Significant 2007 Events: The Taliban

by Joshua Foust on 12/18/2007 · 4 comments

It is time for another regional survey by our good friends at neweurasia.net. We’re discussing the most significant event of 2007 for our respective countries—in my case, Afghanistan.

Afghanistan’s most significant event of 2007 was no single event, but rather a rolling series of events: the entrenchment of the rise of the Taliban. Though their offensive truly began in September 2006, when NATO witnessed a three-fold increase in the number and severity of attacks on both troops and PRTs, 2007 was the year the Taliban’s advance changed from a seasonal variation in violence and became a permanent fixture of supposedly “post-Taliban” Afghanistan.

Perhaps the worst part of this recidivism is how easily it could have been prevented. For years and years, the West’s long string of broken promises and consistent underinvestment have rankled those Afghans who looked toward Washington for hope, and for relief. For years and years, it has been blindingly obvious how few troops were there to secure any sort of peace, yet instead of looking at the American refusal to send troops to Kabul (they were too busy being siphoned away for the Surge during the months of Expecto Petraeus), even respectable officials such as Bob Gates thought it best to blame the Europeans. While they certainly deserve a portion of the blame for how things have gone sideways, it is only a portion: years of American strategic fecklessness gave them an impossible situation.

ISAF, however, was not without blame: when they took over the job of providing primary security for the country, they reacted with shock that there was still fighting: hadn’t we already won, They all asked themselves. Why should we fight now? Of course, the catastrophic failure in planning and intelligence that would result in the U.S. primary military alliance being blindsided by something reported openly in the press is for another time; what matters now is, in early 2007 NATO found itself fighting an enemy it had never planned to fight: the Taliban.

The largest sub-story of the Taliban’s return is Musa Qala (it could be the Baghlan Bombing in terms of casualties, but we are looking at a larger picture). The Taliban occupied this otherwise sleepy town in February, and were not fought off until early December. It is, in short, a devastating response to the more than half-decade of effort by the West: that, seemingly on a whim, the Taliban can invade and occupy villages—and even more importantly, the West cannot stop them. A similar message was sent during the skirmishes in Arghandab—the Taliban can move at will through the countryside, and they cannot be halted except at great cost.

Meanwhile, more and more districts are being rendered into no-go zones due to the pervasive Taliban presence, and complete lack of response on the part of both the U.S. and NATO. The Taliban have been surging fighters into Afghanistan for well over a year; the only country to receive a courtesy bump in troops has been Iraq.

Indeed, 2007 might better be summarized as the year the U.S. abandoned Afghanistan—for the third time. And unless far more serious action is taken to arrest the rising tide, it will be remembered as the year the Taliban began their final push.

This is a part of neweurasia.net’s latest regional survey.


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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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{ 4 comments }

Patriot December 19, 2007 at 11:00 am

Joshua Foust must work for the, suppossed, Mullah Omar.
The message is the same.

Joshua Foust December 19, 2007 at 11:56 am

Umm. What?

Inkan1969 December 19, 2007 at 2:07 pm

I agree with you about the dangerous lack of attention the U.S. and ISAF have always been giving Afghanistan. But I wonder if your regional survey is actually more for Afghanistan of 2006 rather than 2007. I remember the offensive starting in May instead of September, when the Taliban had a large series of battles that resulted in 500 casualties. That was when the Taliban resurgence was really starting to get media attention. But this year, the Taliban were boasting of a spring offensive that never really came. They switched to suicide bombings as an annoyance instead. The Taliban tried to take over Arghandab, but did not succeed. In Pakistan, the situation right now is sour because of the emergency declaration, but right before that the country seemed to be finally taking military action against Taliban sympathizers in FATA, and in places like the Red Mosque. I hope Pakistan can get back to confronting the Taliban again soon. As for Musa Qala, I’m not sure if an immediate retaliation against the takeover would’ve been a good idea, considering the high civilian casualty toll such an action would’ve taken. And people are now considering talks with Taliban factions, to exploit divisions in the fractious group. I hope then that 2006 was the year of the Taliban resurgence but 2007 was the year of the Taliban’s stagnation. If the Western forces really are reconsidering their strategies and Karzai can push through significant talks, perhaps we then have the Taliban in a stalemate.

Joshua Foust December 21, 2007 at 4:47 pm

Inkan, you’re right that it started in 2006, but 2007 was when the violence became truly endemic, widespread, and seemingly permanent. In 2005/6 you didn’t see Mullah Omar, for example, bragging about occupying entire provinces of the country. The offensive into Arghandab was never meant to be an occupation, simply a way of proving their impunity (that is, if Sarah Chayes’ reports are accurate).

I don’t mean to say this was invented in 2007, merely that it became a permanent, and much deadlier, fixture of life in Afghanistan.

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