Afghanistan: Changing tactics and greater

by Nathan Hamm on 9/1/2003

Afghanistan: Changing tactics and greater activity for TalibanTaliban
attacks throughout the south and east of Afghanistan have greatly
increased lately, and they are showing that the Taliban has
significantly changed its strategies as detailed by the New York Times (registration required).
Most disturbing is that they are now targeting anyone cooperating with
the Karzai government, not to mention any and all foreigners. This is
in contrast to their treatment of regular Afghans.

Taliban gunmen are also showing a new, uncharacteristic
diplomacy, according to reports received by aid groups. On rural roads,
gunmen give men who shave their beards or listen to music a brief
sermon and send them on their way. In the past, such offenders landed
in jail.
The gunmen are “smiling and friendly,” said Nick Downie, a security
coordinator with the Afghanistan NGO Security Office, a nonprofit
group.

They have also stepped up their propaganda campaign with
“night letters” criticizing the lack of security and other services in
the southeast of the country. Also, there is a large psy-ops component
involved as well.

“They have a sophisticated strategy of going after local
people,” a senior Western diplomat said. “The mantra they use is that
the Americans and the international community will leave someday, and
we will come back.”

Taliban military tactics are showing more sophistication and regional
differences as well. Taliban soldiers have learned to avoid thermal
night sights by covering themselves with blankets, for example. Attacks
on foreign soldiers are more common farther from Kandahar, where most
attacks come against Afghans. The result of all of the above is a
disconnect between the government in Kabul and the Pashtun southeast.
As if this wasn’t entirely obvious, this all speaks to the need to
capture Mullah Omar and extend security to the southeast to give aid
workers an opportunity to develop the area.


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– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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