Afghanistan

There are 3 cycles that seem to correlate with the battle between the Taliban (and its predecessors) and Western forces, currently in support of an Afghan administration led by Hamid Karzai.  The first cycle – the 45 year Saturn/Uranus cycle starting in 1998 – is a longterm cycle dealing with structural imbalance or conflict in the country that stretches back to at least late 1952. The second is another longterm 36 year cycle of organisational death and re-birth which begins in 1982 with the growth of various mujahideen groups fighting Soviet forces – financed by the US, China, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan’s immediate neighbours. The third  is a short term 12 year cycle that appears to correlate with explosive generally violent developments and how they transform societal expectations in this geopolitical crisis.

The 2 outer cycles normally have quite different dates for their four stages but from October 2007 to February 2008 and from May 2010 to October 2010 they are both in orb. When two outer planetary cycles are both in orb we may expect any relevant developments in this period to have greater societal significance – though this theory has yet to be fully analysed.

SATURN/URANUS (45 year cycle) 1988 – 2032

1988 CONJUNCTION

The 1988 conjunction starting in February does correlate with the Soviet Union announcing the withdrawal of  an estimated 115,000 soldiers from Afghanistan – in effect conceding defeat. By June (the second exact cycle conjunction date) following a UN mediated agreement the Soviets pull out of Afghanistan – more than eight years after its forces had entered the country. Here is structural change, but change bearing more the imprint of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the beginning of the break-up of the Soviet Union itself. Though further flung from Moscow than Poland, Hungary and Romania and in Asia rather than Europe the Russian withdrawal from Afghanistan is tied in with the advent of glasnost and perestroika. But we need to check how far the correlation goes.

1999 OUT SQUARE

At the cycle conjunction we saw the Soviet Union withdraw its troops. Now the withdrawal of one superpower has entailed the close involvement of the other and this time the superpower is having to deal with an armed force it had itself indirectly armed and trained ! In July 1999 President Clinton signs an Executive Order imposing sanctions against the ruling Taliban militia. In October 1999 the US introduces a UN Security Council resolution calling for the seizure of assets of the Taliban militia and the grounding of all international flights from Afghanistan until the Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is turned over to the authorities. The Taliban reject the UN ultimatum to surrender Osama bin Laden and in mid November UN sanctions against Afghanistan go into effect.

 2009 OPPOSITION

At the end of 2006 NATO had assumed responsibility for security across the whole of Afghanistan, taking over command in the east from a US-led coalition force. Though vastly outgunned and outnumbered by NATO forces and the Afghan National Army, the Taliban and its allies, most notably the Haqqani Network and Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin, continue to wage their own kind of warfare with guerrilla raids and ambushes in the countryside, suicide attacks against urban targets, and turncoat killings against coalition forces. The Taliban remain successful in exploiting the weak and corrupt Afghan government and have reasserted influence across rural areas of southern and eastern Afghanistan. The cycle opposition sees a maximisation of the battle to overturn their grip on the country.

The issue of neighbouring Pakistan assumes greater importance. The Taliban are partly based in Pakistan – indeed their command headquarters are based in the Pakistani city of Quetta. In June 2008 President Karzai warns that Afghanistan will send troops into Pakistan to fight militants if the Pakistan government fails to take action against them.

In March 2009 incoming US President Barack Obama unveils a new strategy for the region. An extra 4,000 US personnel will train and bolster the Afghan army and police. In October Hamid Karzai gets re-elected as President despite widespread Taliban attacks, patchy turnout and claims of serious fraud. In December President Obama decides to boost US troop numbers by a further 30,000, bringing the total to 100,000 but states that the US will begin withdrawing its forces by 2011. In February 2010 NATO-led forces launch a major offensive to secure government control of southern Helmand province and in July General David Petraeus takes over command of US and ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) forces. In November 2010 a NATO summit in Lisbon agrees the plan to hand control of security to Afghan forces by end of 2014.

