Taliban fight: Time running out

2009-12-28 11:18
Kabul - Time is running out in the fight to eradicate the Taliban from Afghanistan as the extremists evolve, recruit and spread their influence across the country, according to Western military intelligence.

The insurgency is organised, increasingly effective and growing more cohesive, said a senior intelligence officer with Nato's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

"The insurgent strength is enabled by the weakness of the Afghan government," the officer told reporters on condition of anonymity.

The Taliban is funding its operations, which he estimated to cost between $100m to $200m a year, through "Al-Qaeda, drugs and taxing the people".

Global entity

Its ideology is based on "establishing al-Qaeda as a global entity", ridding the region of foreign forces and establishing a caliphate, or Islamic state, and the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan work together to those ends.

The United States and its allies "took our eye off the ball" for a number of years, allowing the movement to grow and strengthen, the officer said.

Now, "where the (Afghan) government is weak, the enemy is strong", able to exploit the corruption and unpopularity of President Hamid Karzai's administration.

"In 33 out of 34 provinces, the Taliban has a shadow government," the ISAF officer said, adding that its shadowy leader Mullah Mohammad Omar "has a government-in-waiting, with ministers chosen" for the day the government falls.

"Time is running out. Taliban influence is expanding," he said.

Boosting troop numbers

The briefing on the military perception of the strengths and weaknesses of the insurgency comes as the United States and Nato are boosting troop numbers and escalating their commitment in Afghanistan.

US President Barack Obama has committed another 30 000 troops, bolstered by 6 800 from NATO, to bring to around 150 000 the number of foreign soldiers.

The extra troops, backed by a commensurate civilian surge to couple development with military aims, should be in place by late 2010.

Experts have warned that enhanced deployments will attract Taliban fighters, leading to more battles and a higher death rate among foreign soldiers - which could exacerbate public calls in the West for withdrawal.

The Taliban have vowed to boost their own deployment to meet the extra foreign troops.

Foreign casualties have reached record levels, with the number of Americans dying in Afghanistan in 2009 reaching double the 2008 toll. This year's total foreign deaths was 506, of whom 310 were American, according to an AFP tally based on figures from independent icasualties.org.

Taliban tactics

The intelligence officer said the effectiveness of improvised explosive devices or IEDs - which he called the "surface-to-air missiles of this war" - was evidence of the Taliban's ability to evolve tactics to meet improved defences of international troops.

"Eighty to ninety percent" of casualties are caused by IEDs, made with ammonium nitrate fertiliser which is rarely used in agriculture in Afghanistan.

IED weights have risen from 11kg to up to more than 900 kg, he said, capable of destroying heavily-armoured military vehicles.

"They have adapted," he said. "They have chosen the IED as the way they are going to fight us. They are still doing direct fire and suicide attacks but the IED is the weapon of choice for the Taliban."

IED "events" reached 7 228 this year, with 6 037 military casualties, ISAF statistics show. This compared with 81 attacks in 2003, then 1 922 in 2006, 2 718 in 2007 and 4 169 in 2008.

"The enemy's capacity to boost their capability is significantly higher," he said. "We should be taking lessons from their logistics chief."


The Afghan Taliban had 25 000 to 30 000 fighters, he said, adding that up to 500 000 people could be open to exploitation by the militia because of unemployment, poverty and lawlessness.

Omar, believed to be based in Pakistan, introduced regulations for commanders and fighters, echoing counter-insurgency guidelines issued this year to US and Nato troops.

"It's a population-centred strategy. It contains directives similar to ISAF - prohibitions on mistreating the population, or forcibly taking people's possessions," the ISAF officer said.

Coalition and Afghan forces "have a year to prove our strategy can work," he said.

Obama has said the United States wants to begin drawing down in mid-2011, as long as the Afghan forces it is training are able to take over responsibility for the country's security.

Read more on:    nato  |  afghanistan  |  terrorism

Read News24’s Comments Policy


Inside News24


Africa: Land of Billionaires!

Find out who are the richest of the richest in Africa!



Best bro movies 2014
Every man should be able to do these three things
Goalkeeper saves five penalties with his FACE!
Hottie of the day: Jesselyn

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Hot festive offers at kalahari.com!

Hurry! Stocks are limited. Don’t miss out. Shop Now!

Save up to 60% on toys!

Don’t miss out on this hot offer, save up to 60% on toys. While stocks last. Shop now!

Festive gifts!

Check out our awesome range of festive gifts to make everyone’s wishes come true. Shop now!

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

Save up to R2200 on electronics! – As seen in the catalogue

Wishing for tech gadgets this festive? Save up to R2100 on hot tech products at kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25


Grandiose ideas and plans can trip you up today. Keep things in context and take one step at a time....read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.