Who’s On The Offensive?

While the ISAF has delayed its much publicized Kandahar offensive, once again, the Taliban aren’t waiting around on the defensive. The Taliban continue to attack the ISAF, and they’re attacking them where they live, in broad daylight.

Afghan Taliban attacks NATO airfield, wounding two troops

Afghan Taliban-linked militants launched a bold daytime attack on a NATO airfield outside the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad on Wednesday, setting off a car bomb and firing light weapons and rocket-propelled grenades in a battle that killed at least eight militants and wounded two coalition personnel.

The attack comes at a delicate time for the NATO-led International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF), just days before US General David Petraeus arrives to assume command after the ouster of US General Stanley McChrystal for insubordination. Coalition casualties are also climbing: as The Christian Science Monitor reported, June has been the deadliest month of the nine-year war for coalition troops, with 101 soldiers killed.

Wednesday’s battle began when a car bomb went off at the entrance to Jalalabad airfield, 78 miles east of the Afghan capital of Kabul near the border with Pakistan. The explosion was followed by a 30-minute gun battle with militants, says the Associated Press. Eight attackers were killed and two coalition personnel were wounded, including one Afghan soldier and one international soldier.

The New York Times reports that the attack was similar in style to the attack on Bagram Air Base in May, when a suicide bomber driving a car detonated his explosives at a gate to the base, clearing the way for Taliban fighters to enter the complex.

The BBC reports that militants attacked the Jalalabad base from multiple directions in what it calls “a commando-style raid,” a more sophisticated tactic that the Taliban has increasingly relied on to deliver heavier civilian and military casualties.

See also:
US, Afghans repel attack against major base
NATO Forces Repel Taliban Attack on Airbase
Eight Taliban fighters killed in failed raid on Nato base
Taliban suicide bombers launch attack on Afghanistan super base
Taliban suicide bombers attack NATO base in Afghanistan
Taliban Attack NATO Base in Eastern Afghanistan
Taliban attack Afghan airfield
Taliban attack Afghanistan Nato base near Jalalabad
When Taliban Attack

Although, so far, the Taliban haven’t been able to cause any substantial damage or casualties or successfully breach the perimeter of any of the major ISAF bases that they’ve brazenly attacked recently, they have shown sophistication in planning the attacks and they’ve been extremely persistent. All it will take is for the Taliban to breach the perimeter of just one of these bases and get their militants inside to cause a lot of mayhem and score a huge propaganda victory, along the lines of the Viet Cong getting inside the wall of the U.S. embassy in Saigon during the Tet Offensive. Tactically, it was nothing, strategically, it meant everything, in terms of propaganda.

/all I can say is that it’s a good thing that the Taliban don’t have access to any air power, they’re giving our coalition forces enough trouble on the ground

A Glimpse Into The Future Of Afghanistan?

If this is an example of what’s going to happen when the NATO coalition starts to withdraw, we may as well give up and leave now, because the Afghan government is apparently no match for the Taliban.

Taliban seize border town as Afghan forces retreat

Taliban forces spearheading a spring offensive seized a remote town near Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan Saturday as Afghan government forces retreated, according to U.S. and Afghan officials.

After a week of intense fighting, hundreds of Taliban fighters overwhelmed local government forces, who said they were making a “tactical retreat” from Barg-e-Matal to spare civilians from getting caught in the crossfire.

Taliban fighters seized control of Barg-e-Matal nearly a year after they briefly seized the isolated Nuristan district center last summer but were driven out by U.S. and Afghan forces.

This time, hundreds of Afghan fighters defending the town fled early Saturday morning when they began to run out of ammunition and supplies. The U.S.-led coalition provided limited air support and ran a few supply runs for the Afghan government forces, but didn’t offer significant aid, according to Afghan and U.S. officials.

“We could not resist,” said Haji Mohammed Ismaile, a former Barg-e-Matal district governor, in a telephone interview with McClatchy as he joined hundreds of fleeing Afghan fighters. “There was no support from the government or the (international military) coalition.”

“We could hear them on the radio calling us to surrender and telling us that if we lay down our weapons they would not kill us,” said Ismaile. “But we did not surrender because they would slaughter us.”

The Taliban assault is the latest in the militants’ expanding spring offensive on a number of fronts, while U.S.-led forces are trying to train Afghan forces and mounting an offensive in southern Afghanistan that some officials say lacks sufficient troops.