The Saturn/Uranus In square will be in orb from January 2020 till January 2023. It will be exact in February, June and December 2021

SATURN/PLUTO (36 year cycle) 1982 – 2020

 1982 CONJUNCTION

The 1982 Conjunction sees the emergence of the Mujahideen guerrilla fighters in Russian occupied Afghanistan. During 1981 the Afghan Army which numbered 100,000 strong drops to 30,000 due to defection to the Mujahideen. And starting in 1981 the United States’ intelligence agency, the CIA, carries out massive covert operations within Afghanistan. In 1982 tens of thousands of Muslim fighters from dozens of countries arrive to support the fight against the Russians. With stunning irony the US helps finance the arming of these guerrilla fighters on a major scale, unaware that after their success in driving out the Russians, these arms and training will later be put to use against the Americans themselves.

 1993 OUT SQUARE

On 15 April 1992, shortly after the Out square comes into orb, the Mujahideen overthrow the Afghan Communist government in Kabul led by President Najibullah. A rebel leader Rabbani becomes President, but factional fighting develops amplified by Iranian, Saudi and Pakistani interference. Nevertheless the Mujahideen succeed in forming the Islamic State of Afghanistan with an Islamic Jihad Council. All of the different parties are ostensibly unified under this government. However Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hezb-e Islami refuses to recognize the government and launches attacks against government forces in Kabul. Fighting escalates in the capital leaving much of Kabul reduced to rubble.

In April 1994 Mohammed Omar, a former guerrilla commander against Soviet forces, gathers a group of former guerrillas in the village of Singesar and is soon leading ‘the Taliban’ as Amir-ul-Momineen (Commander of the Faithful). The Taliban fighters are well armed with 800 truckloads of arms and ammunition garnered from a Soviet cache. They are also well trained by the Frontier Constabulary, a paramilitary force of Pakistan’s Interior Ministry (ISI) – indeed from 1995 to 2001, the ISI is widely alleged to have supported the Taliban. With these advantages the Taliban capture the southern town of Kandahar and continue to gain territory before eventually taking over the government of the country.

2001 OPPOSITION

TALIBAN GOVERNMENT OVERTHROWN BY US-LED COALITION

In late 2001 the issue of the Taliban government’s actions in Afghanistan reaches maximum international impact – leading to its overthrow as the government of Afghanistan by a US-led coalition . But before that in February 2001 a UN team confirms that the Taliban has nearly wiped out opium production in Afghanistan. If this deserves worldwide praise from the rest of the world it does not receive it. Even if it had, it would have lost that acclaim ten days later when the Taliban leader Mullah Omar orders the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and the Repression of Vice to destroy all pre-Islamic statues including the massive Buddha statues carved into the stone cliffs of Bamiyan. In early March the ancient giant Buddha and smaller Buddah at Bamiyan are destroyed to a chorus of outrage from the international community.

EDICTS & LAWS CONDEMNED BY NON-ISLAMIC WORLD

The Taliban now embark on a rash of edicts and laws that will be condemned by virtually the whole non Islamic world. On May 22 they issue an edict that would require non-Muslims to wear distinguishing clothing. A week later they bar female foreign-aid workers from driving – the Virtue Ministry says the activity is harmful for society. On June 5 they order foreigners to obey strict Muslim laws or face expulsion. On August 5 the Taliban close a US relief organization office and arrest 24 of its workers for propagating Christianity and jail them. [Exact Opposition Aug 5th 2001],

SHELTERING THE AUTHOR OF THE 9/11 ATTACKS

Then comes the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The day after 9/11 while the Taliban prepare for a US attack, Mohammad Omar, their leader, on whose territory Osama bin Laden, the author of the 9/11 attack,  is sheltering, goes into hiding. As many as 300,000 Afghans reportedly flee the Taliban base of Kandahar expecting US air strikes. On Sept 13 US Special forces arrive in Afghanistan while soon after Iran and Pakistan seal off their borders.

On Sept 19 the Pentagon begins deploying troops, ships and planes to the Persian Gulf under the code name ‘Operation Infinite Justice.’ The Taliban rejects President Bush’s ultimatum to surrender Osama bin Laden while he issues a statement calling on Muslim brothers to resist the “Christian-Jewish crusade led by the big crusader Bush under the flag of the Cross…” On October 1 the opposition Northern Alliance of Afghanistan meets in Rome with ex-king Zahir Shah and agrees to form a broad-based government open to cooperation with the West.

