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Afghan attacks dip after crackdown on Quetta Shura?
It could be early days yet, and the sampling may be small, but there are signs of a drop in Taliban attacks following the Pakistani crackdown on the Quetta Shura, an intelligence website says. If the assessment put out by NightWatch intelligence turns out to be true over the next few weeks, it will reinforce U.S. military officials’ long-standing position you cannot win the war in Afghanistan unless you take out the Taliban leadership in Pakistan
NightWatch says it began compiling and analysing open source reporting in Afghanistan in early February to determine whether the arrest of Taliban no.2 Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Karachi and other commanders subsequently had a measurable impact on the fighting. Looking at the figures for January and February and factoring in weather conditions, the answer is that the Pakistani crackdown appears to have contributed to a “clear but delayed drop in clashes,” it says.
While combat in early January was lacklustre, typical of mid-winter with 5 to 6 significant clashes involving loss of life or property each day, the pace picked-up that month and into early February. In the week following Baradar’s arrest on Feb. 8 the daily number of clashes dipped, picked up a little the following week, but then fell back reaching the low levels recorded in early January.
The February is dip is even more striking, because it happened just when the United States launched the biggest operation in years in southern Helmand province’s Marjah. Usually each time there is a big NATO operation, Taliban fighters try and step up action elsewhere to distract the security forces.
We may well be grasping at straws here. It’s not even clear how much of the Taliban military strategy was being directed by Baradar; some people have suggested he was actually in contact with the Afghan government as part of its reconciliation drive. If that were true, he may not have been the top military strategist for the Taliban for sometime, and in that sense, his capture shouldn’t be making a huge difference to their operations. Perhaps the dip in Taliban attacks is just a temporary phenomenon.
Either way, the pressure on Pakistan remains. If indeed its crackdown on elements of the Afghan Taliban, for whatever reason, has made a difference to the war, it will only bolster the U.S. case for more action.
“I think there is going to be a lot of talk about what more Pakistan can do about the militants,” Bruce Riedel, a former CIA analyst and now with The Brookings Institution, told Reuters last month.