Ahmad Nader Nadery, a prominent member of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, said that the fall of Barg-e-Matal to the Taliban should be a cautionary lesson for Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top allied military commander in Afghanistan, about relying on shaky Afghan forces to defend the country without outside help.

“Things are very fragile, and our fear is that if you withdraw from those places without building up a force that is responsible to the central government, then you can’t hold those districts,” said Nadery.

See also:
Afghan police vacate district in E Afghanistan
Taliban Fighters Seize District in Eastern Afghanistan
Taliban take control of district in Nuristan
Taliban capture Afghan district on Pakistani border
Taliban capture Afghan district on Pakistan border
Taliban Push Afghan Police Out of Valley
Taliban seize town in east Afghanistan
Taliban claim capturing Nuristan’s Barg-e-Mattal district

And Obama plans on starting to withdraw from Afghanistan next year? We’ve had nine years to stand up and train Afghan military and police forces and they still can’t defend or supply themselves. What miracle in the next twelve months is going to magically enable the Afghan government to fend for itself?

/or are we getting ready to throw Afghanistan under the Taliban bus?

You’ve Got To Get Out To Get In

“Retreat Hell! We’re just attacking in another direction.”
(Attributed to Major General Oliver P. Smith, USMC, Korea, December 1950.)

Afghanistan war: US leaves remote outpost of Korengal

It became known as “Enemy Central,” a small, isolated slice of eastern Afghanistan synonymous with violence, a dogged adversary and, increasingly, futility. More than 40 US soldiers have died there after being drawn into battles of attrition for questionable return. In the worst such incident, 16 American troops on a special forces mission were killed when their helicopter crashed under enemy fire.

Now the last US troops have pulled out of the Korengal valley on the grounds that they can be better used somewhere else. “This repositioning, in partnership with the Afghan National Security Forces, responds to the requirements of the new population-centric counterinsurgency strategy,” Lt. Gen. David M. Rodriguez, joint commander of international forces in Afghanistan, said in a statement on NATO’s website. “The move does not prevent forces from rapidly responding, as necessary, to crises there in Korengal and in other parts of the region, as well.”

Part of Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s strategy is to pull troops back from remote mountain outposts and concentrate them in the towns and villages where more of the Afghan population lives. By putting the emphasis on protecting civilians instead of killing Taliban fighters, he hopes to drive a wedge between the two, isolating and alienating the insurgents.

The withdrawal in Korengal – a short tributary valley so isolated that its inhabitants speak their own language – has been going on for months. Combat Outpost Vegas, high up in the valley, closed last year. But US military officials have said in the past that the strategy was delayed by a shortage of cargo helicopters, military bureaucracy, and Afghan politics.

And it is not just Korengal that is seeing American forces depart. The US footprint in nearby Nuristan Province – the mountain highlands that were the setting for Rudyard Kipling’s tale of imperial hubris, “The Man Who Would Be King,” has all but vanished, too. Two separate attacks in 2008 and 2009 saw a total of 17 US soldiers die when insurgents overran their outposts in remarkably similar circumstances.

The signs in Nuristan, though, are encouraging. Since the US pulled all its troops out of Kamdesh district, the scene of the most recent of these battles, Taliban-linked insurgents have been on the back foot as local communities and elders turn against them.

See also:
ISAF Units Realign in Eastern Afghanistan
American troops pull out of Korengal Valley as strategy shifts
US forces leave Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley
U.S. Forces Leave Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley
U.S. retreat from Afghan valley marks recognition of blunder
After the bloodshed, the leaving
US leave, Taliban claim victory
Korangal valley
Hi-Def Pics – One of the Heaviest Taliban Combat Areas: Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley (15 photos)

Well, McChrystal wrote the U.S. book on counterinsurgency, so he certainly knows what he’s doing, given the terrain and number of troops available, we certainly can’t occupy every square inch of Afghanistan. Besides the bloody fighting for limited returns, it also appears that our very presence in the Korengal valley was counterproductive to positive relations with the local civilian population living in the area. Not only weren’t we accomplishing much militarily, we weren’t winning any hearts and minds either, better to redeploy our limited resources and try our luck somewhere else.

/all that said, it doesn’t mean the Taliban and the Lefty media won’t be doing a happy dance while spinning this withdrawal as a propaganda victory and an American defeat