Security

Heavy losses, low morale plague militants in Afghanistan

By Najibullah

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Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers on March 24, 2017, march to their positions during a military operation in Badghis Province. [HOSHANG HASHIMI / AFP]

KABUL -- With Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) carrying out daily counter-terrorism operations, militants have two options: certain death or defection, according to Afghan security officials.

Either way, they say, militants' morale is low and their defeat is on the horizon.

In addition to aerial and nighttime operations, the security forces have maintained a upbeat tempo of 16 daytime operations per day, which has resulted in positive outcomes, said Gen. Dawlat Waziri, a spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defence.

"In the past week alone, nine Taliban operational centres have been destroyed and caches of weapons, munitions and explosives have been confiscated by the Afghan security forces," he told Salaam Times March 30.

"Insurgents in this country have suffered heavy losses, and many of their commanders and leaders have been killed," Waziri said.

"In the past week, 320 militants, including three of their leaders, have been killed," he said, identifying the dead commanders as Abdulbasir, who was killed in Uruzgan Province, and Mullah Toriali and Mullah Ahmed, both of whom were killed in Helmand Province.

Taliban, ISIL suffer heavy losses

The ANDSF have stepped up counter-terrorism operations in recent days, killing and wounding scores of Taliban and "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) militants, according to the ministries of defence and interior.

In joint operations Monday-Tuesday (April 3-4), the ANDSF killed 82 insurgents, including two local Taliban commanders and 21 ISIL members, the Ministry of Defence announced.

During the previous 24 hours, the ANDSF killed 68 insurgents, including a local Taliban commander and 15 ISIL members, said the ministry.

Such operations are daily and inflict high casualties.

Afghan forces launched operations in Laghman, Uruzgan, Farah, Nangarhar, Ghazni, Kandahar and Kunduz provinces March 28-29, killing 72 militants, the Ministry of Interior (MoI) said in a statement.

Between March 26 and 27, the Afghan air force hit terrorist hideouts in Kot District, Nangarhar Province, killing 33 ISIL members, according to another MoI statement.

On the night of March 25, Afghan air strikes killed 27 ISIL members in three villages in Kot District, said a separate statement.

A day earlier, the ANDSF killed 47 terrorists in a number of operations, the ministry said, according to local media.

In another March 24 operation in Nangarhar Province, the ANDSF killed 22 ISIL members, including two of the group's commanders -- Zabihullah, also known as Shino, and Dorgol, Lt. Col. Sherin Aqa Faqiri, a spokesman for the Afghan National Army in eastern Afghanistan, told Salaam Times.

Militants suffered 15% more deaths in 2016 than in 2015, Minister of Interior Gen. Taj. MUhammad Jahid told parliament March 27.

Militants' failures, low morale

"The heavy losses suffered by militants hurt their morale," Abdulghaffar Gardizi, a retired military officer, told Salaam Times.

"The militants' capabilities to engage in face-to-face battles with Afghan security forces have been diminished or otherwise completely eliminated in various areas of the country," he said.

In addition to suffering defeats and casualties, the Taliban and other insurgent groups have lost the support of the Afghan people.

"Public knowledge and awareness about the militants have increased from ten years ago," Kabul-based military analyst Gen. (ret.) Atiqullah Amarkhil told Salaam Times.

"Taliban militants no longer benefit from the public support they once had, because their actions are not accepted by the people," he said, adding that only residents of areas under Taliban control help the militants, having no other option.

"The militants no longer have a place among Afghans because of the acts they have committed, acts that violate Islamic principles and Afghan traditions," said Mohammad Hassan, a Kabul-based security analyst.

Afghan religious scholars in recent years have declared fighting against Afghan security forces haram and illegitimate, a decision that has played a vital role in raising awareness among the Afghan people, he said.

"Many families, the children of whom were once within the ranks of the Taliban, have realised the truth," said Farid Ahmad Navid, a 25-year-old Afghan student from Takhar Province. "They no longer allow their children to associate with the Taliban."

"The majority of Taliban now understand they made a mistake," Afghan High Peace Council member Muhammad Ismail Qasemyar told Salaam Times. "It's time to join the peace process."

If the Taliban join the peace process, they can live openly and fearlessly, rather than cowering in the mountains, he said.

Militants give up

Disheartened insurgents are abandoning the fight.

On March 28, a group of 18 Taliban militants in Nangarhar Province laid down their arms, according to local media. The 18 included a commander.

Another group of about 200 Taliban members surrendered in Balkh Province April 1 after fighting the government for more than 10 years.

One of those Balkh militants was Ahsanullah.

"I realised that our fight is not jihad and that the lives of Afghans don't matter to our leaders, so I joined the peace process," he told Salaam Times.

"I am trying to take part in rebuilding my country," he said.

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