No new summer offensive by the Taliban?

Since the Talibans capture of Kabul in 1996 no years has passed without the afghan civil war witnessing another summer offensive by the reigning Taliban militia.

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The Taliban had great military successes especially in 1998 when they captured Mazar-i-Sharif and again in September 2000 when they forced the Northern Alliance troops out of their unofficial capital of Taloqan in the Takhar province.

With the opposition controlling only 10 to 15 % of the afghan territory and being cut off from many of their supply routes, chances were good for the Taliban to seal off their military campaign by totally crushing their foes during a probably final massive attack in this years summer fighting.

While some Taliban commanders forecasted the oppositions defeat for this year and on the other hand opposition commander Massoud promised the recapture of Taloqan “in a couple of weeks” not much has happened on the ground.

For a year now the Taliban are trying to capture the Farkhar gorge, the main entrance to the opposition held Badakhshan province, without success.

The opposition has successfully achieved to deconcentrate the Taliban troops from the Takhar front lines by opening up new battlefields in western and central provinces of the country. Mainly unnoticed by the international observers of the conflict something important has happened: It seems that Ahmad Shah Massoud has been able to recruit between 10000 to 15000 fresh troops. It is unclear to which degree this achievement can be contributed to the returns of General Dostum and the popular General Ismail Khan to the scene of the ongoing civil war. Considering also reports about purchases of new weapons by Massoud, these facts could be an explanation for the Talibans failure to make any significant military gains in this years fighting.

More than in any year before this year there has been a quite big number of defections in favor of the Northern Alliance. Massoud has apparently been able to clear differences with some former allies and to a significant degree create trust among some pushtoon commanders, who are now siding with Massoud.

Nevertheless it is highly utopian to expect any major gains from Massouds forces who lack an air force and a minimum of necessary tank power to push back the Taliban from cities like Taloqan, but it is also very unlikely that the Taliban take control of Badakhshan. With the UN sanctions making it at least difficult for Pakistan to support the Taliban as strongly as in the past, time is playing for Massouds Guerillas who are consequently fortifying their positions.

Mr. Nima A. Rezai contributed above lines to Media Monitors Network (MMN) from Germany.

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