Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Victory Could Come Quickly

If we are losing in Afghanistan, as the conventional wisdom here now holds, why are Taliban groups seeking to come to terms with the central government?

The Taliban leadership, alarmed with their growing unpopularity in Afghanistan, are breaking ranks and approaching the national government to make deals. This is how Afghanistan traditionally works. The central government has little power, and serves mainly to deal with foreigners and settle disputes among the tribes and warlords.

An why are they breaking ranks?

What's different now is that the foreigners have troops in the country, with the backing of most of the tribes, to help fight the Taliban and the drug gangs. One thing all the tribes can agree on is that drugs and the Taliban are bad. The drug gangs because they created over a million addicts in Afghanistan, and their cash leads to more corruption and debauchery. The Taliban are hated because, during the 1990s, these religious fanatics made it clear that Taliban rule, and use of terror,  was, and still is, unpopular with most Afghans.

And what have the foreign troops managed to do to the Taliban to weaken their resolve?

The Taliban are also demoralized by the damage done to their sanctuaries across the border in Pakistan. In the last year, these sanctuaries have been attacked by the Pakistani Army and Air Force, as well as an increasing number of American UAVs firing missiles at Taliban leaders, and a growing force of Afghan special operations troops and Pakistani spies that supply target information for the UAVs. The Afghan special operations troops increasingly conduct ambushes and attacks on Taliban bases and war parties.

The Taliban and the drug gangs are under constant attack by 150,000 NATO troops, 136,000 Afghan soldiers and over 119,600 Afghan national police. There are also over 20,000 armed tribesmen fighting and confronting the Taliban. The government is seeking money from foreign donors to put over 10,000 of these anti-Taliban tribesmen on the payroll, at about half the pay of police, to defend their villages and valleys from the Taliban. The idea here is to take the pressure off the police, who are taking most of the casualties. Nearly a hundred police a month are dying in the battle with the Taliban and drug gangs. This is nearly 50 percent higher than losses among foreign troops, and more than twice as high as losses among Afghan soldiers. Some 40-50 civilian contractors for the foreign troops are killed each month. But the Taliban and drug gangs are taking even heavier losses, estimated at over a thousand dead a month. Many more of the Taliban wounded die later, because of a lack of modern medical care. Morale is falling within the Taliban and drug gangs, because of the high casualties and years of unmet promises about victory over the foreign soldiers and the central government.

Read the rest. Once factions start flipping, nobody on the Taliban side will want to be the last on the receiving end of our firepower and angry Afghans tired of the violence.