Sunday, February 1, 2009

Taliban 'not as weak as the military claims'

Graeme Smith:

Taliban turning to more 'complex' attacks
Globe and Mail

JANUARY 26 - Taliban fighters are increasingly hitting their targets directly instead of relying on bombs, according to a year-end statistical review that contradicts a key NATO message about the war in Afghanistan.

Public statements from Canadian and other foreign troops have repeatedly emphasized the idea that the insurgents are losing momentum because they can only detonate explosives, failing to confront their opponents in combat.

But an analysis of almost 13,000 violent incidents in Afghanistan in 2007 and 2008, prepared by security consultant Sami Kovanen and provided to The Globe and Mail, shows a clear trend toward open warfare.

By far the most common type of incident, in Mr. Kovanen's analysis, is the so-called “complex attack,” meaning ambushes or other kinds of battle using more than one type of weapon. The analyst counted 2,555 such attacks in 2008, up 117 per cent from the previous year...

The latest trends are disturbing, he says, because the Taliban need more manpower to launch complex ambushes...

[In Kandahar province] the number of bombing incidents has grown more quickly – up 141 per cent – than complex attacks – up 83 per cent. Kandahar remains the most violent province in the country...

“Clearly they are not as weak as the military claims,” Mr. Kovanen said...

[Beginning last summer] his database started to show the Taliban using more bombs against foreign troops and saving their guerrilla fighters for strikes on easier targets such as the Afghan army and police. That may explain why the pattern of attacks was different in Kandahar, with its concentration of international forces... (link)

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