On October 7 US and British forces strike 31 targets in Afghanistan using 40 warplanes and 50 Tomahawk cruise missiles having taken out all air defences. At the same time the Northern Alliance, who have opposed the Taliban, moves its front line artillery and infantry units against the Taliban. On that same day the Al-Jazeera TV network shows video footage of Osama bin Laden praising Allah for the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

TALIBAN FORCES ABANDON KABUL AS SUPPORT HEADS IN FROM PAKISTAN

On Oct 19 US commandos attack a Taliban stronghold in Kandahar in the first known ground action involving US troops. On the same day over 5,000 Muslim volunteers head into Afghanistan from Pakistan, offering their help in fighting what they see as a holy war against the US. On October 27 there are exceptionally heavy airstrikes by the US with civilian casualties – destined to controversially multiply.

[Second Exact Opposition Nov 2nd] On Nov 12 Taliban forces abandon Kabul and Northern Alliance forces move in as Kabul residents rejoice. On Nov 27 four Afghan factions meet in Bonn, Germany, and agree to give former King Mohammad Zahir Shah a role in a new Afghan government while in Afghanistan the Northern Alliance issues an amnesty to all Taliban except for non-Afghans. On Dec 3 some 3,000 Taliban surrender near Kunduz. On Dec 7 Taliban soldiers flee their key city Kandahar.

Meanwhile Osama bin Laden’s forces disperse into the mountains of Afghanistan. US bombing is concentrated around the White Mountains of Tora Bora where up to 2,000 bin Laden loyalists are positioned, many in fortified caves. On Dec 14 European leaders agree to send 4,000 troops to Afghanistan. On Dec 18 hundreds of al Qaeda and Taliban fighters are reported to have slipped into Pakistan from Afghanistan – along almost certainly with Bin Laden who is destined not to be discovered there for many years. On Dec 20 the first international peacekeeping forces arrive from Britain as the UN Security Council authorizes a multinational force for Afghanistan. On Dec 21 power in Afghanistan is officially transferred from President Rabbani to Hamid Karzai.

KARZAI WINS ENDORSEMENT FROM LOYA JIRGA DELEGATES

On Feb 12 2002 it is reported that some 600 civilians have been killed in the Afghan campaign. On March 14 Pakistan’s President President Musharraf says the war in Afghanistan is over. On April 18 the former Afghan king, Mohammad Zaher Shah returns to his country after 29 years in exile. [Third Exact Opposition May 26th 2002] On June 13 Afghanistan’s interim leader Hamid Karzai wins endorsement from about two-thirds of delegates at the Loya Jirga grand assembly and is inaugurated as president.

On Dec 22 Afghanistan’s six neighbours (Iran, Pakistan, China, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) sign a non-intervention agreement in Kabul. On March 28 the UN Security Council votes unanimously to extend the UN assistance mission in Afghanistan for a year. On April 6 Afghan officials announce a plan to disarm, demobilize and reintegrate an estimated 100,000 fighters over the next 3 years. Finally on April 16 2003 NATO agrees to take command of the UN peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan. In May the cycle opposition goes out of orb.

 2009 IN SQUARE

DIALOGUE WITH TALIBAN? STRATEGIC HEADWAY? AND CORRUPTION ISSUES

At the end of October 2008, just before the In square comes into orb, Afghan and Pakistani leaders vow to seek dialogue with the Taliban saying the “door is now open” for reconciliation. It will turn out to be an over-optimistic announcement. The truth is that insurgent forces in Afghanistan will continue to be largely controlled from the Pakistan side of the border. The top leadership of the Afghan Taliban make up a militant organisation called Quetta Shura, based in the city of Quetta in the Balochistan province of Pakistan. According to General Stanley McChrystal, then International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) commander, the Quetta Shura is directing the Afghan insurgency. In a 2009 report he states, “Afghanistan’s insurgency is clearly supported from Pakistan.”

The truth is also that in the next three years Coalition forces are going to battle the Taliban on every front without making any appreciable strategic headway – beyond training the Afghan army and security services. The truth is also that civilian deaths caused by NATO airstrikes and other artillery are going to reach levels that will cause a serious rift between NATO and the Afghan government and people. The truth is also that the number of ‘green on blue’ deaths – where typically insurgents either genuinely employed in the army or disguised in Afghan army or police uniform kill coalition soldiers – will multiply eroding morale. According to NATO, these attacks killed 61 soldiers in 2012 compared to 35 killed in 2011.

