WORDS: 2,173 — While there is very little the average American on the street can know for sure about what’s going on in Afghanistan first hand, we can say that the average American on the street is very experienced in watching video footage of what’s going on over there. But the trick in that is to watch the people in that footage because that is all anyone can truly interpret. It’s a bit of a mental game. Let’s play.
Yes, yes.. what’s happening over there is anything but a game. What I am referring to is that perhaps the action you are seeing and what the audio is saying (generally a reporter on scene) we are being asked to accept as some measure of credibility. We certainly can’t verify for ourselves that the machine gun mounted pickup truck convoy of Taliban fighters are on their way to take over Kandahar. But if we can look deeper at the detail and compare that with additional video.. we can do a fair job in extrapolating certain situations. For example, if in one video those fighters in the pickup trucks are wearing heavier clothing and the next video are fighters dressed in those white Summer “nightgowns”, and we know the current season is Summertime, then it might be fair to presume the first video was stock video to look like a convoy of pickup truck fighters heading to anywhere.. maybe over to the local laundromat.
Early on I began to somewhat entertain myself by noting the movements, body language, equipment, and combine it with what little I know about what these Taliban thugs believe as it relates to their interpretation of the Muslim belief… and how much of a true fighting force these guys represent… and from that determine what we might expect from them as they grab hold of their country. I do have a slight miniscule concept of what goes into the average modern fighting force, partially because I was in the military back in the “old” days. So here’s a list of my observations.. entirely from the TV and from printed news.
What they wear.. and don’t wear, when they go off to fight. While their clothing is generally a hodge-podge of native dress and the turban headgear it does tend to drift to the white “gown” (some say tunic) and the usual dark colored vest (oh.. by the way, I could care less what the Afghani names are for the clothing items they wear.. so don’t bother). Armed with their AK-47’s these guys are dressed as civilians… not modern soldiers. Why should that matter? Military combat dress is made for the rigors of carrying out combat field strategy. Helmets protect the head, the uniform allowing for maximum mobility for all moving parts of the body, footwear able to accommodate walking/running through rough terrain and meandering through the rubble of war. Those gowns are very loose-fitting and would get caught and snagged.. and should you fall the material will restrain your every movement. The clothing also do not have uniform markings to identify between units nor to define rank and chain of command in the field. Some of these guys do wear belts with extra magazines for their AK’s. What’s curious to me are the guys who have no outward belt device or harness for carrying extra mags (is it under their clothing?). No hand grenades (well, maybe now after the regular Afghan military gave up).
And those machine gun mounted pickup trucks? The Taliban loves their rugged Toyotas! (Why Toyota? Read HERE) One of the fallacies depicted in the old TV show The Rat Patrol (that story of “the desert rats” commandos causing chaos for Rommel’s Afrika Corp by driving around the Sahara with extra gas cans and a 50 cal. machine guns mounted on jeeps). Hollywood depicted the idea that these jeeps could go flying across the desert airborne from sand dune to sand dune.. while some poor guy is standing up in the back, hanging on for dear life while shooting the machine gun… presuming with some aiming accuracy. Those TV show gunners were strapped to the gun mounts to keep from flying off the jeep. In reality no one fires a machine gun from the back of a jeep while standing as the jeep careens through the town or bounces off sand dunes. If for nothing else, it would have been a huge waste of ammunition given there would be zero aiming accuracy to the target. Over the years even Hollywood got smarter. If you watch any contemporary movie where some Middle East bad guys are shooting a machine gun from the back of a pickup truck.. the truck pulls up, stops, then the guy starts shooting. The truck is a “weapons platform”; a quick moving place from which a weapon can be fired. It’s the same with military tanks during WW2. Those machine guns mounted adjacent to the top turret hatch on a tank were for firing against infantry while essentially stationary. Even in firing the tank cannon.. seldom it was fired while moving as aim could not be maintained. I believe it wasn’t until development of the M1A1 Abrams tank we currently use where the “cannon” (not a true cannon, btw) was mounted internally on some gyro/gimbal mount which kept it completely level and on target while bouncing through fields. I believe our Humvees (which are not front line vehicles anymore) allowed for the top machine gunner either to stand in the turret or sit on a strap, thus able to control some accuracy while the vehicle is racing down the paved road.
My curiosity is that early on the Taliban operated your average pickup truck.. and it seems every one of them now is a late model extended cab four door… of course, Toyota. Where do they get the parts for maintaining those things, like brakes, tires, motor oil, etc.? I never see a large “Toyota Parts & Service” or “Autozone” signs on those urban landscapes. And if those trucks are modern computer-driven fuel injection systems… who over there fixes that stuff when it’s nearly impossible for a shade tree mechanic to make repairs here? I am sure they simply ignore the check engine light so the hell with catalytic converter replacement. But a machine gun and ammo is not lightweight stuff to carry on those vehicles, especially over the mountains and through the woods. Where do they get replacement trannies? I haven’t seen in any video a UPS truck to deliver parts from RockAuto.com.
