Over the past few months of the Taliban has undergoing a reorganization, in response to widespread defections at all levels, as well as a general lack of effectiveness against Afghan and Coalition security forces, coupled with a decline in recruits and shortfalls in revenues.
Although the details are unclear, the reorganization even affects movement's central "shura" (council), the junta of religious extremists who still insist they're the government of the "Islamic Republic of Afghanistan." Over the years there have been a number of defections by members of the shura and other high level officials, such as government ministers and provincial governors. In addition, several of these men have killed. It's not yet clear who are the "ins" and who are the "outs" as a result of this reorganization. Mullah Omar certainly remains at the head of the shura, as he has long been the most prominent leader of the Taliban.
Apparently the biggest impact of the reorganization will be in the "field forces." A number of newer regional and provincial commanders seem to have been appointed. The new leaders include some younger men who may have better combat credentials than religious ones. In a way, this is similar to the reorganization of the Red Army following the disastrous defeats in 1941-1942, in which the importance of political reliability was demoted below combat effectiveness, in evaluating commanders. Most earlier Taliban commanders were more noted for their religious purity than combat skills.
January 10, 2006: Taliban continue to terrorize those running, and attending, schools that educate boys and girls. The Taliban are very much against the education of women, and have been burning down schools, and killing teachers, in their attempt to stop this, for them, radical new idea. In some areas of the south, the terrified villagers comply, and pull their girls out of school. But in most areas, resistance to the Taliban terror creates a low level war with the armed locals.
January 9, 2006: In the capital, a suicide bomber rigging the explosives in his car, made an error, and the explosives went off. Apparently the dead bomber was not an Afghan.
January 8, 2006: While the Taliban may be faltering in Afghanistan, it remains powerful in Pakistan. There, Taliban gunmen still battle Pakistani troops, and even cross the Iranian border to kill or capture Iranian troops. This reflects the fact that the Taliban actually represent the beliefs of conservative Pushtun tribes, who are fighting a bloody battle against new ideas.
January 6, 2006: Whenever Afghanistan pleads for the rest of the world to send economic and military aid, the rest of the world asks the Afghans to stop sending heroin. About 85 percent of the world's supply of heroin comes from Afghanistan. Heroin addiction kills about 100,000 people world wide each year, and destroys the lives of millions more. Even neighbors of Afghanistan, and Afghanistan itself, is having problems with heroin addiction. So the government is making a serious go at curbing cultivation of poppies, the plant from which heroin is derived. But the poppy growers are organized, and protected by heavily armed, tribe based, drug gangs. Trying to curb poppy production 40 percent this year will mean a lot of violence. Meanwhile, drug money is corrupting more and more government officials, with drug producers and smugglers blatantly carrying out their business with embarrassing impunity. Afghan media is full of detailed stories on this.
January 5, 2006: A Taliban suicide bomber killed ten and wounded fifty in a market place in the south. Many of the victims were women and children. This sort of thing does little to make the Taliban more popular. The Taliban have not used suicide bomber tactics before, and apparently are unaware of the down side of this approach. In this case, the actual target may have been a nearby provincial government headquarters. Taliban suicide bombing efforts have been marked by many failures.