OPINION

Commentary

The heavy bombing campaigns, the military aid to opposition fighters and the continuing US air strikes during the Afghan war have played a decisive role in bringing about the Taleban’s military defeat. The Taleban regime is on the brink of collapse and if it still maintains some control in the region of Kandahar, this is due to the reluctance of the Northern Alliance to march south into Pashtun territory. It is extremely unlikely that the Taleban will manage to rally their troops and organize a strong guerrilla movement. It is a major mistake to draw parallels with the armed struggle against the Soviets. All Mujahedin factions took part in that war, and the rebels were backed by Pakistan, the USA and Saudi Arabia. This time, the Taleban are totally isolated. At best, they will manage to prolong their resistance for some time. The duration of the current, frail equilibrium will depend on whether the Americans will manage to rally a sufficient number of local troops to launch the final assault together with Western commando forces. This is linked to the difficult task of setting up a new government, which has become even harder after the fall of Kabul into the hands of the Northern Alliance, who thus presented them with a fait accompli. The Americans’ first priority is eliminating Osama bin Laden and disrupting the Al Qaeda network rather than reaching a settlement on the future of Afghanistan. In effect, they are not going to put pressure on leaders to accept the new government hammered out by the State Department. For the time being, their main aim is to block all exit routes. There can be no safe prediction about the outcome of the campaign as there is no reliable information. If the enemy is still in Kandahar, then it will most probably remain trapped there. Its elimination is, of course, a decisive step but does not necessarily signify the final crackdown on Islamist terrorism. Al Qaeda is a decentralized terrorist network and it has probably not lost all of its operational capabilities. Even more importantly, however, the ideological assembly line for the production of jihad martyrs has not only remained in place but has also gained a new momentum after bin Laden’s example.