Finally the truth is that corruption in government finance or decision making along with gross electoral fraud will continue to dominate the administration. A UN report states that corruption in Afghanistan is so entrenched that Afghans had to pay bribes worth nearly a quarter of the country’s GDP in 2009. US diplomatic cables, leaked by WikiLeaks, portray Afghanistan as rife with graft with tens of millions of dollars flowing out of the country and a cash transfer network facilitating bribes for corrupt Afghan officials, drug traffickers and insurgents.

NEGOTIATIONS WITH TALIBAN BEGIN TO BE THE ENDGAME

This 2008 to 2011 period sees negotiations with the Taliban becoming more and more the endgame and the central issue in any solution to the Afghan conflict. The process starts in early March 2008 when President Karzai welcomes President Obama’s call to identify moderate elements of the Taliban and encourage them towards reconciliation. The plan, supported by the country’s Muslim clerics, is for talks with the Taliban to be mediated by Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah. US Secretary of State Clinton makes it clear that this olive branch would depend on the Taliban rejecting al-Qaeda – a condition the Saudis will also insist on.

In April 2009 human rights groups and some Afghan MPs criticise President Karzai for signing into law legislation that some believe legalizes the rape of a wife by her husband and prevents women from leaving the house without a man’s permission.  Afghanistan gets highly concerned about a deal Pakistan has struck with the Taliban allowing them to impose Islamic ‘sharia law in a region of Pakistan. Some analysts believe any Afghan peace deal with the Taliban is likely to involve some regional concessions on ‘sharia’ law.

COALITION PROGRESS MEETS STRONG TALIBAN RESISTANCE

The Coalition’s tactics depend heavily on airstrikes and again in May coalition jets kill dozens of civilians taking shelter from a ground battle between Taliban militants and coalition forces. Although over 30 of the 100 dead are Taliban another 70 appear to be civilians. In July 2009 as American and NATO troops under their new commander US General Stanley McChrystal sweep into Taliban-controlled villages in southern Afghanistan in their biggest military operation yet, they make progress in winning over local chiefs. But the months ahead show little further progress. Nor do ideas of creating local militia and arming them prove workable. Taliban resistance is strong.

In August 2009 comes the Presidential election and violence surges – August turns out to be the deadliest month of the whole eight year war for US forces. 10,000 Afghan tribesmen are hired to protect the election the Taliban vow to disrupt. The Taliban threaten to block roads to polling stations and cut off the nose and both ears of any Afghan man who tries to vote. In September two other coalition airstrikes kills twelve civilians – half of whom are children.

KARZAI WINS ELECTIONS AS AIRSTRIKE CIVILIAN CASUALTIES MOUNT

In October Afghanistan’s election commission orders a November runoff in the disputed presidential poll. Karzai agrees to a second round vote but on Nov 1 the presidential challenger Abdullah Abdullah pulls out of the run-off after Karzai dismisses his set of demands to avoid a repeat of the massive first-round fraud. On November 2 while President Karzai is announced the victor, a “rogue” Afghan policeman guns down five British soldiers at a checkpoint in Helmand province – it is to be the first of many such morale upsetting incidents.  The first week of November 2009 sees three NATO airstrikes that kill over 20 civilians with President Karzai demanding a halt to these casualties. (15 November 2009 1st exact In Square)

There will be double this number of civilian casualties the following January and fresh civilian deaths in February and April.  Indeed on Nov 25 President Karzai at a meeting with a UN Security Council demands that the international community set a ‘timeline’ for ending military intervention in Afghanistan.

