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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 similar allegiances.

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 SA-7.


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