The Taliban Summer Offensive has largely been a failure. The Taliban lost far more men (dead, captured, deserted) than the security forces and failed to gain lasting control of any territory. Moreover the recent announcement that Taliban founder and leader Mullah Omar had died in a Pakistani hospital back in 2013 caused long-standing disagreements among Taliban leaders to turn violent. In the last month there have been several known gun battles between rival Taliban factions. There may have been some assassinations as well because this is a common weapon in such internal disputes. It is believed that one reason for keeping Omar’s death a secret was to keep the peace within the Taliban. The post-revelation splits have caused some factions to switch allegiance to ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) and become even more violent and reckless. This is particularly true of some Taliban and al Qaeda groups who feel restrained by defeat or growing calls for peace from many long-time Islamic terrorist leaders. Going ISIL means more suicidal violence and less regard for killing Moslem women and children (traditionally something Afghan warriors avoided). If Islamic terrorism is a disease ISIL appears to be the terminal phase. Afghanistan is particularly hostile to this sort of thing and one side effect of that is more tips from rural Afghans about where the newly declared ISIL members are. This in turn led to more effective UAV surveillance and more ISIL leaders being found and killed by UAV missile attacks.
The Afghan Army currently has 17 major offensives going on against Islamic terrorists in 16 provinces. Afghan military leaders point out that these operations are most successful when they have American air support and the U.S. has apparently responded to that by quietly sending more warplanes and helicopter gunships to Afghanistan, along with more ground control teams to work with Afghan ground forces.
At the end of July the Afghan Taliban announced the selection of a new leader (Mullah Akhtar Mansour) to replace founder and longtime leader Mullah Omar. Mansour has been the acting head of the Taliban since 2010 because Mullah Omar was said to have health problems. In the last week the Taliban admitted that Omar had been dead since 2013 but have not revealed exactly why his death was concealed. The reason may have been to maintain unity because after the appointment of Mansour was made several Taliban factions went public complaining of how the selection was made. The Afghan Taliban is known to be sharply divided over the subject of peace talks with the Afghan government. Some factions also complain openly that Pakistan (in the form of the ISI) actually controls the Taliban leaders living in Baluchistan under the protection of the ISI. Mansour backs peace talks while Omar was said to have opposed them. The official shift in Taliban leadership caused the resumption of peace talks (between the Taliban and the Afghan government) scheduled for today to be delayed until sometime in the future. Afghanistan is now willing to renew the talks but only if Pakistan is excluded. More Afghans (especially prominent ones) are openly accusing Pakistan of being actively hostile to Afghanistan and backing several Islamic terrorist groups (especially the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network) that cause most of the terrorist violence in Afghanistan. Pakistan has always denied this, despite all the evidence, and continues to do so.
So far this year another 50,000 Afghan refugees in Pakistan have returned home. Not all of these returning refugees went voluntarily. Since 2014 there has been increasing anti-Afghan feelings in Pakistan. This led to another effort to persecute and expel several million Afghans living (often illegally) in Pakistan. So far this year over 7,000 such refugees a month are returning from Pakistan. While many of these refugees could evade expulsion efforts over 40 percent of those who return cite growing anti-Afghan attitudes and harassment as the main reason for coming back to Afghanistan. Since 2002 nearly four million of these refugees have returned to Afghanistan. There are still about 2.5 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan and only 60 percent of these are registered.
While Afghanistan wants good relations with Iran Afghan officials are quietly trying to get Iran to back off on its recruitment Afghan Shia to fight in Syria. The main draw is money (up to a thousand dollars a month) and permission to legally settle in Iran if the fighter survives. Iran officially denies this recruiting but there is growing evidence that it exists and is believed to have sent over 3,000 Afghan Shia (many of them illegal immigrants living in Iran) to Syria so far. Many of these Afghans did not survive the experience and the families are angry. Iran has long supported the Shia in Afghanistan. Only 15 percent of Afghans are Shia and these Shia are a particular target for Sunni Islamic terrorists (like the Taliban). Most of these Shia are the Hazara, who are ten percent of the population and the descendants of the hated Mongols who conducted several invasions during the 13th and 14th centuries and destroyed more of the country and its population than any other conquerors. For centuries Hazara have suffered a lot of discrimination and actual violence in Afghanistan.
Since NATO forces left in 2014 a lot of Afghans have lost hope. This can be seen in the number of Afghans applying for passports. In the last year the number has gone from about a thousand a day to as high as 7,000 a day. Currently the daily average is about 5,000 a day. Most of these people are not coming back and use one of the growing number of smuggling gangs to get them to the West. Those without the money for this try to legally enter a neighboring country and head for a city and seek employment.
