The Great Taliban Summer Offensive of 2009

A while back NATO announced its yet another ambitious offensive in Afghanistan. It is still continuing. Supposedly. While closely coordinated, the offensive originally consisted of two major operations by the British and American contingents in Afghanistan in their respective zones of occupation and also in adjacent areas which are either controlled by the Taliban or where Taliban fighters make frequent inroads.

Assigned very colorful operational names — “Panther’s Claw” for the British operation and “Strike of the Sword” for the American one, the two newest — and still ongoing — military ventures were based on a plan prepared by NATO’s master planners — the declared goals were to push back and disrupt the Taliban and even — rather optimistically — to seize and hold some territory. At the time NATO hoped that, in addition to a military success, the end political result would be an improved security during Afghanistan’s forthcoming presidential election.

Offensive action began to much fanfare, prominent media coverage and optimistic forecasts by various defense analysts and was — as per usual — accompanied with habitual references to, and incantations of, the ‘awesome’ power of NATO, the “most powerful military alliance in the world”.

But just a month into NATO’s newest summer campaign a very different picture begins to emerge. It increasingly looks like NATO is about to suffer its yet another ignominious defeat. So far the only two tangible results seem to be heavy NATO casualties and a rising civilian death toll while there is no reliable information on Taliban casualties (if any) whatsoever. In the month of July alone the British lost over 20 soldiers dead, including a senior commander, and their American comrades in occupation lost some 44 soldiers, plus one who either defected to, or was captured by, the Taliban. Other nations’ troops also reported losses. What’s significant about these figures is that modern warfare is characterized by an increased percentage of the wounded, injured or maimed in the overall casualty figures. The ratio of wounded to dead is at least ten to one and may be as high as one hundred to one. That means that, in addition to those killed in action, the Brits and the Yanks lost hundreds if not thousands wounded in July alone.

It just proves that the Taliban are far from finished, even in the immediate theaters of war where the British and the Americans are supposed to be engaged in the offensive. What’s certain is that the Taliban retain their ability to strike at the time of their choosing and to inflict severe casualties on foreign troops while most likely suffering none themselves. The use of the Taliban’s most preferred weapon — the IED — is a case in point. Consider this: in a typical, well-executed and successful IED attack Taliban fighters get to kill 2-3 foreign occupiers, wound and maim a further 10 to 30, and themselves live to fight another day and probably get on opportunity to make a nice video of the attack. Not that they are averse to a decent firefight when they know they can have it on their terms.

NATO’s other stated goals have not been achieved either. The British and American troops may have ventured beyond their fortified bases, may have gone into some towns, bazaars and villages but they still control nothing except where they are massed. And providing security in time for the elections is already impossible.

It now increasingly looks that local Taliban commanders may have had their own war plan for the summer of 2009, particularly in areas with mass concentrations of British and American troops. They probably waited for the British and American “warriors” to make a move, to expose themselves and their lines of communications to Taliban attacks. The beauty of it from their point of view is that they now have the British and American troops exactly where they want them — dispersed over a much larger territory making it easier for them to prey on their LOCs, to strike at will and to wage their guerrilla style campaign on remote and isolated enemy outposts which however may be quickly augmented with well coordinated counter-attacks or even a full-blown offensive of the Taliban’s own making, should the situation look right to the Taliban high command.

Well what can you say? It looks like the “panther” had its claws forcibly removed while “the sword” may have been wrestled from the hand of the attacker and buried in his infidel belly.

If things continue as they have been this past month, future historians might well remember 2009 as the year of the greatest Taliban summer offensive in Afghanistan — the offensive that finally broke NATO’s humped back.


Victorious Taliban, a.k.a the Students


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