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Taliban strategy and current situation in Afghanistan

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  1. Taliban strategy and current situation in Afghanistan
  2.  
  3. The Taliban strategy in Afghanistan throughout most of the war has been one of an insurgent warfare - with the goals of wearing down NATO/Kabul Gov't strength by way of IEDs, ambushes, hit-and-run attacks, assassinations of competent/semi-competent leaders in the gov't.
  4. However, in the past decade, especially starting in 2015, the Taliban have switched to an asymmetrical war against the gov't and NATO with the goal of recapturing land and cities, and the ultimate goal of overthrowing the Kabul government and ruling Afghanistan for the first time since 2001.
  5.  
  6. I will outline the Taliban strategy and how the government's current strategy will inevitably feed into the Taliban's strategy.
  7.  
  8. The Taliban are their strongest in the rural regions of Afghanistan (mountains, desert, deep countryside) and in Pashtun-majority areas (Southern Afghanistan in general, most of the Pakistani border, and scattered in Northern Afghanistan) while winning over Uzbeks (Northern Afghanistan, Faryab to Takhar), Tajiks (NE Afghanistan, especially Badakhshan province), Aimak (Parts of Herat and almost all of Ghor provinces), and Turkmens (Turkmenistan border); the gov't is the strongest in the population centers of Afghanistan (Kabul, provincial capitals, populated areas in general) and in Hazara-majority areas (Central Afghanistan)
  9. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/bb/US_Army_ethnolinguistic_map_of_Afghanistan_--_circa_2001-09.jpg
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  11. Thus, the Taliban have adopted the strategy of capturing the massive rural regions of Afghanistan due to a weak government presence in those regions, and using those regions as a staging ground for attacks on more populated areas.
  12. The ultimate target of this strategy however is the provincial capitals - Farah, Ghazni, Kunduz, etc. - but capturing the countryside is key since a frontal assault on the gov't strongholds is doomed to fail due to NATO air support; the only exception is Kunduz, which was captured by a mere 500 Taliban on Sept 28, 2015 due to abysmal leadership on the gov't part.
  13. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/29/world/asia/taliban-fighters-enter-city-of-kunduz-in-northern-afghanistan.html
  14.  
  15. The Taliban strategy goes in four phases
  16. Phase 1 (Insurgent level) - capture the deep countryside to have a starting point (Panjshir, Daykundi provinces)
  17. Phase 2 (District level) - capture the populated countryside to gain recruits, staging areas, strategic (out)flanking positions (Kandahar, Herat, Nimruz, Khost, Nuristan, Parwan, Jowzjan, Sar-e Pul, Kapisa, Balkh, Kunar, Kabul provinces)
  18. Phase 3 (Provincial level) - advance on the provincial capitals by surrounding the capital cities via capturing the countryside on multiple flanks and cutting the roads leading to them, placing them under a de-facto siege (Ghazni, Faryab, Uruzgan, Kunduz, Badakhshan, Baghdis, Helmand, Zabul, Paktikia, Paktia, Laghman, Takhar, Samangan, Logar, Wardak, Baghlan, Nangarhar, Farah)
  19. Phase 4 (National level) - wage a protracted active siege with insurgent attacks, assassinations, IED attacks, insider attacks; then storm the capital cities with an overwhelming force, forcing the surrender of the gov't & NATO forces or killing them. However, opportunities like Kunduz may arise and the Taliban will seize these chances wherever they surface.
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  21. Furthermore, we take these figures into account:
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  23. >#News During the year 2018 a total of 8010 soldiers & police surrendered to Mujahidin, surrendering 1120 unit heavy/light weaponry along with 53 APCs & pickup trucks.
  24. https://twitter.com/Zabihullah_4/status/1080512460275286016
  25.  
  26. >https://justpaste.it/3ipps
  27. >Death toll of 22,594
  28. >Injury toll of 14,063
  29. Add 22,594 to 8010, and that's 30,604 losses - not including injured - for the gov't.
  30. For reference, the gov't lost around the same amount over the course of 3 years from 2015-2018.
  31.  
  32. >In a report released on Tuesday, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR, said the number of forces in the Afghan National Defense and Security forces (ANDSF), which includes the army, air force and police, totaled an estimated 296,400 personnel as of January. That was a drop of 10.6 percent compared to the same month in 2017.
  33. >The authorized strength of the ANDSF is 334,000 personnel.
  34. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-afghanistan-military/afghan-security-forces-see-drop-in-numbers-as-security-deteriorates-idUSKBN1I22QV
  35.  
  36. 296,400 - 30,604 (assuming the losses the Taliban claim to inflict on the ANDSF weren't already being inflicted as of date of that 296,400 figure (Jan 2018) = 265,796. Which means 10.32% losses, not including injured.
  37. Now, we add in injured: 22,594 + 14,063 + 8,010 = 44,667 losses inflicted on the ANA as it existed in Jan 2018 over the course of 2018.
  38.  
  39. 296,400 - 44,667 = 251,733. Which means 15.06% losses on the ANDSF as it existed in Jan 2018 over the course one year!
  40.  
  41. 334,000 - 251,733 = 82,267 total losses assuming ANA started at full strength (334k). Which means a total of 24.63% losses, with 61.14% of those losses (15.06%) being inflicted over the course of one year!
  42.  
