A Taliban prize, won in a few hours after years of strategy

The New York Times reports: The Taliban’s largest strategic victory of its long insurgency seemed to unfold in a matter of hours: At dawn a few hundred insurgent fighters entered the northern provincial capital of Kunduz from three sides, and by afternoon they ruled it.

But even though it was a shocking victory, it hardly happened overnight. Signs of a determined and innovative Taliban campaign in the north, and Kunduz in particular, could be seen some two years ago.

Timed to the American withdrawal, a steady influx of insurgent fighters, a series of probing and patient territory grabs, and a hearts-and-minds campaign that took advantage of resentment of the government eventually delivered the Taliban’s biggest prize of the war.

Beyond questions about why American-trained forces collapsed so quickly, the issues raised by that long-term campaign of Taliban incursion illuminate a potentially grave threat to the American-backed Afghan government: The insurgents’ past aversion to all-out attacks against big cities may not have been because they never thought it possible, but merely because they weren’t ready until now. [Continue reading…]

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