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Taliban Suicide Bombers: Hitting Hard Targets

On the heels of the recent Taliban suicide bombing at the Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan, where Vice President Cheney was visiting commanders, there is an excellent bit of recent analysis from the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor crew on Taliban suicide bombing trends. The Jamestown researchers collected data on known Taliban suicide bombings in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2007. What they found and shared in an excellent analytical report is of significant importance on several levels.

Cheney Attack Reveals Taliban Suicide Bombing Patterns should be read in full. To distill it down to a few bullet points, the thrust of their findings are as follows:

  • Already 22 suicide bombings (or attempts) in Afghanistan, [including yesterday’s at Bagram Air Base] nearly on track for Mullah Hayat Khan's pledge of 2,000 suicide bombers this year. For perspective, 2006 saw 139 suicide bombings and only 25 in all of 2005.
  • 19 of the 22 resulted in only the bomber dying. The Bagram attack reportedly killed 23, mostly civilians. The other 2 killed 11 Afghan police officers and 8 civilians combined.
  • Unlike al-Qaeda in Iraq, which primarily hits soft targets (civilians), the low Taliban kill ration is because they are primarily hitting ‘hard targets,’ i.e. NATO & Afghan military targets (17 of 22).
  • Also unlike AQAM, the Taliban has actually apologized for civilian deaths caused in instances, illustrating a nationalist aspect vice the stateless al-Qaeda they ally with.
  • The above demonstrates a potential end goal of a ‘Pashtunistan’ straddling the Afghan/Pak border.
  • The Jamestown analysis acknowledges the other ‘Iraqification’ aspects of the Afghanistan insurgency led by the Taliban while still noting this significant difference in targeting.

There are other aspects as well that are discussed and considered. The report helps concerned non-professional observers appreciate the distinctions between the largely Pashtun Taliban (whether technically Afghani or Pakistani) and their Arab al-Qaeda allies who share safe haven in western and southern Pakistan.

Add it to your reading today.

Note: For readers who observe our citing of 22 Taliban suicide attacks vice Jamestown's published count of 21, there is an inconsistency with Jamestown's numbers, if one looks closely. This is understandable and surely due to the fact that their analysis was largely penned before the Bagram attack. Hence, it appears the number of attacks is cited still at 21, with the additional attack at Bagram folded into the assessment without an adjustment on the total number cited throughout. See Jamestown's paragraph #4 breakdown of the cited 21 2007 attacks.