Attrition: Taliban Tactics Backfire on Civilians


April 22, 2007: Although the Taliban lost nearly 3,000 of their fighters last year, the next most frequent casualty was Afghan civilians. In 2006, the Taliban killed 669 civilians. Most frequently, civilians died because of bomb attacks. There were 189 Taliban suicide and roadside bombings last year, and these killed 492 civilians. Another 177 civilians were killed more deliberately, in ambushes or executions. Some of these were people kidnapped, to force them to support the Taliban. Most of these were released, after promising to cooperate. But those who refused, were often murdered.

Over 200 civilians were killed during operations involving Afghan and foreign troops. These were people caught in the crossfire. Sometimes it was civilians in a compound, along with Taliban, when the place was bombed. The Taliban would also use civilians for human shields, a tactic that did not always work.

Although the Taliban are mainly interested in killing soldiers and police, they managed to kill five times as many civilians. This is largely because the Taliban have an easier time getting close to security forces when there are a lot of civilians around. The Taliban don't wear uniforms, and can blend in, until they open fire.

The Taliban thought that if they adopted terrorist tactics used in Iraq, they would have more success. But somehow the Taliban failed to realize that the terrorist tactics in Iraq don't work either. Far more civilians are killed, that uniformed personnel, and the Iraqi population has become more and more hostile to the Islamic terrorists. But the bombings and dead civilians do attract media attention, and to a terrorist, this is almost as good as killing soldiers or police.


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