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Waiting for Omar: anticipating the Taliban Spring Offensive…

April 18, 2015

Summary: The Taliban are likely to announce the commencement of Spring operations in a couple of weeks time.

Taliban flagIf the Taliban are true to their behaviour, they will announcement the beginning of a Spring Offensive to take place in Afghanistan.  This generally heralds the onset of the “fighting season” which lasts somewhere into October/November.

It is useful to note the timing and content of their official statement.  Any significant deviation or variation from previous notifications could well be of interest.  If previous years are adhered to, we should expect:

  • An official announcement in the last week of April or first week of May
  • The operation will be given a name, sometimes after a historic battle or event from early Islamic history, perhaps including the prophet Mohammed took part (eg “Badr”), or a statement of intent (eg “victory).  I think names like “victory” and “success” are less likely now – they are slight hostages to fortune when they declare victory to be imminent and do so each year…
  • The text will specify targets – foreign forces (although there are much less of those now). government officials and security forces and any Afghan who supports the work of either of these.
  • The text will specify tactics generally, but martyrdom attacks (ie suicide bombers) will likely be mentioned
  • It will call upon Afghans supporting the regime to defect and promises fair treatment if they do so.
  • It may refer to Taliban efforts to limit civilian casualties

There are usually two or three significant “complex attacks” that come in the days and weeks after the announcement, in order to demonstrate capability and credibility.  I would expect some combination of suicide attacks and targeting of Afghan government or US military/political buildings – a barracks, an embassy.  Kabul is a favoured area in which to operate as it guarantees good media coverage.  It may be that these targets are now harder to penetrate inside the capital, however and other regional targets (Herat, Mazar-e Sharif, Kandahar, Nangarhar…) and personalities might form viable alternatives to be struck.

I shall await with interest.  This is the first year after ISAF has closed down and there are no foreign forces on the ground in combat operations.  It would be significant if they:

  • did not annnouce an offensive
  • shifted the tone and content significantly – eg towards new tactics or towards a more politicised statement

lets see what happens.

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