HIGHEST CIVILIAN DEATHS FROM WAR SINCE US INVASION

In November President Obama announces his plans to send a further 30,000 troops – but with an 18 month timeline for starting to bring US troops home. At the same time NATO announces that 25 countries have pledged a further 7,000 troops. As 2010 begins the UN announces that 2,412 Afghan civilians were killed in 2009 – the highest since the US invasion in 2001. On January 27 (31 January 2010 2nd exact In square) in London world powers agree on a timetable for the handover of security duties in Afghan provinces starting in late 2010. The Afghan Taliban dismiss the London conference as a propaganda ploy. On Jan 28 the Afghan government invites the Taliban to a peace council of elders. However a few days later when President Karzai visits Saudi Arabia, the Saudi government refuses to get involved in peace-making in Afghanistan unless the Taliban stops providing shelter to, and severs all ties with, Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda. When the talks do take place in May in the Maldives the Taliban respond by saying those at the talks claiming to be from the Taliban are no longer active members.

AMID MOUNTING ACCIDENTAL DEATHS TALIBAN STRONGHOLD IS TAKEN

In mid February 2010 a coalition patrol accidentally kills 3 women while elsewhere NATO rockets accidentally kill twelve civilians including six children and an airstrike kills seven policemen. And if this is not enough on Feb 21 another NATO airstrike kills 27 Afghan civilians – a military report unbelievably excuses the act by saying “inexperienced operators of a drone aircraft were responsible”. But in February coalition forces do storm and take the Taliban stronghold of Marjah, the lynchpin of the militants’ logistical and opium-smuggling network.

FURTHER MORALE DAMPENING SETBACKS FOR NATO

Yet the bad news for NATO keeps coming. On April 1 and 30 coalition forces fire on vehicles killing seven civilians and there are further angry Afghan protests at civilian deaths in May. On June 20 a NATO rocket strikes a house killing two children and on June 28 a search operation is alleged to have killed eight civilians. In July a further 45 civilians are killed in a NATO rocket attack and another 30 alleged in operations during August. On July 13 a renegade Afghan soldier kills three British army Ghurkha troops further denting morale and on August 25 an Afghan driver for the Spanish contingent opens fire during a training exercise, killing two Spanish officers and their interpreter.

Soon after the UN reports that the number of civilians killed in the Afghan war jumped 25 percent in the first half of 2010 compared with the same period the previous year – it is of course insurgents responsible for the spike. At this point US military deaths during the campaign surpass the 1,000 mark while the British reach 333. It is estimated that the cost of sustaining each American soldier in Afghanistan is about $1 million !

MILITANT BRUTALITIES RECUR IN A COUNTRY USED TO SUCH THINGS

Militant brutalities recur in 2010 – notably in April the poisoning of some 50 students at a girls school, in June the hanging of a 7 year old boy for spying, in August the stabbing to death of a medical team returning from providing eye treatment – horrors perhaps not unexpected in a country where in this year a woman running away from a violent husband has her nose and ears sliced off and where a young couple are stoned to death in public for trying to elope against their families’ wishes. Indeed some 350 of the country’s Islamic clerics in August press President Karzai to enact sharia, law, including punishments such as stonings, amputations and lashings. (31 August 2010 3rd exact In Square)

The US military however has its own horrors – earlier in the year US military prosecutors had indicted soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord for killing three Afghan civilians for sport – another is charged with throwing a grenade at a prisoner and making a habit of cutting fingers off corpses as war trophies. In September another American junior soldier is sentenced to 24 years prison for murdering three Afghan civilians.

In September 2010 NATO admits it is facilitating contacts between senior Taliban members and the highest levels of the Afghan government. Indeed Afghan officials are reported to be asking NATO to halt military operations in areas where reconciliation talks could take place. The first high level meeting takes place on Oct 17. However Taliban leader Mullah Omar says in a statement that reports of peace talks between militants and the Afghan government are “misleading rumours”. An Afghan official close to negotiations with the Taliban admits that a man leading the Taliban side of peace talks with the Afghan government was actually an impersonator !

NATO AGREES TO TURN OVER SECURITY TO AFGHANS BY END 2014

In November NATO nations meeting in Portugal formally agree to start turning over Afghanistan’s security to its military next year and to give them full control by 2014. On Dec 16 President Obama says the US will start withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan in July 2011 as promised. On 10 January 2011 General Petraeus says a recent pledge by a southern Afghan tribe to stand up to the Taliban shows that the military push in the region is making headway. However in February 2011 two unpleasant themes re-surface – first the Afghan government say investigations have found NATO killed 65 civilians, many of them children, during recent operations in the remote north east. Second, a man wearing an Afghan army uniform opens fire on German troops working on a vehicle, killing two soldiers and wounding at least eight others. Similar shootings happen three times in April killing 16 Americans. In March nine young children die in a NATO strike as they collect firewood when coalition forces return fire after an insurgent rocket attack. Days later President Karzai tells General Petraeus that his apology for an air strike that killed nine children was “not enough.” On March 22 a further two civilians are inadvertently killed by a helicopter gunship and a further four by fire a few days later.

