihad" or holy war against the Afghan government and the U.S-led coalition. Pamphlets distributed in secret during the night also began to appear in many villages in the former Taliban heartland in southeastern Afghanistan. Small mobile training camps were established along the border with Pakistan by al-Qaeda and Taliban fugitives to train new recruits in guerrilla warfare and tactics, according to Afghan sources and a United Nations report. Most of the new recruits were drawn from the madrassas or religious schools of the tribal areas of Pakistan, from which the Taliban had originally arisen. Major bases, a few with as many as 200 men, were created in the mountainous tribal areas of Pakistan by the summer of 2003. The will of the Pakistani paramilitaries stationed at border crossings to prevent such infiltration was called into question, and Pakistani military operations proved of little use.

Make-up of the Taliban
Main article: Quetta Shura

There are many players now in Afghanistan that are operating against the NATO coalition forces. In the general, the media use the term Taliban for all the insurgents in Afghanistan. However, in addition to Afghan insurgent groups with a separate history from the original pre-2001 Taliban — the Haqqani network and the Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin — there is also a Taliban group in Pakistan. The US military commanders call the Afghan Taliban Big T and they call the Pakistani Taliban Little T. The Afghan Taliban's main goal is to remove the foreign forces and their backed government from Afghanistan. Their leadership councils are intact and they operate in almost all parts of the Afghanistan in one form or the other. The Taliban control most of the country side from Herat Northwestern Afghanistan to Qandahar (southern Afghanistan) to Kunar (Northeastern Afghanistan). Taliban fighters are also said to have started operations in the Northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

The Pakistani Taliban's main goals are very unclear. The Pakistani Taliban do cross border to Afghanistan to fight NATO forces but their main concern seem to be in Pakistani tribal areas. There is also the Hezbi-Islami militia which operates in Northeastern Afghanistan.
Financial support

While the pre-2001 Taliban suppressed opium production, the current insurgency "relies on opium revenues to purchase weapons, train its members, and buy support." In 2001, Afghanistan produced only 11% of the world’s opium, today it produces 93% of the global crop, and the drug trade accounts for half of Afghanistan's GDP.

On 28 July Richard Holbrooke, the United States special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said that money transfers from Western Europe and the Gulf States exceeded the drug trade earnings and that a new task force had been formed to shut down this source of funds.

The United States Agency for International Development is investigating the possibility that kickbacks from its contracts are being funneled to the Taliban.

Poppy dilemma

In March 2010, after the ousting of the Taliban from the area of Marja in the Southern Afghan province Helmand in the Operation Moshtarak, the American and NATO commanders were confronted with the dilemma of on the one hand the need for "winning the hearts and minds" of the local population as well as on the other hand the necessity of the eradication of poppies and the destruction of the opium economy. Since opium is the main source of existence of 60 to 70 percent of the farmers in Marja, American Marines were ordered to -preliminary- ignore the crops to avoid trampling their livelihood.
Social context: poverty and corruption

In November 2009, a report with the results of an opinion poll of the western aid group Oxfam indicated that 70 percent of the Afghan population does not consider the Taliban militants, but poverty, unemployment, and government corruption as the main causes of war in their country.

After thirty years of war, the country remains one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world. It is also one of the most corrupt. Unemployment stands at 40 percent and more than half of the population lives below the poverty line. On top of that, violence then seemed to culminate since U.S.-backed Afghan forces ousted the Taliban in late 2001. Nearly half of those surveyed said corruption and bad government were the main reasons for the ongoing war. 36 percent said the Taliban insurgency was to blame.

After the Taliban, the reason most people gave for the continued fighting was the foreign interference: 25 percent of respondents saying other countries were to blame .

Afghan fighter interviewed by as-Sahab.

The Taliban gradually reorganized and reconstituted their forces over the winter 2002-2003, preparing for a summer offensive in 2003. They established a new mode of operation, gathering into groups of around 50 to launch attacks on isolated outposts and convoys of Afghan soldiers, police, or militia and then breaking up into groups of 5-10 men to evade subsequent offensives. U.S. forces in the strategy were attacked indirectly, through rocket attacks on bases and improvised mines planted in the roadside. To coordinate the strategy, Mullah Omar named a 10-man leadership council for the resistance, with himself at the head. Five operational zones were created, assigned to various Taliban commanders such as the key Taliban leader Mullah Dadullah, in charge of Zabul province operations. Al-Qaeda forces in the east had a bolder strategy of concentrating on the Americans and catching them when they could with elaborate ambushes.

