Outcome of Taliban’s widely expected offensive likely to impact how many U.S. troops can start going home in July
A British soldier from the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) passes by dead bodies, covered, at the site of a suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Photo credit: Musadeq Sadeq / AP)
By Patrick Quinn
April 14, 2011
KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghanistan’s fighting season will begin in full force by the end of this month as the trees bud and the last of the snows melt off the mountain tops — and with it, a chance to measure the success of NATO efforts to turn back the Taliban.
The ferocity of the Taliban’s widely expected spring offensive to regain lost territory and execute suicide attacks and assassinations will influence President Barack Obama’s decision about how many of the nearly 100,000 U.S. combat troops in Afghanistan can start going home in July.
The extent to which the Taliban return to the fight will also help determine whether the surge of more than 30,000 additional U.S. troops that Obama announced in December 2009 succeeded in arresting the insurgency.
The reinforcements have routed the Taliban from their strongholds, captured and killed mid- to upper-level leaders, uncovered and destroyed militants’ weapons caches and demolished their compounds — especially in southern Afghanistan, the birthplace of the insurgency.
But the militants, who have shown their resiliency time and again, have taken the fight to other areas of country with high-profile attacks in Kabul and elsewhere. What’s unknown is how strong the Taliban will prove to be as the fighting season gears up in what could be a defining year in the nearly decade-old war.
U.S. deaths are expected to climb, though the Americans have destroyed plenty of planted roadside bombs in the south over the past few months. Since the beginning of the war, 1,431 U.S. troops have died in Afghanistan, at least 77 of them so far this year. …
According to NATO, from Feb. 8 to April 8, Special Operations Forces conducted more than 1,380 operations and killed or captured about 430 insurgent leaders. NATO says more than 2,030 other insurgents were captured and nearly 500 were killed.
“Their capabilities were degraded to a great extent last year, but the real test will be to see the spring offensive, the first three months in spring,” Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak said. …
There are strong indications that the Taliban already are making dry runs, especially in the south and east. In southwestern Helmand province, they ordered four private cellular network operators to turn off more than 800,000 cell phones so they could move their forces around without fear of being reported.
On Saturday, the Taliban called spring of 2011 a “season of shining hope.” They announced military victories against American and French troops throughout the country and boasted about assassinations of leading Afghan security officials, according to SITE Intelligence group, a U.S.-based organization that tracks extremist websites.
The Taliban reiterated their call for an unconditional American surrender, claiming that the forthcoming withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan combined with recent militant successes foreshadows Western defeat. …
Taliban declares start of spring offensive (NBC News, April 30, 2011) — The Taliban declared the start of a spring offensive – an operation it called “Badar” — warning they planned to target foreign troops in Afghanistan as well as Afghan security forces and government officials in a wave of attacks across the country. In a statement, the hardline Islamists warned Afghan civilians to stay away from public gatherings, military bases and convoys, as well as Afghan government centers, as these would be the focus of attacks. The Taliban statement comes a day after senior military officials and Western diplomats warned they expected a surge in militant attacks over the next week. … Full story
Related reports on this site
U.S. soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division, cajole an Afghan donkey to carry supplies to their mountaintop post in southern Afghanistan, in 2006. (Phot0 credit: Rodrigo Abd / AP file)
Can U.S. Hold Afghanistan Gains? (March 9, 2011)
Afghan Spring Offensive Looms (Feb. 8, 2011)
Reinforcements for Afghan War (Jan. 6, 2011)
Afghanistan ‘Tom and Jerry’ War (Jan. 4, 2011)
2010 Review of Afghanistan War (Dec. 16, 2010)
FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — April 16, 2010
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One year ago today, I reported a New York Times/CBS News poll that found the 18 percent of Americans who identified themselves as Tea Party supporters were wealthier and more well-educated than the general public and tended to be Republican, white, male, and married.
FROM THE ARCHIVES: Two Years Ago — April 16, 2009
U.S. hate groups grow (NBC News, Feb. 27, 2009) – Hate groups including neo-Nazis and the Klan have grown in recent years, feeding on immigrant and economic distrust. NBC’s Chris Clackum reports. (01:37)
Two years ago today, on April 16, 2009, I reported that a Homeland Security Department intelligence estimate warned that right-wing extremists could use the bad state of the U.S. economy and the election of the country’s first black president to recruit members and incite violence.
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