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How the Taliban Fight

Updated on March 16, 2010

What is interesting about warfare is that both sides learn how to fight one another based upon their own techniques. This happened during the Vietnam war when the French and then the Americans fought against the same enemy. Both sides adapted. The Israelis adapted as have Hezbollah.

The US offensive at Marjah, Afghanistan, which was suppose to be a major battle, was carefully orchestrated and planned to reduce civilian casualties. Unlike in past battles, the US announced weeks ahead of time for civilians to get out of the town. This also allowed the Taliban to prepare. There was no surprise element. The strategy is called the " McChrystal Doctrine". Basically,it is win the hearts and minds of the Afghan civilians with social projects that help the population while carefully killing "obvious" Taliban. The Marjah battle lasted only a few days, cost the Taliban 600 men to only 15 US-Afghan. The US had over 10,000 men in the operation to maybe 1000 Taliban.

The new rules for US soldiers are:

Troops cannot engage or shoot at anything but a Taliban seen with a gun. This forces troops to close in close enough to clearly see the enemy with a gun. It forces the troops to slug it out in house to house confines. Of course, not all US soldiers strictly follow this rule and empty their weapons into a bush or house where a gun was fired from. But this could get the soldiers court martialed. The battle showed some serious issues with this doctrine. For instance, many Taliban were allowed to walk away because they had no weapon. This same man may have been firing from a concealed area and ran out of ammo, tossed his weapon, and strolled out with hands up to fight another day.

Before US soldiers can call in an air strike, they must go through numerous steps, all to reduce civilian casualties. This can take as long as 40 minutes as the Marjah battle showed. A guaranteed safe way for the Taliban is simply to have human shields. Many times in the battle, Taliban fighters used "shields" to guarantee their own survival. Having a shield is akin to a "no fire zone".

The Afghan Army still has a long way. Most of the units fighting along US troops entered the battle "stoned" from smoking marijuana. Most refused orders many times when they felt like it. Worse, are the police. The US gave free radios to all the inhabitants of Marjah who remained. When the police arrived to take over, they took all the radios away from their own people!

One step forward, one step back. Welcome to Afghanistan.


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      soumyasrajan 7 years ago from Mumbai India and often in USA

      I also agree with you that end result may be similar to Vietnam but I think reasons are different. I feel main reasons are that USA is only ready to fight foot soldiers in this war and put at stakes only its army but not its political standing.

      Most of these so called Taliban soldiers are fighting just to survive. They must be very poor. Actual organizations which are financing them or inspiring them are mainly Army top bosses and feudal rulers in Pakistan and other Muslim countries. USA has sufficient strength to take on them. But it is not doing that. In fact it is financing them. Most of money which it spends (even the trucks which carry goods for American army from Pakistan to Afghanistan, there are reports that they are owned by top rulers and their relatives and security for them are provided by international smugglers and terrorists like Dawood Ibrahim etc.).

      How can result be any different when you fight foot soldiers and finance the leaders of enemy force, whom you are fighting.

    • perrya profile image

      perrya 7 years ago

      A guerilla type war is always difficult. Vietnam was identical, once the enemy dropped their weapons, they easily mixed in with the locals. During the day, some were friends while at night, the enemy. This is not a war like in World war 2, it is all over the place. I still think the final end result in Afghanistan will be similar to what happened in Vietnam because US troops cannot stay there forever, local Taliban fighters can.

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      soumyasrajan 7 years ago from Mumbai India and often in USA

      As usual from you -interesting article with a lot of information and helping one to understand the situation. Though one thing which puzzles me is that, when army allows civilians to get out of town why do Taliban also not get out disguised as civilians. Is it not true that they prefer not to fight direct battles but just guerrilla warfare when they get a chance?

      They must have also calculated that in direct battles they can not win. Though of course such sentiments do not always go logically. Despite not winning practically any battle since its creation making their country completely dependent on USA aids, loans and arms dealings, still it seems myth among many in Pakistani Army and terrorist is that in battle one Muslim is equal to 1000 Hindus or Kafirs. This myth is used as driving force to pull them towards violent and destructive attitude.

      Even now when information about wars are easily available on internet such sentences are not that uncommon to hear in media and press in Pakistan and some other Muslim countries. General attitude of extremists there is "whole world is against us because we are strong and can rule over the world or deceive the world."

      I think fortunately at least this is not attitude of majority there. But worrying part is that they may be in majority among those who rule and rulers in these countries are quite feudal.

      Surely some Talebans in Marjah must have escaped as civilians. Still as your figure suggests more than 500 out of 1000 remained. This looks a bit surprising.

    • Silver Poet profile image

      Silver Poet 7 years ago from the computer of a midwestern American writer

      Thank you for sharing. I like to know what's going on over there.