The Taliban took a beating this Spring in Afghanistan. The NATO offensive killed many of their top commanders and destroyed many Taliban units.

With the conflict renewing in Pakistan, the Taliban will have to fight a two front war after losing many of its best soldiers. They resorted to conscripting local tribesmen who are ineffective cannon fodder. The attrition of their skills is more important than many realize.

From Strategy Page

June was the bloodiest month in a long time, with about a thousand dead (700 Taliban, a hundred government and foreign troops and 200 civilians). For the first six months of the year, about 3,200 were killed, compared to about 4,000 for all of last year. About 70 percent of the dead are Taliban. The high Taliban casualty rate is the result of high losses among Taliban leaders, and recruiting many younger, inexperienced Pushtun tribesmen.

Following the Taliban defeat in 2001, the best commanders realized they had to travel in small units of 25 or less. They understood that the Americans had air power and night vision goggles that made movement difficult.

Things went wrong. The local tribes began cooperating and providing intelligence with the Afghan government and the Americans. The good Taliban soldiers were simply killed off.

These days Taliban units travel in very large groups in clear view of UAVs. Airstrikes have taken out whole units trying to cross into Afghanistan. The US forces are also more aggressive this year as they pursue and destroy all hostile contacts.

A few survivors, some of them wounded, eventually straggle back, to tell of being caught by American aircraft and Afghan soldiers, and even being picked off at night. These guys have only a vague knowledge of UAVs and night-vision goggles. All they know is they went into battle as warriors of Islam, and quickly became fleeing survivors. More than half of these holy warriors were recruited from Pakistan Pushtun tribes. The money was good, more than local cops made, and there were prospects for loot. But it was all a lie. No one is coming back with loot, and many aren’t coming back at all. But the money is still there to hire holy warriors for operations in Afghanistan. The drug gangs, and the couriers from wealthy Islamic conservatives in the Persian Gulf, see the holy warriors as a useful way to keep the Afghan government busy.

The real threat in Iraq, Afghanistan, Mexico and dozens of other countries are the criminal organizations. They will give mediocre support to insurgencies and radical organizations. Never enough for the insurgencies to actually disrupt the entire regional economy – it’s in the criminals interest to protect their own market. Criminals want to weaken the state government and police, but not so much that the economy is totally ruined.

The Opium growers and smugglers of Afghanistan want little vacuums of power where they can operate in peace.