Let’s explore how they might communicate. I am sure our intel and military services know the chain of command. Being a radio guy I tend to check out those things. I’ve seen no evidence of the Taliban using military radios.. but maybe a collection of civilian radios, likely that readily available on ham radio frequencies. One would think whatever radios they might be using could be easily monitored by our services. This equipment is not long range or satellite. Now.. the easiest and most readily available might be common cell phone as that infrastructure is likely still in service. But if you note, the average Taliban guy in the field has no radio. In fact, our military carries individual radio coms for unit activity and are linked to a central command structure… even with GPS. If we’ve given some of this tech to the Afghan military then it could be possible that this stuff could end up in the hands of the Taliban. I seem to recall that these unit coms can be coded and in the event it falls into enemy hands it’s kinda worthless. For sure just the Taliban having such gear does not mean they can eavesdrop on our military. But radio communications is absolutely necessary to assure order and policy from the highest of leaders is carried out. It’s integral to a command and control chain of command. Keep in mind that these radios have batteries that need charging or plugged into generators or solar sources… again with sometimes unique voltage requirements.
Then there’s the venerable and always reliable weapon of choice to express Muslim discontent around the world toward the infidels, the AK-47. Everyone has one of those. I never see pistols though. And of course.. you can’t have a war unless you have the shoulder fired Russian (old Soviet) RPG-7, to take out an armored vehicle or two, a helicopter, or a section of a downtown high rise apartment building. A strictly aim-and-shoot weapon.. one can sometime get lucky with it and hit something. The Taliban of today has been a bit weapon modernized thanks to the retreating Afghan military. The calibers between those assault weapons can be a bit different. So if you are a Taliban fighter and decided to pick up and use a surrendered American made M4 carbine or an M16 and a few magazines and then get into a firefight later in the afternoon and you run out of ammo… your AK-47 firing buddies won’t be able to toss you any bullets.
Check out this CNN report about all the “new” weaponry the Taliban liberated from the retreating Afghan military.
Ok.. and what about these fighters themselves.. how and where are they recruited? From what I understand the original Taliban, version 1.0 from 2001, were a composite of Pakistani Taliban lead and trained Afghan and local various nationals. Here’s what the BBC has to say…
The Taliban, or “students” in the Pashto language, emerged in the early 1990s in northern Pakistan following the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan. It is believed that the predominantly Pashtun movement first appeared in religious seminaries – mostly paid for by money from Saudi Arabia – which preached a hardline form of Sunni Islam.The promise made by the Taliban – in Pashtun areas straddling Pakistan and Afghanistan – was to restore peace and security and enforce their own austere version of Sharia, or Islamic law, once in power.
Pakistan has repeatedly denied that it was the architect of the Taliban enterprise, but there is little doubt that many Afghans who initially joined the movement were educated in madrassas (religious schools) in Pakistan.
It’s a very good article to read on the origin, mission, and hierarchy is HERE.
But it would seem the average street fighter is your run-of-the-mill disgruntled and social misfits who enjoy the trappings of what little power they have. Since they have the AK-47’s and the switches by which to whip people into submission they likely enjoy the ability to do what they want as fighting men under a Jihad mission… and using Sharia as their rule book.
So, what have we got here with this little rundown of Taliban capabilities? Pretty much an inferior fighting force as compared with the militaries of modern nations. Yet they are resilient, tenacious, and assertive as whole. Another big plus for them is the idea that they generally wish to die for their Jihadist cause, which means they aren’t afraid to die and will take reckless risks, and sometimes succeed. Fighting a military like that usually becomes a war of attrition… as we had to do against the Japanese in WW2.
As for the here and now at the Kabul Airport… the U.S. is in talks with the Taliban. I think we need to keep in mind that perhaps today’s Taliban is not your daddy’s Taliban. those earlier fighters of the 1990’s who were in their 20’s are now approaching 50. Some of the current younger one’s may have had some education under the American occupation and likely have far different views than their predecessors. Then again, some intel is still suggesting these guys are still the Sharia thugs, jerks, and scumbags their daddy’s were back in the day. I guess time will tell. But remember.. the Taliban didn’t conquer a thing by defeating any enemy. They simply filled an unopposed vacuum created when the Afghan military cut and ran… and we decided to leave.
Here’s my “solution” to this exodus. Start out with the number 100,000 as the number of total expected people from all categories that need to fly out. Then “request” of the Taliban that we’d be willing to pay a “security fee” of $10,000 per person for them to assure security and safe passage for all. That $100 million means nothing to us.. and it’s not “ransom to free hostages” to the American public but rather a security fee (No “Iran-Contra” nonsense). We can tack on a bonus if they allow us free unimpeded roaming the countryside, with air support, to collect any stray people… and we are given 30 days to complete the airlift.
We then offer to set up a “diplomatic mission” (no official recognition, no embassy swapping) from which we help them set up and coordinate public services around the nation, for a minimum of two years (with the option of staying longer for their demonstrated “good behavior”, under a contract fee of $50 million to us.
There… that’s my contribution to the Free World.