The first sign that Taliban forces were regrouping came on January 28, 2003, when a band of 80 fighters allied with the Taliban and Hezb-i-Islami were discovered and assaulted by U.S. forces at the Adi Ghar cave complex 15 miles (24 km) north of Spin Boldak. 18 rebels were reported killed and no U.S. casualties reported. The site was suspected to be a base to funnel supplies and fighters from Pakistan. The first isolated attacks by relatively large Taliban bands on Afghan targets also appeared around that time.

As the summer of 2003 continued, the attacks gradually increased in frequency in the "Taliban heartland." Dozens of Afghan National Army soldiers, non-governmental organization and humanitarian workers, and several U.S. soldiers died in the raids, ambushes, and rocket attacks. In addition to the guerrilla attacks, Taliban fighters began building up their forces in the district of Dai Chopan, a district in Zabul province that also straddles Kandahar and Uruzgan and is at the very center of the Taliban heartland. Dai Chopan district is a remote and sparsely populated corner of southeastern Afghanistan composed of towering, rocky mountains interspersed with narrow gorges. Taliban fighters decided it would be the perfect area to make a stand against the Afghan government and the coalition forces. Over the course of summer 2003 up to 1,000 guerrillas regrouped in the area, perhaps the largest concentration of Taliban militants since the fall of the regime. As Taliban fighters gained strength, over 220 people, including several dozen Afghan police, were killed in August 2003.
Main article: Operation Red Wing
Coalition response
US HH-60 over southern Afghanistan.

As a result, coalition forces have begun preparing offensives to root out the rebel forces. In late 2005, Afghan government forces backed by U.S troops and heavy American aerial bombardment advanced upon Taliban positions within the mountain fortress. After a one-week battle, Taliban forces were routed with up to 124 fighters (according to Afghan government estimates) killed. Taliban spokesmen, however, denied the high casualty figure and U.S estimates were somewhat lower. By the first week of September, however, Taliban forces had been scattered from their base at Dai-Chopan. The operation (Operation Mountain Thrust) was launched on June 13, 2006 with the purposes of rooting out Taliban forces , later followed by Operation Medusa which started at the weekend of 2 and 3 September.

British commanders in Helmand have described the ongoing violence in the province to be the most intense level of fighting the British army has seen since the Korean war. Long and brutal firefights are a daily occurrence, so much so that over the summer extra men, armoured vehicles and Chinook helicopters were promised to reinforce the troops in theatre.

2006 Escalation

Afghan President Hamid Karzai publicly condemned the methods used by the western powers. In June 2006 he said:

And for two years I have systematically, consistently and on a daily basis warned the international community of what was developing in Afghanistan and of the need for a change of approach in this regard.


The international community [must] reassess the manner in which this war against terror is conducted

Insurgents were also criticized for their conduct. According to Human Rights Watch, bombing and other attacks on Afghan civilians by the Taliban (and to a lesser extent Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin), are reported to have "sharply escalated in 2006" with "at least 669 Afghan civilians were killed in at least 350 armed attacks, most of which appear to have been intentionally launched at civilians or civilian objects." 131 of insurgent attacks were suicide attacks which killed 212 civilians (732 wounded), 46 Afghan army and police members (101 wounded), and 12 foreign soldiers (63 wounded).

Before the summer 2006 offensive began indications existed that the NATO led International Security Assistance Force peacekeepers had lost influence and power to other groups, including potentially the Taliban. In May there were riots after a street accident in the city of Kabul.

The continued support from tribes and others in Pakistan, the drug trade, the failure to produce a true central government and the small number of NATO troops, combined with the long history of resistance and isolation, all lead to the conclusion that even if not gaining power, post-Taliban forces and leaders are surviving and will play a significant role in Afghanistan into the future.

Below are a few deaths (note:this is just a few NATO deaths)

* June 6: A roadside bombing leaves 2 American soldiers killed, the attack took place in the province of Nanghar. Also a separate suicide bombing in Khost leaves three US soldiers wounded.

* June 15: A bus carrying workers to an American base explodes killing 10 and wounding 15. The explosives were placed on the bus.

* July 1: 2 British soldiers are killed when their base came under small arms fire including rocket propelled grenades.

* August 8: 4 Canadian NATO soldiers are killed in two separate attacks. And a suicide bomber targeting a NATO convey detonates killing 21 people.