  43. The government is losing its army at a rapid rate - especially having already lost a quarter of their military - and thus are unable to effectively defend the countryside against Taliban attacks, even with NATO air support. Therefore, their only choice is to keep fighting in the countryside and risk being encircled by the Taliban and besieged, or retreat to the provincial capitals.
  44. However, such a retreat plays right into the Taliban strategy, as the countryside the gov't retreats from is part of their strategy against the provincial capitals, and gives the Taliban free staging areas against the provincial capitals and thus makes them more isolated and vulnerable to Taliban attacks.
  45. The choice then translates into fight in the countryside and risk encirclements of units that became isolated from each other, leaving the capitals with less soldiers to defend them; or retreat to the capitals, keeping the military more or less intact, but in a worse strategic position as they will be grouped together, but also isolated when the Taliban surround the capitals and lay siege to them.
  46.  
  47. -
  48.  
  49. One thing is certain however: the government will lose the war, as the ANDSF is disintegrating due to major insurgent attacks like the one below
  50. https://twitter.com/RisboLensky/status/1087386974439247873
  51. https://twitter.com/RisboLensky/status/1087465086577446913
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  53. Or defections/surrenders/desertions, exacerbated by abysmal or even nonexistent(!) pay (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-afghanistan-army-desertions/desertions-deplete-afghan-forces-adding-to-security-worries-idUSKCN0UW1K3), abysmal morale due to successful insurgent attacks, assassinations of competent/semi-competent leaders while leaving the incompetent leaders (General Dostum, area of responsiblity: Faryab province, which is majority Taliban-controlled) in charge.
  54.  
  55. There is also the fact that the Taliban are picking up American-supplied combat gear, equipment, and weapons due to ANDSF soldiers leaving behind such things during their flight from many Taliban attacks, which the Taliban then acquire and use in future attacks that are more successful due to the tactical edge, leading to a snowball effect.
  56. https://thediplomat.com/2018/06/how-the-us-is-indirectly-arming-the-taliban/
  57.  
  58. Finally, the Taliban are establishing diplomatic relations neighboring countries, especially the countries that have major political clout in the region, and are very well on their way to becoming an internationally-recognized group.
  59. China - https://www.cnbc.com/2016/12/16/china-cleared-by-taliban-to-mine-for-copper-in-afghanistan.html
  60. Pakistan - https://twitter.com/Zulmai_Afghan/status/1095742275928367104
  61. Russia (not a neighbor but still relevant) - http://tass.com/world/1044251
  62. Iran (alleged) - https://thediplomat.com/2018/05/irans-support-for-the-taliban-brings-it-to-a-crossroads-with-afghanistan/
  63.  
  64. Finally, even America - among other countries in the region - recognizes that the government will fall, as exemplified by the US-Taliban negotiations that completely exclude the Kabul government, and the Kabul government were also excluded from the Moscow negotiations - https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/02/taliban-afghan-opposition-hold-moscow-talks-government-190205135737423.html
  65.  
  66. -
  67.  
  68. Some quick calculations
  69.  
  70. ~30,000 govt soldiers killed from 2015-2018
  71. 365x3 = 1,095 days
  72. 30,000/1,095 = average of 27 govt soldiers killed per day
  73. 44,667 govt casualties (as defined by KIA, wounded, and MIA) over the course of one year (2018) = 122 casualties per day - honestly this fits in with the reports I’ve been reading from Afghanistan: in March, the Taliban captured over 190(!) govt soldiers in less than a week!
  74. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/17/world/asia/afghanistan-soldiers-taliban-turkmenistan.html
  75.  
  76. 27/122 = 0.22 or 22% increase in casualties - doesn’t seem like a lot but it adds up quickly
  77.  
  78. Assuming this increase in casualties continue at a constant rate
  79. 44,667 x .22 = 9,826
  80. 9,826 + 44,667 = 54,602 casualties projected for 2019 (149 casualties per day)
  81. As of Jan 2019, the govt stood at 251,733 troops
  82. Minus 54,602 = 197,131 remaining by Jan 2020
  83.  
  84. 54,602 x .22 = 12,012 increased casualties
  85. 54,602 + 12,012 = 66,614 casualties in 2020 (182 casualties per day)
  86. 196,131 - 66,614 = 129,517 remaining govt soldiers in Jan 2021
  87.  
  88. 66,614 x .22 = 14,655 increased casualties
  89. 66,614 + 14,655 = 81,269 casualties in 2021 (222 casualties per day)
  90. 129,517 - 81,269 = 48,248 remaining govt soldiers in Jan 2022.
  91. There will be no govt left by 2023
  92.  
  93. This is not including recruiting for the gov't.
  94.  
  95. -
  96.  
  97. In conclusion, time is on the side of the Taliban, and against the Kabul gov't. Casualties in battles or insurgent attacks involving the Taliban will continue to mount; defections, surrenders, and desertions will rise as the ANDSF finds itself disintegrating and in a increasingly precarious strategic position while the Taliban grow in strength and political clout. More Afghanis join the Taliban than the government, which means more fighters for the Taliban and less soldiers for the government.
  98. The provincial capitals will continue to be increasingly isolated until the Taliban finally storm and hold the provincial capitals which will start a domino effect that goes all the way to Kabul, where the Kabul leadership will either flee before Kabul falls or be arrested, brought before a Sharia court, found guilty of crimes against humanity by the Sharia court, and then sentenced according to Sharia law, thus cementing Taliban rule over Afghanistan for the first time since 2001.
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