On March 22 President Karzai says his nation’s security forces will take over from the US-led coalition in seven parts of the country, a first step toward having Afghan police and soldiers in charge by the end of 2014. But on April 25 the government is forced to announce a “security disaster” when some 488 Taliban fighters and commanders escape overnight from a Kandahar prison – only a small fraction are recaptured. In May the Taliban unleash a wave of attacks on government targets. On the very day an Afghan soldier shoots his Australian mentor dead and yet another NATO airstrike kills 14 civilians. President Karzai reacts by saying he will no longer allow NATO airstrikes on houses, his strongest statement yet.

On May 1 President Karzai accuses the Taliban of using a 12-year-old as a suicide bomber. On May 7 five such boys are paraded before a news conference. Later in August the President pardons as many as two dozen boys who had been caught trying to carry out suicide attacks but in a horrible twist the following year (out of orb) two boys aged 10 are re-arrested for again attempting to carry out bombings. On June 16 more than 200 militants cross into Pakistan from Afghanistan and attack a border village with rockets, mortars and machine guns. At an anti-terrorism conference the presidents of Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan agree to join forces in combating militancy. Yet a day later President Karzai accuses Pakistan of firing 470 rockets into two of its eastern border provinces in a three-week barrage.

US IN TALKS WITH EMISSARY OF TALIBAN LEADER

On June 28 heavily armed Taliban militants storm a top Kabul hotel, sparking a ferocious battle involving Afghan commandos and a NATO helicopter gunship that leaves 11 people dead as well as nine attackers. The hotel ironically was hosting delegates attending an Afghan security conference. In June President Karzai confirms published accounts about US talks with a personal emissary of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar – the sessions are held in Germany and Qatar and this time no denial is issued.

In July on the very day NATO begins handing over security to Afghan troops a man wearing an Afghan army uniform kills a NATO soldier. A similar incident happens in August. On July 23 a NATO helicopter attack wounds 5 children in Helmand province. The following day three civilians get caught in cross fire. In August a further nine more civilians are killed prompting yet more protests. On Sept 30 a month after the In square has gone out of orb President Karzai says in a videotaped speech that attempts to negotiate with the Taliban are futile and efforts at dialogue should focus instead on Pakistan. The cycle In square period seems to match developments which suggest that Western aims require re-definition to succeed and, yes as Karzai indicates, that without Pakistan’s fullest involvement negotiations with the Taliban will fail.

The next Saturn/Pluto cycle starts in 2020 and is exact on January 12 – coming into orb on 22 December 2018 and staying in orb in orb till 31 January 2021

JUPITER/PLUTO (12 year cycle) 2007 – 2020

DECEMBER 2007 CONJUNCTION (March 2007 to February 2008)

The conjunction period coincides first with an explosive surge in Taliban violence as NATO steps up its operations, moving into Helmand province. In late February the Taliban claim to have deployed 10,000 fighters for a Spring 2007 offensive. From this point the number and lethality of their suicide attacks rises. Additionally the Taliban conduct a concerted campaign to kidnap foreigners working for the coalition – Italians, French, German and South Korean – and carry out many executions and atrocities on police and on Afghans working for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) forces. For instance on March 17 Taliban guerrillas chop off the noses and ears of at least five truck drivers in eastern Afghanistan as a horrific punishment for transporting supplies to US-led troops. On Nov 17 Taliban militants torture five abducted policemen in southern Afghanistan and then hang their mutilated bodies from trees in a warning to local villagers against working with the government. A few days later they behead seven more police officers.

