Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Monday, September 21st, 2020

Taliban Offensive: A Test of Survival for Afghanistan


Taliban Offensive: A Test of Survival for Afghanistan

Shortly after announcement of the so-called Omari Operation by the Taliban, the group has launched a major offensive in Kunduz province opening different fronts aimed at taking a number of key districts and the strategic Northern city. In the meantime, security officials say intense fighting is underway in about ten provinces in the north, south and east of the country with the both sides inflicting heavy casualties to the militant groups. According to security officials, Afghan security forces have managed to repel Taliban’s offensives during last three days in Kunduz districts and other areas. The ongoing Taliban offensive is coming as a large-scale and massively coordinated assault aimed at taking major gains in the very early days of the Taliban offensive codenamed as Omari Operation.
In the coming weeks and months, heavy fighting is expected in major provinces in the north, east and the south. It seems that the Taliban once again have chosen key districts and provinces in these areas as targets of their operation. The Omari operation will focus on gaining major achievements in the mentioned provinces including taking ground from government forces and inflicting heavy casualties on the Afghan national security forces. If the Taliban manage to take any major gains on the ground, that would boost the morale of the militants and will help them to expand and intensify scale of the group’s operation both in these vulnerable provinces and elsewhere across the country. Making successes in these vulnerable provinces would play as gateway for taking more grounds and continuing successes on the battlefield against government forces.
The Taliban will expectedly pursue the war approach they used in their last year’s offensive against government forces. Last year, the Taliban managed to take the northern Kunduz province momentarily and also held many other key districts for longer periods of time. Taliban’s offensive approach last year held Afghan security agencies by surprise and stretched resources and forces of ANSF. ANSF experienced many setbacks against the militant groups as it fought a chaotic campaign to repel the Taliban and secure the areas that Taliban had chosen as their grounds of offensive.
ANSF while fighting the Taliban in last year fighting season suffered mainly from lack of effective leadership and a lack of coordination in different levels of command. Lack of leadership in the highest levels led to lack of strategic approach in the fight against the enemy which in turn resulted in failing to shape effective defensive and invasive strategies against the Taliban. Lack of coordination led to weaker reinforcements for the fighting units that were being caught by the Taliban’s siege or heavy assault by the militants. There were many cases that the army and police units lost men and territory solely due to not receiving timely support or any kind of reinforcement from the central headquarters or nearby military commands. Due to lack of effective and comprehensive war strategy, government forces were compelled to fight and defensive war from the weaker position.
The security agencies need to avoid mistakes of last year campaign in defending key vulnerable provinces and repelling the Taliban offensive. ANSF needs to remain mobile and quick in taking reactionary measures against the enemy and take the war to the grounds of the militants. ANSF needs to improve its ability to dispatch timely reinforcements to support units engaged in fighting the militant groups. Aerial support will key for the ongoing battle to repel the Taliban offensive. The Afghan government must ensure there is sufficient air support whether by the fledgling Afghan air force or that of NATO forces stationed in Afghanistan. The army and police need to drastically shift their war approach and focus on offensive operations against the militant groups. This will prevent the Taliban from taking major areas that will help their war propaganda and political campaign aimed at weakening public and military morals.
For ANSF to be able to lead a successful military campaign, the government needs to provide the political support needed for the military leading the campaign against the militant groups particularly the Taliban. The Taliban threat needs to be prioritized as the biggest and imminent for security and stability of the country and sustainability of the government. Officials say that the National Unity Government (NUG) has just compiled a national defense strategy that has dealt with dealing the Taliban and other groups and defining the existing threats to the country. This is coming as a promising measure by the government among other measures to boost the anti-insurgency campaign.  
The Taliban have chosen war by refusing to come to the table of negotiations with the government. The obvious fact remains that the militant groups will not come to table of negotiations until they are crushed militarily or weakened by military means. Only then the militant will realize the need for making peace and ending the conflict through negotiations. Peace efforts must be backed by military victories. NUG needs to focus more on winning on the military grounds rather than pinning high hopes on the success of peace talks.
On the other hand, regional and international allies particularly Pakistan needs to prove its sincerity in its role in stabilizing Afghanistan. Pakistani authorities have repeatedly asserted that they want peace in Afghanistan and that the enemies of Afghanistan are enemies of Pakistan. Words are sufficient and it should be proved in action. The ongoing campaign against the Taliban is coming as a real test for Pakistan’s government and the country’s military establishment. Islamabad needs to pressurize the militant groups by taking explicit actions against the leadership of the group. Pakistan can play a role in this fighting season and take actions to help the Afghan government contain and repel the ongoing Omari Operation.

Abdul Ahad Bahrami is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at ahad.bahrami@gmail.com

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