The US Secretary of State's Country Reports on Terrorism 2009, published yesterday, makes bleak reading. On Afghanistan it notes that Taliban attacks increased over 2008, but that the direct influence of al-Qaeda diminished.
However, as the report notes: "the anti-government insurgency remained a capable, determined, and resilient threat to stability and to the expansion of government authority, particularly in the south and east. The insurgency continued to suffer heavy combat losses, including among senior leaders, but its ability to recruit soldiers remained undiminished. Taliban information operations were aggressive and sophisticated, including, for example, Mullah Omar’s injunctions on the Taliban website for Taliban fighters to avoid harming civilians and monitor local communities regarding their satisfaction with Taliban shadow government officials’ performance."
The report says that despite efforts by the international community to cut off funding to the insurgency, it is still getting funds from narcotics, trafficking and kidnapping, criminal enterprises and taxing local populations.
One could also add bank robbery. A few days ago six private security guards at the Kabul Bank in Mazar-e-Sharif were poisoned and then beheaded during a bank robbery. The dead men were found locked inside a room when staff arrived in the morning. Reports said the robbers had been invited by the guards to have dinner with them. Around $200,000 was missing from the bank.
As the insurgency grows in strength, Taliban strategy is becoming clearer and shows that the organisation uses different tactics in different places. In an interview in the latest edition of al-Somood, the Taliban's monthly magazine, Sheikh Nur ul-Haqq Mujahid bin Mohammed, the Taliban military commander in the Maydan Shahr district of Wardak province, stated in a recent interview that Taliban forces are trying to block a major supply corridor south of Kabul and “close it permanently.” The road connects Kabul to Kandahar and its blockage would be a major setback for Coalition forces.
Sheikh Nur ul-Haqq's interview, also states that in Kunar and Nuristan "the most suitable military method is a military clash because those two provinces possess a geographic situation suitable for this military strategy. Meanwhile, in Helmand and the southwest of Afghanistan the preferred method is to plant mines and use explosives because the terrain of those areas is desert terrain, which does not afford the mujahideen secure places to hide. As for Kabul, martyrdom operations and surprise attacks are best because the open concentration of large numbers of invaders there gives the mujahideen an opportunity to launch those kinds of campaigns against their bases and barracks."