|John Keegan, a defense editor of The Daily Telegraph, London, wrote the following column. Keegan is the author of many books on military history, including Six Armies in Normandy (1982, reissued with a new introduction, 1994), The Second World War (1989), and The Face of Battle (1976). John Keegan was for many years professor of history at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst (Great Britain), the equivalent of America's West Point Academy.|
collapse of Taliban resistance in northern
- it cannot yet be called a
victory - of the
Why the sudden breakthrough?
The collapse of the Taliban has much to do with the movement's
unperceived political, religious and military weaknesses.
Whereas the Khalifa drew his support from a popular form of
Islam, which looked to him as the successor of Mohammed and was rooted
in Sudanese life, the Taliban is a foreign import, formed in the religious school of north-west
from converting the Afghans, particularly those outside the Pushtu-speaking
south, to its way of thought the Taliban succeeded in making itself
deeply unpopular in a very short space of time.
popular support, it has collapsed quickly in the non-Pushtu areas, which
look to the
Taliban turned itself into a dictatorship
from the start, a dangerous mistake which denied it the support of the
elders and worthies who lead Afghan communal life.
Finally, its military tactics were wrong.
It is possible that it badly weakened itself in its initial
campaign of conquest against the
power, however, has probably been the key factor, enhanced by the
Taliban's adoption of tactics which favored the other side.
Afghan mountain warriors, particularly the Pathans of the south,
traditionally found advantage in fighting regular forces by presenting a
poor target to organized fire power. Their organization was the loose
lashkar, which moved fleet-footed across country, avoiding roads, and
their chosen method of fighting was that of the gasht, a raiding sweep. In
the last few weeks, the Taliban seems to have made the mistake of
constructing entrenched lines, which are clearly visible from the air
and present attractive targets for precision bombing, even from 15,000
ft. The Taliban has also
encumbered itself with tanks and four-wheel drive vehicles, which add
little to its fighting capacity but signal its units' location to
they stuck to their feet, dispersed their units and clung to hidden
positions on the high ground, the Taliban fighters might not have been
as easily dislodged by the
Not all Pathans are pro-Taliban. Its puritanism
and disregard for tribal political practice ensure that. The
non-Pathan elements - Arabs, Chechens, Sudanese and Punjabis - also
helped to make it unpopular with the Pathans, who are intensely tribal
and are used to exercising a commanding role in Afghan affairs.
Not all Pathans are pro-Taliban. Its puritanism and disregard for tribal political practice ensure that. The non-Pathan elements - Arabs, Chechens, Sudanese and Punjabis - also helped to make it unpopular with the Pathans, who are intensely tribal and are used to exercising a commanding role in Afghan affairs. The
the alliance moves south, it will encounter increasing resistance and
decreasing support. Despite
this, al-Qa'eda and Osama bin Laden still find themselves in a much
weaker position. The realignment of fronts may force him to change his
hiding place. It has certainly unsettled his personal and political
arrangements. We may hear
less in future of his odious arrogance and the tide of approval he has
enjoyed in the Muslim world will probably now wane.
The success of the
to the World After 09-11-01
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