August 31, 2015: The NDS (National Directorate of Security) revealed it had recently arrested 30 members of the Haqqani Network and the Taliban who were planning another 13 terror attacks in Kabul. The NDS has been around since 2002 and is often called the Afghan CIA. While the NDS does a lot of same intel work as the CIA it is part of the Defense Ministry and also functions like the American FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) as well. The NDS has over 20,000 personnel including many former Islamic terrorists as well as Russian trained operatives (from the 1980s when there was a pro-Russian national government). Over the last three months the NDS has arrested nearly 600 people suspected of Islamic terrorist activity and seized over 16 tons of explosives plus other bomb making components, weapons and much else.
The U.S. Embassy has advised Americans in Afghanistan to consider leaving the country because of the increased efforts by Islamic terrorists and gangsters to kidnap (or just kill) foreigners. The gangsters want to take foreigners for the ransom potential while the Islamic terrorists want to kill foreigners to force foreigners out of the country. The government relies on foreigners (air workers and contractors) to keep the economy going and handle high-tech equipment.
August 29, 2015: In the capital there were two large explosions that, at first, were believed to be terror attacks. But after a while media realized that there were no casualties and that it was actually military explosives experts detonating large terrorist bombs that were too unstable to dismantle and were instead detonated after evacuating all people in the area. The police complained that they should have been notified so they would not have had to dispatch emergency forces to what at first was believed to be another terror attack.
In the south (Helmand) security forces drove the Taliban out of a district (Musa Qala) near the Pakistan border. A large Taliban force had taken the district on the 25th. This was mainly a publicity stunt. Taking control of a district is a popular attention-getter. Seizing control of a remote district or just the district capital is not that hard. The remoteness of some of these towns means it takes a few days, or weeks, for the security forces to get enough troops into the area to chase the Taliban out. “Capturing a district capital” is always good for a headline in foreign media because the foreigners don’t really understand that a lot of these district capitals are small towns in remote areas that few Afghans care about. The Taliban, or local drug gangs only have a meaningful amount of control in a few of the 373 districts (each of the 34 provinces is composed of districts). The Taliban are active in 10-15 percent of districts, mainly in the south (Helmand and Kandahar, where most of the heroin is produced) and the east (where many Pakistan/ISI supported Islamic terrorist groups operate). The Taliban suffered several hundred casualties in taking, defending (for three days) and losing Musa Qala. It is unclear if the Taliban leaders felt it was worth the losses. It appears that control of Musa Qala was considered essential to maintaining opium and heroin production. Similar Taliban offensives in the north (the Tajik border) and the east (the Pakistani border) were for securing smuggling routes to get the drugs safely out of the country where they could be sold for a lot more than Afghan addicts will pay.
August 26, 2015: The U.S. has sent 90 SOCOM (Special Operations Command) troops to Helmand in the south. The SOCOM force includes ground control teams to provide precision air support for Afghan soldiers and police. The Taliban has become particularly active and aggressive in Helmand and more air support greatly increases Taliban casualties. Elsewhere in the south two men in Afghan army uniforms opened fire on some U.S. troops, killing two of them. This brings the number of American troops killed in Afghanistan so far this year to four. These “insider attacks” peaked in 2012 when there were 47 of them, which killed 62.
In the east (Nangarhar province) American UAVs used missiles to kill four Taliban leaders.
August 24, 2015: In the west (Badghis province) police raided an Islamic terrorist hideout and arrested three of four suicide bombers who were staying there. One of the bombers got away. The four were part of a larger group of Taliban who were going to attack the home of First Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum. This comes three days after about thirty Taliban ambushed a convoy Dostum was in. The attack failed and eight Taliban were killed and 13 captured. Dostum has been a foe of the Taliban since the 1990s. Dostum is a powerful Uzbek politician, and a long time warlord (he was a general in the communist army that was dissolved in 1992). The Uzbeks are Turks, and comprise nine percent of the population. The Uzbeks have always been hostile to the Taliban and drugs. Dostum is their leader but has become popular will most anti-Islamic terror Afghans. Dostum makes the most of this by regularly giving speeches condemning Islamic terrorism. This involves constantly travelling and exposing himself to terrorist attack. So far he has survived dozens of attacks and this increases popularity while enraging the Islamic terrorists he publicly berates and condemns.
In the north (Kunduz) an American air strike killed the leader of Jundullah, a Pakistani Taliban, faction that switched to ISIL in late 2014. Three Jundullah sub-commanders were also killed in this strike.
August 19, 2015: The newly proclaimed leader of the Taliban openly reaffirmed Taliban allegiance to al Qaeda and opposition to ISIL.
August 17, 2015: In central Afghanistan (Wardak Province) two separate U.S. UAV attacks left seven Islamic terrorists dead.
In Kabul a female German aid worker was kidnapped by unidentified gunmen.
August 14, 2015:
In Afghanistan a senior official (First Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum) publicly repeated what many Afghans have been saying; the Pakistan continues to support Islamic terrorists operating in Afghanistan.