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Analysis: Coalition and Afghan forces must target Taliban after overrunning bases

Bill Roggio
29th August 2017 - FDD's Long War Journal

A recent Taliban attack on a remote Afghan Uniform Police base highlighted the tactical difficulties that Afghan forces and the Coalition face. On multiple fronts throughout Afghanistan, the Taliban has proven capable of massing in broad daylight, overrunning Afghan outposts, bases, and district centers, often at night, and celebrating their victories, all without fear of being targeted by Afghan and Coalition air forces.

A video released by the Taliban, entitled “Mansoor Goozar,” underscored the Taliban’s ability to take the fight to Afghan forces, often with little to stand in their way. In the video, a large Taliban force traveled in a convoy to an assembly area during daylight. The convoy was clearly identifiable as Taliban; the trucks were flying the Taliban’s white flag and the fighters were well armed.

Once they reached their destination, the fighters stopped to pray. Again, this occurred in broad daylight. The Taliban then assembled for their assault of the Afghan Uniform Police base. During the attack, which began after dark, the Taliban coordinated their actions using radios and set up support by fire position to aid in the assault.

The Taliban force appeared to have easily overrun the Afghan police outpost. After entering the base, the Taliban fighters organized all of the weapons, ammunition, vehicles (including US supplied HUMVEEs and Ford Ranger pickup trucks) to flaunt on social media. The Taliban then pulled out of the base during daylight taking their spoils.

The entire operation – from assault, to filming the war loot, to withdrawal – took about a day. Afghan ground forces did not respond to the attack, nor did Coalition or Afghan air assets target the Taliban before, during, or after the raid, despite the fact that the Taliban convoy moving into and out of the outpost was easily identifiable and moving over desert terrain where civilian casualties would have been highly unlikely.

The results depicted in “Mansoor Goozar” are all too common. FDD’s Long War Journal has documented numerous attacks like this one, and the outcomes are all similar.

If the Coalition and the Afghan government hope to halt the Taliban’s gains and chip away at territory under the jihadist group’s control, attacks such as this one have to be stopped. The Taliban not only replenished its supply of war materials, but also demoralized Afghan forces while gaining massive propaganda footage and delegitimizing the Afghan government.

Ideally, a Taliban convoy assembling and operating in broad daylight would be hit by air power before reaching their target. However, if the Taliban succeeds in overrunning a base or district center, Afghan or Coalition aircraft should consider hitting them as they celebrate victory and raise the Taliban flag, or as they exit the base with their war bounty.

This would require increased communication between Afghan and Coalition forces. It oftentimes seems as if the Taliban, shown in the video using radios, communicate better with each other and are more well prepared than the Afghan forces.

While air strikes may be viewed as defensive or punitive, if the Afghan government wants to halt Taliban gains, the Taliban must be forced to pay a heavy price for massing and striking outposts, bases, and district centers. Hitting Taliban forces as they travel in convoys or after they overrun bases will force its military commanders to reconsider their tactics, which have proven successful in all areas of Afghanistan.

For video, click here.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

Follow the Foundation for Defense of Democracies on twitter at @FDD

Tags

afghanistan, taliban