Concerns are abound about what will unfold in Afghanistan. The questions are valid, and worth the attention. If one believes the current reports, we see that a Taliban takeover is imminent. Almost on the daily, there is some news about a particular region having been taken over by the Taliban. Most recently, it was the city of Sheberghan, where the circumstances are dire: government forces and officials had retreated to the airport on the outskirts of the northern Afghan city where they were trying to defend themselves. The Afghani government denied that there were any such take-overs, but the claims are contradictory-the Afghan Ministry of Interior asserted that there would be a counter-offensive, the sending of reinforcements, special forces, as well as the deployment of air-strikes.
However, there were also claims that the Taliban are perhaps not as strong as it seems. In fact, some commentators went so far as to assert that this is mere propaganda and nothing more.
These arguments rightfully rested on the idea that the anti-Taliban Afghan forces within the region are more stable, strong and well-organized than they seem.
General Sami Sadat, an American trained officer of the Afghan army who is in charge of security of about 20 percent of Afghanistan has claimed that on avaeragfe about 60-70 Taliban fighters are killed for one Afghan soldier. “The ratio is 1 to 60.” He said in chilling tones. He thought that it was his duty to clear the area of the “savages.”
He also delved into the tactics used by the Taliban. “They have had an advantage in the rural areas because of Afghanistan’s treacherous terrain, but within the next few weeks you will see us carrying out special missions to reclaim the districts and border openings.”
But, he felt, rightly so, that his people could easily out-do the Taliban. After all, they have access to more training, more modern weaponry, and as mentioned before, a strong sense of duty to save the country from the Taliban.
But it’s not just that which gives him hope and confidence. While it is true that the US is withdrawing its troops from the region, they will still take a lot of interest in Afghanistan. Perhaps the support will not be taken away. As Sadat himself said, “We believe we will continue to get American air support through the U.S.’s Over the Horizon program…”
However, it is worth noting that U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has said the U.S. military’s support would be on counterterrorism operations against al Qaeda and the Islamic State. It could be surmised, nonetheless, that once support enters the region, it could be used to fight the Taliban as well – strategic maneuvering during battle often functions like this.
The position of the Taliban is precarious: the areas that they’ve occupied are still areas where they are not popular at all. Furthermore, the Afghan forces are not just more in number, they are better trained and with better resources as well as more zeal – most of the Taliban fighters are hired recruits still dubious about whether they will get paid or not.
Finally, the number of fighters that the Taliban have at their disposal add up to a rough estimate of 100,000 to 150,000. According to Rahmatullah Nabil, a presidential candidate in the last elections and former head of Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security, the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces have between 300,000 and 350,000 fighters and the militias a total of 120,000; which greatly surpasses the forces of the Taliban.
The militias, in fact, pose a double threat – these are the private militias of the warlords who were active in the 1980’s fighting against the Soviets.
Finally, there is the propaganda war – the Taliban are trying to win support by taking over small villages and letting girls go to school. They also aimed to take up lucrative trade routes first in order to have an income. However, this reveals that they are concerned about how to pay their fighters, and secondly, no one is buying their propaganda – the image of them as wild savages is still fresh in everyone’s mind.