Taliban growing tired?

Twice in the last week I’ve run across optimistic articles on the war in Afghanistan. One talked of the mid-level leadership refusing to return from Pakistan to Afghanistan to fight. There is a rift between the midlevel commanders who are leading the fight in Afghanistan and the Taliban leadership hiding out in Pakistan.

Midlevel Taliban Admit to a Rift With Top Leaders

…Recent defeats and general weariness after nine years of war are creating fissures between the Taliban’s top leadership based in Pakistan and midlevel field commanders, who have borne the brunt of the fighting and are reluctant to return to some battle zones, Taliban members said in interviews…

…Some of the dissension in Taliban ranks stems from raids by American forces, which have been specifically aimed at eliminating Taliban field commanders. The raids have taken a toll on the quality of the Taliban’s fighting forces and exacerbated differences between the fighters on the ground and their leaders giving orders from their sanctuary in Pakistan.

One close supporter of the Taliban in Helmand Province said that the insurgents had lost 500 fighters there last year, including virtually all the known commanders. Those who survived remonstrated with the leadership in Pakistan over why they had to sacrifice so many men…

Of course this sounds like good news. In fact we have been killing lots of Taliban Commanders.

The other article talks of the frustration within the Taliban’s harshness and cruelty and how a small number of fighters are not returning to the fight.

How the Taliban Lost Its Swagger

…At a dark, unheated village Madrassa near Peshawar, Pakistan, Mullah Yahya spends his days studying the Quran and begging God’s forgiveness for the horrors in which he once took part. Until a few months ago, he belonged to a Taliban unit operating in and around the Afghan town of Marja, led by a commander whose ruthlessness had earned him the nickname “Saddam.”…

…They freely admit that defections, desertions, and battlefield losses are undermining their military effectiveness. Worse, the defectors have given valuable intelligence to the Americans. “They gave names of anyone who was supporting the Taliban,” the former minister says. “They are one reason for our heavy casualties.” Morale has been hit hard, too, he adds: “One of our biggest sources of pride and confidence was that there had been no real defections before.” When Obama first announced plans to begin drawing down U.S. forces in Afghanistan this coming summer, the Taliban hailed it as a signal of surrender. They sound a lot more tentative now, even when speaking of the U.S. plan to turn over all security duties to Afghan government forces within four years. “As we get closer to 2014, we feel nervous and under pressure,” says a Taliban intelligence officer from Helmand…

Yes this is good. But I would caution we haven’t seen a real downward trend in fighting yet. Even the traditional winter has seen lots more fighting. With US troops continuing to push into once dominated Taliban areas we won’t see that trend for a while.

So what does it mean? Well I think this spring and summer campaign can be a game changer. There is no doubt the Taliban are getting tired. They have lost a lot of momentum but they also know they don’t have to win. They must only maintain. This is what Afghans are good at. They can suffer like no other and still keep going.

Granted, I’m more for a total war mentality than the COIN, which might be a surprise to some as a former SF Warrant, but I think at times a 100% all in strategy must be taken. So at the rate we are fighting this war I have my doubts. It can be won, but will it? We’ll see.

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One thought on “Taliban growing tired?

  1. Nope, won’t be won. Not without the political will and clearly defined goals. We’re wasting our treasure and more importantly our blood for a cause that nobody in Washington is willing go at with 100% conviction and clarity.

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