* August 20: 3 American soldiers are killed and another 3 are wounded in a battle with Taliban militants after a roadside bomb hit an American patrol

* September 8: A major suicide car bombing near the US embassy in Kabul kills 18 including 2 US soldiers.

* September 10: The governor of Afghanistan's southeastern Paktia province is killed alongside his bodyguard and nephew when a suicide bomber detonates himself beside the governor's car.

* October 14: A suicide attack in Kandahar city leaves 8 dead including one NATO soldier.

* October 15: 2 Canadian soldiers were killed when Taliban militants attacked NATO troops using small arms fire and rocket propelled grenades.

* December 6: A suicide bomber blew himself up outside a security contractor's office killing 7 including 2 Americans, the attack took place south of Afghanistan in Kandahar.

* December 19: Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Osmani, reportedly number 4 in the Taliban shura, is killed by an American airstrike in southern Afghanistan.


The Taliban continue to favor suicide bombing as a tactic. In 2007 Afghanistan saw 140 more suicide bombings - more than in the past five years combined - that killed more than 300 people, many civilians.A United Nations report said the perpetrators were poorly educated, disaffected young men who were recruited by Taliban leaders in Pakistani madrassas.

Western analysts estimated that the Taliban can field about 10,000 fighters at any given time, according to an October 30 report in The New York Times. Of that number, "only 2,000 to 3,000 are highly motivated, full-time insurgents", the Times reported. The rest are part-timers, made up of alienated, young Afghan men angry at bombing raids or fighting in order to get money. In 2007, more foreign fighters were showing up in Afghanistan than ever before, according to Afghan and United States officials. An estimated 100 to 300 full-time combatants are foreigners, usually from Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Chechnya, various Arab countries and perhaps even Turkey and western China. They tend to be more fanatical and violent, and they often bring skills such as the ability to post more sophisticated videos on the Internet or bombmaking expertise. It has also been reported that the Taliban now control up to 54% of Afghanistan.

In April 2007, Karzai admitted that he spoke to the Taliban to bring about peace in Afghanistan. He noted that the Afghan Taliban are "always welcome" in Afghanistan, although foreign militants are not. On April 15, 2007 the Afghan Government promised to end all hostage deals with the Taliban after two Afghan kidnapped victims were executed in an agreement to free an Italian journalist.

* February 27 - 2007 Bagram Air Base bombing

On May 12, Mullah Dadullah, a senior Taliban commander in charge of operations in the south of the country was killed in Helmand province, in what is seen as a great moral victory.

* January 23: A suicide bomber blew himself up outside a US base in eastern Afghanistan killing 10 people who were waiting outside the base.

* February 2: Taliban forces raided a southern Afghan town destroying the government center and briefly holding some elders captive.

* February 19: The Taliban briefly seized a small town in western Afghanistan after police fled the town, the Taliban forces moved in for 30 minutes and seized three vehicles.

* February 20: A suicide bomber blew himself up during an opening hospital ceremony injuring 2 NATO soldiers and a hospital worker.

* February 27: 23 people are killed when a suicide bomber attacks an American military base, Bagram Airfield (BAF) in Bagram District, Parwan Province. The attack took place while US vice president Dick Cheney was in the compound, Cheney was unhurt in the attack and was the intended target of the attack as claimed by the Taliban. The dead included an American soldier, a Korean soldier, and an American contractor.

* March 4: A suicide bomber attacks an American convoy which leaves 16 civilians dead in the aftermath as the American convey begins to sporadically fire at civilian cars around them. In a separate incident, two British soldiers were killed when a Taliban rocket was fired on them during clashes in Southern Helmand Province.

* March 17: A suicide bomber targeting a Canadian military convoy leaves one dead and three injured, including one NATO soldier. The attack took place in Kandahar.

* March 19: A car bomb blew up near a three-vehicle US embassy convoy injuring many in the convoy.

* March 27: Four police officers are killed in the southern Helmand province after a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a police station.

* March 28: A suicide bomber killed a top intelligence officer and three others in the capital Kabul.

* April 6: A suicide bomber struck a police checkpoint in Kabul leaving four dead and four others wounded.

* April 9: Six Canadian soldiers were killed in southern Afghanistan when they struck a roadside bomb. A separate roadside bombing, also in south Afghanistan, left another NATO soldier dead and one wounded. In another incident, a statement from the Taliban's spokesperson claimed that they had beheaded a translator for a kidnapped Italian journalists.

* April 15: A suicide bomber struck a US-private security firm, killing four Afghans working for the company.

