Taliban turning to more complex attacks: Report

Globe and Mail

January 26, 2009

Taliban turning to more ‘complex’ attacks

GRAEME SMITH

Taliban fighters are increasingly hitting their targets directly instead of relying on bombs, according to a year-end statistical review that contradicts a key NATO message about the war in Afghanistan.

Public statements from Canadian and other foreign troops have repeatedly emphasized the idea that the insurgents are losing momentum because they can only detonate explosives, failing to confront their opponents in combat.

But an analysis of almost 13,000 violent incidents in Afghanistan in 2007 and 2008, prepared by security consultant Sami Kovanen and provided to The Globe and Mail, shows a clear trend toward open warfare.

By far the most common type of incident, in Mr. Kovanen’s analysis, is the so-called “complex attack,” meaning ambushes or other kinds of battle using more than one type of weapon. The analyst counted 2,555 such attacks in 2008, up 117 per cent from the previous year.

Bombings also increased, but only by 63 per cent year-on-year for a total of 2,384 successful and attempted strikes in 2008.

Mr. Kovanen has spent years tracking the conflict in Afghanistan, first as a NATO officer and most recently at the newly established Kabul-based consultancy Tundra Strategic Security Solutions. The latest trends are disturbing, he says, because the Taliban need more manpower to launch complex ambushes.

“Clearly they are not as weak as the military claims,” Mr. Kovanen said.

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