Taliban's new bet on terror

101120-N-5208T-006Image by isafmedia via Flickr
NY Times:

This year the spring offensive by the Taliban and other insurgent groups has a new and terrifying face: the insurgents are using suicide bombers who create high casualties to sow terror and are planning an assassination campaign as well, Afghan and American military analysts say.

The insurgents’ deadly bet is that fear will trump anger and that Afghans will lose any faith they had in their government’s security forces and eventually turn to the Taliban.

“You have to ask yourself — If you were the Taliban now, what would you do?” said Gen. Jack Keane, who retired from the Army in 2003 and is now a consultant to Gen. David H. Petraeus, the NATO commander for Afghanistan.

Given the massing of NATO forces in the south, the answer appears to be attack the urban, civilian population, creating widespread insecurity in an effort to reinforce the existing resentment of foreign troops and doubts about President Hamid Karzai’s government.

In less than four weeks, 116 Afghans have died in seven suicide attacks, most recently in Faryab Province on Saturday. Two of the attacks, one in Jalalabad on Feb. 19 and another in Kandahar on Feb. 12, involved multiple assailants and were carefully choreographed and skillfully timed to obtain a high death toll and maximum media coverage. In at least one case, the mission was carefully rehearsed.

This is a striking change from Afghan suicide bombings of just six months ago, in which the bombers exacted few casualties.

These new tactics highlight the challenge of an adaptive insurgency with a reservoir of potential fighters, many of them madrasa students in Pakistan’s tribal areas. They show too the increasingly integrated network of insurgent groups that lend their expertise to one another as well as the difficulties the Afghan government has had in rallying its own people to fight them.

President Karzai has compounded the problem, some Afghan analysts say, by insisting that the Taliban are not to blame for the violence and that they are “upset brothers” rather than mortal enemies.

Karzai sounds more and more detached from reality. Allowing him to "win" a corrupt election was a huge mistake for Afghanistan.

The Taliban have always relied on terrorizing the population, be it corporal punishment or dismemberment. They view these human bomb attacks as another form of punishing those who disagree with their weird world views. Having deterred them in certain areas with the surge, we now need a concentrated intelligence effort to find the bomb makers. If we find them in Pakistan or Afghanistan we will have to destroy them.

If they are in Afghanistan, we will need to capture them interrogate them for information about suppliers. If we find them in Pakistan, the likely only alternative is to pop them with a Hellfire missile.

The human bomb attacks are a sign of the desperation of the Taliban leadership that has lost most of its middle management through decapitation strikes by NATO forces.

Bill Roggio reports that Afghan intelligence captured an operative behind the attack on a bank as well as several teenage boys recruited to explode in Afghanistan.  They all admit to training and direction from the Haqqani network in Pakistan.
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