Are the Taliban really on the brink of defeat?

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 4 months ago

The commander of British forces in Afghanistan has recently said that the Taliban are in very deep trouble.

Missions by special forces and air strikes by unmanned drones have “decapitated” the Taliban and brought the war in Afghanistan to a “tipping point”, the commander of British forces has said.

The new “precise, surgical” tactics have killed scores of insurgent leaders and made it extremely difficult for Pakistan-based Taliban leaders to prosecute the campaign, according to Brig Mark Carleton-Smith.

In the past two years an estimated 7,000 Taliban have been killed, the majority in southern and eastern Afghanistan. But it is the “very effective targeted decapitation operations” that have removed “several echelons of commanders”.

This in turn has left the insurgents on the brink of defeat, the head of Task Force Helmand said.

These are strong words, and they markedly disagree with other official reports.  On May 15, 2008, a NATO spokesman stated that “attacks by insurgents in eastern Afghanistan have risen sharply,” and on May 20, 2008, Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reported to Congress that violence in Afghanistan is increasing.  He also stated:

“In short, a stable Iraq and Afghanistan that are long-term partners and share our commitment to peace will be critical to achieving regional stability and security,” he said.

“This will require years, not months, and will require the support of the American people, our regional allies and concerted action by the Iraqi and Afghan people and their leaders.”

These radically divergent reports are not atypical of NATO behavior in Afghanistan.  We are accustomed to well-rehearsed strategy and clear, consistent communication from the Multinational Force in Iraq.  NATO performs more like a multi-headed creature with different countries not only failing to ensure consistency in communication, but following very different strategies (most remarkably the British at all levels of the government).

Finally, in undeniable demonstration of the point, General McNeill, top commander of the NATO forces in Afghanistan, failed to confirm the view of the British commander.

The 24th MEU deployed to Afghanistan in February 2008 to battle the Taliban in the Helmand province, and there is current discussion of deployment of more Marines to replace the 24th MEU.  Marines aren’t deployed to the campaign when the enemy is defeated.  Common sense should be applied, and effusive reports of both victory and defeat should generally be rejected in favor of seeing counterinsurgency as a protracted but necessary process.

In lieu of the British good news of imminent victory (the Brits simply got a little too emotional), we can say that the campaign in Afghanistan is winnable.  The realistic view is that force projection is required, and that, for a protracted period of time.

  • trollsmasher

    A buddy of mine sent this to me the other day and I almost spit coffee all over my computer. I went into this huge tirade that carried over into lunch. Making the same arguments as you did plus added the FATA into it. Meshud have a $45 million military budget sort of blows this argument apart even though he claims only 5% of his forces are in Pakistan at any one time. I have stated this before we need to go injun on the border and close it as well as can be then make consistant strikes into the FATA to try and chop the heads off the hydra. Make U.S. forces the shield and spear for the NATO chaps so they can build bridges and train the Afghans up.


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This article is filed under the category(s) Afghanistan,Taliban and was published June 2nd, 2008 by Herschel Smith.

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