How the Taliban are Taking Afghanistan

The speed with which the Taliban have taken over Afghanistan since Biden announced the pullout has been startling. It's been startling even to the Taliban. Bill Roggio at FDD who has been closely covering the collapse explains just why the Taliban have been winning so fast.

The Taliban has used its rural insurgency strategy of taking control of remote districts to push closer to the provincial capitals. The rural areas are used to recruit and train fighters, raise funds, resupply, and launch attacks into neighboring districts and the population centers. This strategy was explained by Mullah Aminullah Yousuf, then the Taliban’s shadow governor for Uruzgan, in April 2016.

The Taliban began taking control of districts in 2014 after the U.S. transferred control of primary security responsibility to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces. Once a district was controlled by the Taliban, it would begin spreading its influence into neighboring districts.

The rural districts are vital to the Taliban’s insurgency. The U.S. military, including Generals Nicholson and Miller, the previous and last commander of U.S. Forces – Afghanistan and Resolute Support Mission, has been dismissive of this Taliban strategy. Instead, the U.S. and NATO focused on a population-centric counterinsurgency, which allowed the Taliban to gain control of the rural districts.

The Taliban were focused on territory while we focused on urban population density. 

This was a convenient strategy because our allies tended to be urban, wealthier and educated, (there aren't a lot of feminists in rural villages) while offering a denser population with more resources. Meanwhile, the Taliban drew a lot of support from rural areas. 

Under Obama, the United States had tried to contest territory with a high casualty rate. Focusing on capitals meant that things looked good with low risk and few casualties even when they were actually quite bad.

The war had effectively been lost while everyone was being told that the situation was under control.


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