The Taliban Is Getting Better
So reports The Washington Post. What’s that mean exactly?
“There are periods when an enemy does well and seems better trained and fights harder,” one senior defense official said. “The number one indicator we have out there now is that they think they’re winning. That creates an attitude, a positive outlook, and a willingness to sacrifice.”
The positive outlook has a basis in fact, the official said, as areas of Taliban influence have expanded. “They have enough of the landscape that they control to be able to train more and in closer proximity to where they’re fighting. And the people [living] there actually believe the Taliban can do something.”
Military officers tell The Post’s Karen DeYoung that fighters from “Arab and Central Asian countries” are training the frontline fighters in the Taliban coalition. Some analogized them to elite Army Rangers. Taliban fighters are abandoning large-unit attacks in favor of smaller, harder-to-detect assaults; fixing U.S. forces into static positions with mortars and then firing on them; and studying everything from U.S. air response times to patterns of military movement. In short: a highly adaptive adversary. Today, for instance, the Taliban assassinated Afghanistan’s deputy intelligence minister. Yes, intelligence.
In a way, it shouldn’t be surprising: because the Taliban fighters are from the areas they’re fighting in, it makes sense that they’re more familiar with it than U.S. troops from, say, Kansas. That line about the locals believing the Taliban can “do something” — whether that’s a statement about popular faith in Taliban military or governance capabilities or both, it rings out in the context of Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s June judgment that the loyalties of the people will be “strategically decisive.”
So does this one:
They have “developed the ability to do some of the things that make up what you call a disciplined force,” including treating casualties, the Army general said.
And this one:
“To the Taliban, winning is, in fact, not losing,” he said. “They feel that over time, they will ultimately outlast the international community’s attempt to stabilize Afghanistan. It’s really a game of will to them.”
This is a pretty strong bet, no? The Taliban are Afghans. The international community is not. Eventually the Taliban have to outlast foreign forces, even if President Obama’s proposals for enduring political and economic ties to the Afghan government come to pass. The question is what can compel the Taliban not to fight and to negotiate instead, a favored proposal of, among other people, U.K. Foreign Minister David Miliband and the nominal position of the Karzai government. And it’s unclear whether the change in strategy McChrystal wants and a possible infusion of additional troops can provide that compelling force.