The Taliban withdrawal is a strategic move, not a sign of retreat.
November 15, 2001 3:41 AM   Subscribe

The Taliban withdrawal is a strategic move, not a sign of retreat. By strategically handing over key Afghan cities to the Northern Alliance before melting into the mountainsides, the Taliban tossed political hand grenades at the United States. On the surface, it appears the Taliban were dealt a crushing defeat. Thousands of Taliban fighters switched sides or were captured during the Northern Alliance’s advance, and the remainder melted into the hills having put up almost no fight. However, the Taliban withdrawal was far from a rout. Rather, it reflects abandonment of a strategy that could have led to their destruction, in preparation for a more traditional and effective strategy for combat in Afghanistan — guerrilla warfare.
posted by Davezilla (23 comments total)

 
StratFor is trying too hard. Their analysis rings completely false. I'm afraid I don't find it convincing at all. (And this is nearly a double-post.)
posted by Steven Den Beste at 3:47 AM on November 15, 2001


So close as to be indistinguishable.
posted by luser at 4:44 AM on November 15, 2001


This is somewhat along the lines of DSSi's strategic scenario analysis. STRATFOR says they predicted the Taliban withdrawl back in October. Ramadan starts in a couple of days, and given all the political concern about bombing through Ramadan, I am surprised at the timing of the Taliban withdrawl. As well, I can't see the advantage of the Taliban putting their armour and troops on roads where they can be picked off by American warplanes, which seems to be happening.

That being said, one has to wonder about the ultimate aims of the Taliban and Al-Queda. There are an awful lot of assumptions being made about Al-Queda's plan at this point, and I doubt bin Laden has traditional military objectives in mind.

Last evening I watched an MSNBC interview with Peter Bergen, author of Holy War, Inc.: Inside The Secret World of Osama Bin Laden. He thought that bin Laden may well intend to die in the current conflict and that he has a "nasty surprise" -- a weapon of mass distruction -- that will be used as a last resort. Hamid Mir, the editor of Pakistan's Ausaf newspaper who interviewed bin Laden last week, was of a similar opinion.

BBC has a transcript of an interview with Taleban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar in which he states "the current situation in Afghanistan is related to a bigger cause - that is the destruction of America... If God's help is with us, this will happen within a short period of time; keep in mind this prediction." Bin Laden claims he has nuclear weapons, and Western intelligence agencies say they have discovered evidence of transactions involving sophisticated laboratory equipment, along with a new bioterrorism manual distributed to cells of the al Qaeda terrorist network.
posted by tranquileye at 5:07 AM on November 15, 2001


The Times reports that "detailed plans for nuclear devices and other terrorist bombs" have been found in al Qaeda's abandoned Kabul headquarters.
posted by ferris at 5:31 AM on November 15, 2001


From The Guardian: Northern Alliance says We Don't Want Your Peacekeepers. Meanwhile, The Asia Times reports that "...with the likelihood of an anti-Pakistan government running Afghanistan, Islamabad could be forced into lending covert support to the Taliban..." Is this part of the plan?
posted by ferris at 6:19 AM on November 15, 2001


"The Times discovered the partly burnt documents in a hastily abandoned safe house in the Karta Parwan quarter of the city." -- sounds a bit too plausible, doesn't it? Not necessarily discounting it, but documents in four languages including english, partly burnt...
posted by cps at 6:19 AM on November 15, 2001


The FT reports " ..The terrorist network established by Osama bin Laden is regrouping in order to strike again, despite the recent setbacks for the Taliban in Afghanistan, according to Dieter Kaundinya, the head of the counter-terrorism section of the BND, the German international intelligence agency...."
posted by Voyageman at 6:20 AM on November 15, 2001


If they can actually melt into mountains, as you mentioned, then god help us all.
posted by skechada at 6:24 AM on November 15, 2001


"If God's help is with us, this will happen within a short period of time...

Damnit, between being counted upon to pick sides on football games and helping out in wiping out millions of Americans, I am really starting to wonder about this "God" guy the Judeo-Islami-Christians keep going on about. I mean, where's his accountability, eh? Who has the authority to say, "Hey there, Old Fella, we've decided you're a few commandments short of a decalougue...we've got this nice place for you, they've got activities and all the jello you can eat..."
posted by tpoh.org at 6:25 AM on November 15, 2001


"detailed plans for nuclear devices and other terrorist bombs" have been found in al Qaeda's abandoned Kabul headquarters.

