05 November 2009

Strategic Attacks or Unintended Consequences?

Before I post, I offer my condolences to the Ft Hood community. Today's events are completely shocking and utterly disturbing.

Following last week’s attack in Kabul, initial reports from the Taliban were that they intended to disrupt the presidential election. Was this the Taliban’s sole logic for the attack, or were there ulterior motives? One unfortunate byproduct of the attack is that it undoubtedly will cut off the UN and NGOs from the populace, which is a strategic victory for the Taliban in and of itself. The UN has responded by announcing increased force protection measures, the consolidation of two-thirds of their 90 guesthouses (perhaps into one UN super FOB?), and the relocation of roughly half of their employees for the time being. There is a larger question that crossed my mind: was last week’s attack on the UN guesthouse in Kabul a replay of the 19 August 2003 attack on Baghdad’s UN compound? The 19 August and subsequent 22 September suicide attacks caused the UN to pull the majority of its workers from Iraq.

Looking back, the UN Canal Hotel and Jordanian Embassy bombings were likely early salvos in a broader campaign of isolating the US mission inside Iraq, which the course of OIF has proven largely successful. The UN hostel bombing may be the next step in a similar campaign by the Taliban to weaken the ISAF mission and make it a US-exclusive mission. The Brits and Germans have faced increased Taliban opposition in Helmand and Kunduz provinces respectively. Subsequently, both governments have faced increased domestic opposition to their nations’ continued support of the ISAF mission, especially in Germany where the majority of the population is sensitive to any overseas military operations. While attack levels as a whole are up across the country, I have a gut feeling that the Taliban is conducting targeted operations to place domestic pressure on our international partners. The UK and Germany have the two largest troop levels after the United States (ISAF RC Map), and either nation’s withdrawal would place even more strain on US forces who would undoubtedly backfill their troops. Further, a UN withdrawal or pull-back would hamper reconstruction and rule of law efforts nationwide, further degrading whatever support is left for the ISAF mission and Karzai government. Maybe I’m giving the Taliban too much credit, but I see this as an extremely viable Taliban COA.

Comments on the post, or the Taliban’s possible intended second and third-order effects?


  1. I think we have to give our enemies enough credit to plan spectacular attacks in which they war game possible 2nd and 3rd order effects. At a minimum our military planners conduct ASCOPE analysis in an attempt to identify specific structures that need to be protected or at least not damaged by our actions. It would not surprise me that we (the military) didn't analyze which of our own Coalition structures need security improvements and analyze the 2nd and 3rd order effects of our security short commings.

  2. Wanted to follow-up on the element of AQ/Taliban focusing their IO message on the German populace. Links below are to translated media products and speeches that are clearly intended to turn the German people against the NATO mission in Afghanistan.

    "German Taliban" Amir Abu Ishaq al Muhajir -
    16 OCT: http://www.nefafoundation.org/miscellaneous/nefaGermanTaliban1009.pdf

    Statements from Bekay Harrach (German member of AQ who is their de-facto spokesmen)-
    28 SEP: http://www.nefafoundation.org/miscellaneous/nefa_harrach0909.pdf
    09 NOV: http://www.nefafoundation.org/miscellaneous/nefa_Harrachallah.pdf