Taliban futile attacks on Khandahar air base

Independent:

The first sign of the attack was somewhat mystifying: a tractor suddenly going up in flames on farmland beyond the base.

But there no ambiguity about what followed. A group of men charged, the first blowing himself up as he reached the fence, the others behind opening up with rifle fire. At the same moment, the first of a salvo of rockets launched from a distance landed inside Kandahar airfield.

It lasted no more than a few minutes. Once the tractor packed with explosives had prematurely detonated there was little chance of the Taliban fighters getting through, their suicide vests exploding as the Western troops cut them down. As the gunfire ended, and the smoke and fire began to clear, body parts and dismembered heads could be seen lying amid the unused arsenal – rocket-propelled grenade launchers, hand grenades and Kalashnikovs.

There was no intrinsic military gain for the insurgents in the assault, a fortnight ago, with only a 4ft-wide hole in the fence to show for five deaths. There was little chance of escape for the fighters even if they had turned back, with a dozen warplanes and helicopters already overhead. But it had propaganda value with some news reports declaring a "complex operation" which "led to a fierce hour-long firefight". The fact the target was Nato's airbase at Kandahar, the spiritual home of the Taliban and scene of the next major US-led offensive, gave it greater resonance.

...

Even without the Nato clearance operation getting under way, the tempo of action is rising now that the poppy crop has been harvested. "There's little doubt we are facing a very hard summer ahead of us, it's not going away, we are facing a tough enemy," Wing Commander Bennett acknowledged. But he stressed that information supplied by the local community has led to his troops, from 5 Force Protection Wing, recently arresting a senior Taliban leader responsible for planting IEDs (improvised explosive devices) the insurgents' weapon of choice.

...

Afghans living in areas under Taliban influence wait with trepidation on what is about to unfold. Habibullah and Mohammed Asim, farmers from a village near Zhari, west of Kandahar, described how the Islamist fighters arrived one morning and took up residence.

Speaking during a visit to Kandahar City to buy spare parts for his ancient tractor, Habibullah recalled how around 20 militant fighters arrived by motorcycles and cars and stipulated what was required from the inhabitants. "They have been there for many days and they are in charge," he said. "The Taliban said because they are looking after us we must help them. They did not take money but they took food – sheep, chicken and barley. Then we also have to feed them and sometimes let them stay at night. We do not like it, but what can we do? Where are the police and the army?"

...
I guess that is a form of living off the land. There have been many stories suggesting that the Taliban pay better than the government, but when it comes to the people they seem to be all take and no give. Contrast that with NATO forces who when they do come into an area bring medics and start construction projects.

The story does describe something of the Taliban MO. It also explains the increased operational tempo in recent days. The summer is about over. The Taliban may continue operations for another couple of months, but NATO will pursue them throughout the coming winter.

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