Could the Taliban take Kandahar?
MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images On Friday and on into the weekend, I was amazed by just how little television coverage there was of the Taliban’s audicious raid on a Kandahar prison. I’ve got nothing against Tim Russert, but it’s a big story that the Taliban can operate so brazenly. And it gets worse: Hundreds of Taliban ...
MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images
On Friday and on into the weekend, I was amazed by just how little television coverage there was of the Taliban’s audicious raid on a Kandahar prison. I’ve got nothing against Tim Russert, but it’s a big story that the Taliban can operate so brazenly. And it gets worse:
Hundreds of Taliban fighters have swarmed into a strategically important district just outside Kandahar…. Arghandab is a rich, heavily populated river valley of orchards and vineyards running northwest from Kandahar into a range of barren mountains that have been a refuge for mujahedeen fighters and Taliban insurgents. Control of Arghandab is considered critical to control of the city of Kandahar and has been the source of forces that have seized the city in the past.
I doubt that a couple hundred Taliban could long resist a concerted counterattack from combined NATO and Afghan forces, which are flying in reinforcements from Kabul. But the Taliban’s commanders sure seem to be advertising their operations in the press. As one told the AP, “We’ve occupied most of the area and it’s a good place for fighting. Now we are waiting for the NATO and Afghan forces.” What kind of operational security is that?
My guess is that the intent here is not to win on the battlefield, but rather to score a propaganda victory and undermine support for the government of President Hamid Karzai. If Afghans start to believe that Karzai can’t even control Kandahar, his supposed stronghold, they might start shading their loyalties in the Taliban’s direction. That could have enormous benefits for the bad guys across the country, making it all the more urgent that the good guys win a decisive victory as quickly as possible.
Blake Hounshell is a former managing editor of Foreign Policy.
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