Probably they downloaded the plans off the Internet. (This is the #1 Google result for "How to build an atomic bomb.") And of course they read the warning label in the first paragraph.
posted by beagle at 6:32 AM on November 15, 2001


Robert Fisk: What will the Northern Alliance do in our name now?
"I have a ghostly memory of writing this story before, not about the Taliban but about the KLA in Kosovo, a guerrilla army which was partly funded by drugs and which, once its political aspirations had been met by Nato's occupation of the Serbian province went on to become "terrorists'' (our former Foreign Secretary's memorable description) inside Macedonia."
posted by ferris at 6:34 AM on November 15, 2001


Didn’t mean for this to seem like a double post. The two stories are linked together on Stratfor, but have slightly different emphases. Sorry for the confusion...
posted by Davezilla at 6:44 AM on November 15, 2001


Im sure this has been said before but in the name of sarcasm:

Yeah right... the Taliban has the US right were they want us. Wasn't this stratfor site the same one who said the taking of Kabul will be a bloodbath?
posted by Qambient at 6:49 AM on November 15, 2001


The massive abandonment of cities by the Taliban does seem suspicious to me. Although, the fluidity in which Afganistan armies work is amazing; they switch sides under gentleman's agreements in massive defections; alliance shifts that suddenly give a underpowered force the numbers to be reckoned with.

With these kinds of dynamics, I could see the Taliban not wanting to try and hold cities during the harsh winter months, where it would be expensive to keep everyone fed, and defend the rather hard to defend cities at the same time. Morale would suffer even more and a rout would probably be innevitable.

Save the cash, pull back.. bleed the troops that were going to defect anyway and regroup.
posted by rich at 6:54 AM on November 15, 2001


Someone pointed out at lunch that the Taliban seem to have left behind lots of guns and armament and ordinance as they retreated / ran away. This makes it kinda tough to buy the "calculated withdrawl" argument. But What Do I Know? *8)
posted by davidchess at 7:27 AM on November 15, 2001


Yeah right... the Taliban has the US right were they want us.

Some people became Taliban out of convenience or other reasons, but there is also a core group of Taliban, those Mullah Omar would call "those who are loyal," who may well not care much about military objectives, only what they consider to be "jihad." They may have attitudes similar to the men who piloted the planes that attacked the United States on September 11th. I hope there is no "big surprise," but one cannot help but fear that there is one coming, and soon, a fear that we've had for many weeks now.
posted by tranquileye at 8:06 AM on November 15, 2001


Ah, armchair generals critiquing armchair generals.
Wudizzitallmean? We shall see...
posted by y2karl at 8:28 AM on November 15, 2001


a more traditional and effective strategy for combat in Afghanistan — guerrilla warfare

A more effective strategy to accomplish what? Harass the suburbs? That means they have to come out of the mountains and that means they can be tracked. Time is the guerilla's worst enemy and vegetative cover is his friend. The Taliban have neither.
posted by mischief at 8:40 AM on November 15, 2001


In the text of his interview with the BBC, Mullah Mohammed Omar words things in interesting ways...when asked about his plans to destroy America, he says: "it is a huge task, which is beyond the will and comprehension of human beings." When asked about how this destruction would occur (ie: through nuclear weapons), he says: "This is not a matter of weapons. We are hopeful for God's help."
posted by tpl1212 at 8:52 AM on November 15, 2001


i'm not too concerned about the Taliban regrouping, but i am a little concerned about the "nasty surprise" that may be triggered if bin Laden, Mullah Omar, et al. think they're screwed and going to die anyway. I just keep thinking of "Prisoner's Dilemma" scenarios where each player has a huge incentive to defect if they know it's their final game.
posted by lizs at 8:56 AM on November 15, 2001


Did anybody else catch the MSNBC reference to finding docs about a "supergun"? This sounds more and more like an austin powers thing.

On a more serious note -- if there really is a nuclear scenario, I wouldn't be surprised if it was nuking Kabul after peacekeeping troops arrive. Transporting a 'dirty' nuke to America would be very difficult. Hiding a nuke in Kabul and detonating it when thousands of peacekeepers (presumably American and Britishers) are in the city would do 2 things -- kill lots of Americans, and destroy the political center of Afghanistan. Presumably, the center would fall to the "2nd capitol" -- Khandahar.
posted by daver at 9:23 AM on November 15, 2001


Someone said, transporting a nuke into the US is very easy -- just hide it in a bale of marijuana. Realistically, it is not difficult to get anything into the US, and if ObL had a nuke, he would have moved it (probably in pieces) into the US long ago. If he doesn't have one, his chances of getting one in the future are pretty minimal, unless he's keeping lots of cash in that cave.
posted by beagle at 1:15 PM on November 15, 2001


daver, not Austin Powers -- it sounds like Gerald Bull thing.

I do worry about your Octopussy scenario, though. (In that film, a rogue Soviet officer plots to detonate a nuke at a US army base in W Germany -- to make it seem like an accident, and force Europe to choose disarmament.) If half the Islamic "street" is ready to believe that the Mossad took out the WTC, they may be also ready to believe that any WMD event in Afghanistan is a US attack, thereby igniting Osama's jihad gameplan. It makes me nervous, but I suspect they would already have tried to pull something like that off, if they had it.
posted by dhartung at 8:28 PM on November 15, 2001


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