The current conflict
After the fall of the Democratic
Republic of Afghanistan, a civil war broke out between
different factions of the mujahideen with the Taliban
eventually emerging as the victors.
The current conflict involves both the submerged Taliban
forces and the al-Qaeda network, with both operating in
Afghanistan and in neighboring Pakistan. The organization of
these forces closely resembles that used during the conflict
with the Soviets. A large number of relatively small bases are
spread out over vast, mostly desolate regions. These bases are
loosely-networked together in most cases and do not require
extensive command and control from a centralized authority.
Often they are divided according to ethnic, regional and
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Although the Afghani insurgents are not openly supported by
any states they have nonetheless managed to establish a system
of military resupply mostly by using al-Qaeda’s international
network, and by stealing weapons and supplies from opposition
forces. The country’s borders are very difficult to monitor
and it is impossible to stop at least some flow of supplies
coming in from external sources. Also, both the Taliban and
al-Qaeda are known to have employed a strategy of stockpiling
weapons, ammunition and other supplies in hidden caches for
use in a protracted conflict.
The battlefield tactics of the Afghan insurgency resembles a
fusion of those used during the Soviet conflict, with new
techniques learned by al-Qaeda. In particular, al-Qaeda’s
experience in fighting with American and allied forces in Iraq
has been transferred to the battlefield in Afghanistan.
Although the insurgent generally have no sophisticated weapons
like the Stinger missile used against the Soviets, they have
employed new makeshift weaponry that has proven very
effective. The insurgents generally are equipped with light
arms, portable RPGs, light mortars, car bombs, and improvised
explosive device or IEDs. The use of this latter weapon was
perfected by al-Qaeda during operations in Iraq.
Sometimes heavier weapons are used such as anti-aircraft
artillery or heavy mortars mounted on trucks. Also, both the
Taliban and al-Qaeda occasionally get their hands on portable
shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, especially the Russian