Foreign Policy Blogs

Cheap Talk and Signal in Taliban Spring Thaw Strategy

The Taliban declared that, on Sunday April 31st, they would begin operations on their spring thaw military strategy against “the foreign invading forces“.  The Taliban, the self-proclaimed Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, promised to attack U.S and NATO assets and soldiers as well as businessmen who wish to work with Western institutions and agencies.  Officials close to the Karzai administration have also been targeted.  In all, the Taliban has promised a frontal assault to pull down the standing regime.

In a prepared two page statement, the Taliban claimed that,

“The war in our country will not come to an end unless and until the foreign invading forces pull out of Afghanistan,” that, “foreign invading forces, members of their spy networks and other spies, high-ranking officials of the Kabul puppet administration … and heads of foreign and local companies working for the enemy and contractors” are suitable targets.

The statement also warned civilians to steer clear of military convoys and foreign institutions. It read, “All Afghan people should bear in mind to keep away from gatherings, convoys and centers of the enemy so that they will not become harmed during attacks of mujahedin against the enemy.”

Now, the U.S and ISAF troops have long anticipated a ramped up springtime insurgency and have promised  in their turn a spring thaw offensive against the Taliban. Recent reports have held up Southern Provinces of Helmand and Kandahar as the locus of lethal fights, where the U.S and ISAF soldiers will push back the Taliban.  As such the statement is cheap talk-the declaration of attacks is, by itself, noise.

However the warning that Afghans should stay clear of public spaces traversed by the Western authorities in Afghanistan is a strong signal that an attack is imminent and that multiple attacks are likely to be frequent.  This, because, not delivering on the promised attacks would imply that the Taliban are not as powerful as they claim to be (most sources claim that the Taliban are not nearly as powerful as public opinion in Afghanistan holds.)  The Taliban cannot afford to be perceived as weak.  Indeed to drive away the suspicions of military and political impotence, the Taliban must ramp up their offensives against American and ISAF soldiers.  Declaring that civilians had best step away from any putative combat zone increases the likelihood that a lethal attack is in the works, oddly enough, because people have just been told that an attack is in the works.

That is to say that the lethal, spectacular and frequent attacks on U.S and ISAF soldiers are the Taliban’s attempt to showboat. Though, they are likely to do so with deadly results.



Faheem Haider

Faheem Haider is a political analyst, writer and artist. He holds advanced research degrees in political economy, political theory and the political economy of development from the London School of Economics and Political Science and New York University. He also studied political psychology at Columbia University. During long stints away from his beloved Washington Square Park, he studied peace and conflict resolution and French history and European politics at the American University in Washington DC and the University of Paris, respectively.

Faheem has research expertise in democratic theory and the political economy of democracy in South Asia. In whatever time he has to spare, Faheem paints, writes, and edits his own blog on the photographic image and its relationship to the political narrative of fascist, liberal and progressivist art.

That work and associated writing can be found at the following link:

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