The Taliban's new siege strategy of cutting off roads to villages

In the rugged terrain of the Taliban heartland in southern Afghanistan, the fight against the Kabul government has become a war for control of key stretches of main roads and highways as the insurgents use a new tactic to gain ground.

First they storm a checkpoint, kill all the police, seize their weapons and equipment and effectively cut off the main road to a remote village. They raise the white Taliban flag and plant roadside bombs to prevent cars from coming through the checkpoint. Any vehicle that tries to pass through is either blown up or attacked, residents and local leaders say.

Then they wait.

Food supplies soon dwindle and prices rise, forcing villagers to abandon their homes and move to where they can afford to eat and live. Most sneak out on foot or on donkeys via backroads and mountain paths, leaving many of their belongings behind.

The new tactic has helped the Taliban gain ground, albeit at a slower pace than a deadly, surprise raid on an entire village. For the insurgents, starving a population out is less costly than forcing them out at gunpoint and risking armed resistance. The Taliban are seeking to expand their footprint at any cost — even if that means raising their flag over an empty village.

The tactic demonstrates a significant shift in emphasis. In the past, fighters would first try to attack high-profile government targets, such as district administration buildings and police headquarters. Now, by focusing their firepower on checkpoints at the edges of towns and villages, they can gain ground more cheaply. Checkpoints are easier to overpower and police often surrender, handing over weaponry and vehicles.
It is siege warfare on the cheap.  But it does appear to be effective and it demonstrates the weakness of the government forces.  The current checkpoints appear to be inadequate and there is a lack of patrolling to prevent surprising the troops manning the checkpoints.  The government will need to provide more manpower if it is to counter the tactic.


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