What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Monday, June 16, 2008


Tom Coghlan writes in for The Telegraph about the huge Sarposa prison break (the literal "breaking" of the prison) in Kandahar.
"... costly encounters in conventional battle have focused Taliban commanders' minds on developing more sophisticated tactics, conserving their resources for better-planned "spectaculars".
The first of these took place in Kabul in January, when a combined suicide squad of gunmen and fighters blasted it way through security at the city's Serena hotel, a five-star facility favoured by Westerners, killing six people.
Then in April, marksmen managed to breach security at a parade attended by President Karzai and Western diplomats, opening fire on the crowd and killing three."
I have written of the Taliban et al.'s apparently increasing use of effects-based operations before, not once (the first time in January). Taliban et al. here includes all more or less distinguishable players - the Taliban and its various local allies, the Haqqani group, Hekmatyar's HiG and al-Qaida as well. All of them are using more "spectaculars" these days.
Tom Coghlan missed the November 6 Baghlan bombing for example. He also doesn't note the major series of attacks in February, in Kandahar province, that killed scores of people and may have been timed together with a prepared rocket attack/ambush on traffic at Kandahar Airfield. And perhaps we should also go backwards in time, and point to the Taliban's surge last summer into Chora district which stood out from the rest of insurgents' capture-the-flag/propaganda of the deed type stunts in district centres elsewhere, with Chora's strategic significance in Uruzgan, and with debate in Dutch domestic politics at the time about the continuation of the Netherlands' role in southern Afghanistan (that attack was launched synchronised with a deadly suicide car bombing in Tarin Kowt).
But Coghlan certainly does get the point. The Taliban used swarming tactics (using motorcycles and vans for mobility) against a weak link (Sarposa), in yet another effects-based operation. By the way their attack also came following up on the Thursday Paris donor conference focused on Afghanistan.
That is the detail that brought up in me the historical analogy, in terms of several basic features of the operation, of the Acre prison break of 1947, when Irgun's insurgents blasted holes into the walls of a much better protected prison complex there to get their comrades out, not coincidentally launching their daring operation while the UN General Assembly was preparing to deal with the issue of Palestine. Photo added below for illustration and some end-of-the-post staring-into-nothing for an enhanced reading experience.
The 1947 Acre prison break (photo source)

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