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Taliban announce commencement of Spring Operations

May 3, 2012

By Tim Foxley

Taliban announce 2012 Spring operations in word cloud form

On May 2nd, the Taliban official website issued a statement formally announcing the commencement of what they describe as “Spring operations”, the expression usually taken to mean an intensification of their military activities after the winter.  The statement was not unexpected – indeed it is a routine part of the Taliban calendar now, having adopted the practise of announcing a post-winter return to operations for some years.  Last year, the Taliban announced the commencement of “Al Badr” operations on 30th April.

The short statement appears aimed partly at an international audience, partly at an Afghan audience but primarily at Taliban fighters, supporters and potential supporters and comprises several parts:

  • the pre-amble recalls the struggle thus far against the “foreign invaders”,
  • it then explains the choice of al Farooq as the name for 2012’s operations,
  • it identifies targets and timings for this year’s offensive
  • finally, it appeals to “all those associated with the puppet administration” to change sides

The structure, tone, style and length of the statement offer no significant surprises, certainly not in comparison to last year’s statement.  Last year, when I wrote about the 2011 statement, I concluded that:

On the Al-Badr Spring offensive announcement, April 2011:
“The long-anticipated announcement by the Taleban of their Spring operations offers little to surprise and appears a slow evolution from previous announcements”.

And the same more or less applies to this year’s statement.  New tactics are alluded to in only the briefest of fashions and the importance of avoiding civilian casualties is restated.  There are two strands of legitimate target for the Taliban:

Foreigners are “the primary target”:

“foreign invaders, their advisors, their contractors and members of all associated military, intelligence and auxiliary departments”

Afghan targets as follows:

“high ranking officials of the stooge Kabul regime; members of Parliament; those associated with Ministries of Defense, Intelligence and Interior; members of the so called High Peace Council; Militia under the name of ‘Arbaki’ and all those people who work against the Mujahideen, toil to pave ground for the occupation of Afghanistan and become the cause for the strength of the invaders will also be targeted in Al-Farooq operation”

The High Peace Council and the Afghan Local Police (aka “Arbaki”) are singled out for special mention, perhaps reflecting the Taliban’s concern that these two groups may undermine insurgent efforts.

There may be two separate reasons why the Taliban have chosen “al-Farooq” for this year’s collection of military and terrorist activities.  The name itself is taken to mean “he who knows truth from falsehood” and was the title given to Hazrat Omar, the second Khalif.  This meaning may reflect the current concerns that the Taliban have, in the context of international and Afghan expectations about talks and deals between the Taliban and the US and the Afghan government, that propaganda and media misinformation may cause (and may already be causing) confusion within their own ranks.

Furthermore, as the statement explains, the rule of Hazrat Omar saw a rapid conquest of territories for the followers of Islam (“…huge swaths of lands of the infidels fell under the rule of the Muslims and the enemies were forced to take flight…”).  This may reflect a growing (and likely naive) expectation that, as the Western forces prepare to leave, the Taliban may be able to reconquer the country as quickly and easily as they did in the mid-1990s.

The Taliban spend time in the statement calling on Afghan military and government members to reject the regime and to come over to the insurgents.  The only significant shift in this statement is the announcement of the creation of a “Recruitment Commission” intended to facilitate would be defectors:

“The Islamic Emirate, in order to establish contact and bring out officials and privates from the opposition rank, has assigned an influential ‘Recruitment’ Commission which works to invite them towards the truth and in case they want to join the Mujahideen, to lend all necessary assistance and guidance”

No detail is given regarding the nature, composition and activities of the commission.

Although now a significant annual milestone for the Taliban and the international community, with the possible exceptions of the choice of title for the operations for this year and the apparently renewed and enhanced attempts to entice defectors, there is little to latch on to in this latest version.  The style of the fighting season is likely to resemble that of last year although, partly through ISAF disengagement and partly through Taliban choice of targets, the Afghan National Security Forces are likely to bear more of the burden of combat over the summer.  The struggle will be increasingly “Afghan on Afghan”…


8 Comments leave one →
  1. El Snarkistani permalink
    May 3, 2012 1:24 pm

    The “spring offensive” is an artificial construct in response to the “fighting season” proclamations by ISAF.

    Very much doubt that the HPC is being singled out for its ability to undermine Taliban efforts: that organization has been completely sidelined even before the killing of Rabbani. By putting a Jamiat at the head of that organization, Karzai assured that it would not accomplish anything, but is still led by an Afghan held in a great deal of esteem in the country.

    As for the “arbakai,” my thought is this: they’re putting them on notice (since they’re surging due to ISAF/GIRoA recruiting efforts) that they’re now viewed as part of the “puppet” regime, rather than as the local defenders of their homes that ISAF et all would have us believe.

  2. May 3, 2012 2:30 pm

    El, hi. I think a few years back the Taliban realised that the Western media/ISAF etc kept banging on about “Spring Offensives” as if it was a Nazi vs Soviet 1941 – 45 style conflict. The Taliban found it a useful media device to play along with and now they have more or less formalised it. Their military activity does ramp up, but mainly because “its not winter”.

    I’m still not sure what to make of the impact of the HPC – although I certainly think it is not going to achieve anything, I don’t know if the Taliban see it in such a way. It certainly seemed to provoke them enough to take out Rabbani. Maybe from their perspective it is some form of threat? Maybe it is an inconvenient obstacle when all they want to do is dictate withdrawal terms to the US?

    I agree with your comments on the arbaki – the Taliban have been mumbling about this for a year or two. And it seems that “reintegrated” ex-Taliban are being signed up for these groups, so a tough line probably needs to be taken…




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