* April 16: A suicide bomber ran onto a police training field and detonating his explosive device, killed 10 police officers and wounded dozens of others. The attack took place in the relatively quiet city of Kunduz. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

* April 20: Separate explosions in Southern Afghanistan leave two NATO soldiers dead.

* April 22: A suicide bomber blew himself up an eastern city of Afghanistan, killing six. A roadside bomb also hit an Afghan intelligence service vehicle, killing all four who were inside.

* April 30: Hundreds of Afghans took to the streets in western Afghanistan, accusing US soldiers of killing scores of civilians in fighting which the coalition said killed 136 Taliban in a three-week operation.

* May 13: Mullah Dadullah, the Taliban's top military commander in Afghanistan, is killed in fighting in the south.

* May 23: The Taliban’s newly-named top field commander, Mullah Bakht Mohammed, brother and replacement of deceased field commander Mullah Dadullah, makes his first public statement, saying the Taliban will "pursue holy war until the occupying countries leave."

* July 19: The South Korean hostage crisis involved the hostage taking of twenty-three South Korean Christian aid workers in the Ghazni Province which resulted in the death of two. The crisis ended on August 30 with the release of the remaining hostages as part of a deal with the South Korean diplomats of government.

* August 31: A suicide bomber detonated his explosive-laden vehicle after ramming three military vehicles at the military gate of the Kabul International Airport. Two Afghan soldiers were killed and ten people were injured.

* September 29: In an effort to reach a compromise with the Taliban leaders, the president, Hamid Karzai would make a quid quo pro by allowing militants to have a place in government if they stopped fighting. Taliban leaders replied by saying there would be no compromise unless intervening forces such as NATO and the U.S. left.

* November 2: Mawlawi Abdul Manan, an important Taliban figure, is killed by Afghan Security forces. His death is confirmed by the Taliban.


The U.S. warned that in 2008 the Taliban has "coalesced into a resilient insurgency", and would "maintain or even increase the scope and pace of its terrorist attacks". Attacks by Taliban insurgents in eastern Afghanistan increased by 40% when compared to the same period in 2007.

* February 24: Poor military intelligence leads to conflicted reports of a possible Taliban spring offensive.
* August 19:Taliban forces kill 9 French troops (with a 10th death in an accident) near Kabul..
* October 6: CNN reports that, via Saudi intermediaries, the Taliban is negotiating to end the conflict in Afghanistan, and that the Taliban has split from Al Qaeda.
* December 7: 200 Taliban armed with RPGs and automatic weapons attack two NATO supply depots outside of Peshawar destroying 100 vehicles packed with supplies intended to support the NATO effort in Afghanistan.
* December 8: 200 Taliban armed with RPGs and automatic weapons attack a NATO supply depot outside of Peshawar destroying 53 container trucks packed with supplies intended to support the NATO effort in Afghanistan.


During 2009 the Taliban regained control over the countryside of several Afghan provinces. In August 2009, Taliban commanders in the province of Helmand started issuing "visa" from the "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan" in order to allow travel to and from the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah.

* June 30: US Army Private First Class soldier Bowe R. Bergdahl is captured by the Taliban in Southern Afghanistan.

* July 18: The Taliban release a video showing Bergdahl being interviewed by one of his captors. 

* August 12: Taliban spokesmen threaten the public not to vote in the upcoming presidential elections.

* August 15: 2009 NATO Afghanistan headquarters bombing, A suicide car bomb explodes outside NATO headquarters in Kabul, killing at least seven and wounding almost 100. ISAF troops were reported among the wounded.

* August 25: A massive car bomb shakes Kandahar, killing at least 30 and wounding dozens as buildings collapse in the city's center. The attack comes after the first results of the presidential elections were announced. Four U.S. soldiers die in an IED explosion in southern Afghanistan bringing ISAF losses to 295, eclipsing 2008's coalition death toll of 294.

* September 4: U.S airstrike on two fuel tankers kill at least 70 people in Farah Province after it was hijacked by Taliban militants. Angry relatives of those killed claim civillians were collecting fuel from the tankers when the airstrike came.

* December 1st, the U.S. President Barack Obama announced he would send an additional 30,000 troops to help battle the Taliban insurgency. The Taliban reacted to the President’s speech by saying they will step up their fight in Afghanistan. A Taliban commander told the BBC that if more US troops came, more would die .

* Also in December 2009, after his disputed re-election, President Hamid Karzai announced to move ahead with a plan for a Loya Jirga to discuss the Taliban insurgency. The Taliban would be invited to take part in this Jirga .


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