The Taliban continue to perpetrate atrocities, the latest being a bombing in Kunduz in northern Afghanistan, which is said to have killed nine police officers. This was a bit unusual, insofar as the north is generally pretty peaceful. The Taliban are much stronger in the southern and eastern provinces. But even there their activities have not, so far, lived up to their advance billing.
For months Taliban spokesmen have been bragging about—and coalition soldiers have been dreading—a “spring offensive.” Well, spring began a month ago (March 21 was the vernal equinox), and, though Taliban attacks continue, there has been no substantial spike. So far no offensive has materialized—a fact that has gone largely unreported in the press but that is being commented upon by some NATO ministers and soldiers.
If there had been a Tet-style offensive in Afghanistan it would certainly be big news. But nothing much happening passes without much comment. I was only made aware of the lack of news while chatting with a Special Forces soldier in Iraq who had served not long ago in Afghanistan.
This is the point where any commentator who is not an utter nitwit inserts the usual CYA language: just because an offensive hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean it won’t happen. I don’t mean to discount the possibility of some terrible Taliban atrocity tomorrow. Etc, etc. With that out of the way, it’s worth pondering why an offensive hasn’t happened so far.
Frankly, I have no idea. But I can speculate. Perhaps the Taliban threat has been exaggerated? Not likely. By all accounts the Taliban are indeed getting stronger and more brazen, thanks to the training and support they are now receiving in Pakistan while Pervez Musharraf runs around like Sgt. Schulz proclaiming, “I know nut-zeeng.” A more likely explanation is that the buildup of coalition forces—British and American especially—in the south and east has helped to preempt the offensive. Or at least delay it.
This brings me to Boot’s Law of Disasters: disasters that are widely predicted don’t occur. To cite just two examples: Y2K and the bird flu. Both were expected to be catastrophes, but for this very reason they turned out to be pretty harmless. Their potential victims took the necessary steps to blunt their impact. At this point there may even be a few readers scratching their heads, trying to remember what Y2K was all about. Remember how all the world’s computers were supposed to stop functioning when 1999 ended and 2000 began? Didn’t happen, needless to say. And bird flu mainly has been killing birds. The real nightmares are those, like 9/11 or the Virginia Tech shooting, that no one expects.
It may well be that the spring offensive hasn’t been sprung because it was so widely anticipated. But some other Taliban or al-Qaeda move may well be in the offing. We certainly can’t be complacent. But we can expect that the enemy—like any good guerrilla—will strike where and when least expected.