Secondly, in this period NATO starts to increasingly rely on airstrikes to target Taliban command centres. It also deploys from September 2007 the first unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) – more popularly referred to as ‘drones’ – in the country. While this gives ISAF significant tactical advantage accounting for hundreds of Taliban killed – the strategic cost in the number of civilian casualties becomes highly damaging – especially in April, May and June 2007. For instance on May 8 airstrikes called in by US Special forces kill at least 19 civilians in Helmand province – the US military apologizes and pays compensation to the victims’ families. In Paktika province in June US jets target a compound that also contains a mosque and a madrassa, an Islamic school, resulting in the death of seven young boys. A trail of subsequent incidents leads to Afghanistan’s upper house of parliament passing a bill calling for a halt to all international military operations unless coordinated with the Afghan government.

It now becomes clear to ISAF commanders that many Taliban fighters are crossing into Afghanistan from Pakistan. It is true the presidents of Afghanistan and Pakistan meet in this period and agree to share intelligence on extremist groups but it is far from clear how effective that will prove. In August 2007 Afghanistan and Pakistan pledge to eliminate terrorist sanctuaries in their respective tribal regions and fight the opium trade which is financing Islamic militants. Yet later that month when US-led and Afghan troops strike Taliban positions inside Pakistan killing 19 rebels a Pakistani military spokesman denies any permission was given for this action.

The exact Jupiter/Pluto conjunction on 11 December 2007 comes midway between the most lethal bombs so far – a bomb attack on a parliamentary delegation in November 2007 in Baghlan province that kills 77, including 61 schoolchildren, and a suicide bombing at an outdoor dog competition in February 2008 in Kandahar that kills 80 people. These are the deadliest insurgent attacks since the US-led invasion in 2001 and on a par with the death tolls in Iraq. Could this new surge of conflict in Afghanistan mark the start of a 12 year cycle where violent upheaval affecting expectations maximizes between mid 2013 and mid 2014 ?

JULY 2010 OUT SQUARE (May 2010 to April 2011)

On June 9 2010 a 13 year-old suicide bomber detonates his vest at a wedding party for a family with ties to police in the Taliban’s heartland, killing over 40 people in a village in Kandahar province. On the same day a 7 year old boy is hanged in public for alleged spying. On June 28 a packed bus hits a roadside bomb killing 25 people on board. On July 21 insurgents behead six policemen after attacking their checkpoint in Baghlan province. (July 25 & August 3 2010 1st & 2nd exact Out Square dates) On August 2 a suicide car bomber blows himself up next to a police truck, killing six children nearby. On August 5 ten members of a medical team are killed by militants as they return from providing eye treatment and other health care in remote villages. The Taliban claim they killed them for being “Christian missionaries.” On the same day the beheaded body of a Parliamentary candidate is found in Ghazni province. At this time Bibi Aisha, a young Afghan woman whose nose and ears were sliced off last year to punish her for running away from her violent husband, gains worldwide attention when she appears on the cover of Time magazine.

This period is marked with a surprising degree of success by ISAF in countering Taliban attacks and even in its campaign to sweep up centres of Taliban resistance though the weekly death toll on Western forces and Afghan government representatives – in particular the police and regional officials – is attritional. In the background far too many civilians get accidentally killed by ISAF and the numbers of Afghans killed or injured, by Taliban actions often brutally, soars. The incident death tolls are not on the scale of Iraq but are nearly daily and widespread. The period is marked by increasing attempts, largely unsuccessful, to negotiate with the Taliban

For a period ISAF has a run of success. At the end of June up to 150 Taliban are killed in battles along the Kunar border. On June 30 militants set off a car bomb and storm the entrance to a major NATO air base outside Jalalabad – but 8 insurgents die in the failed assault. A similar assault on NATO’s largest base in the south on August 3 also fails to breach the defences – all of the attackers are killed including a number in suicide vests. At the end of August some 30 Taliban militants, some dressed in US military uniforms, are killed after launching pre-dawn attacks on the NATO Forward Operating Base Salerno and nearby Camp Chapman. On September 13 ISAF kills 23 insurgents, on Sept 24 more than 30 extremists are killed by an airstrike. Indeed on Sept 25 NATO helicopters launch rare airstrikes into Pakistan, killing around 50 militants and prompting a protest from Islamabad. In late January 2011 some 50 Taliban fighters lay down their arms and join pro-government forces in northern Afghanistan.

On October 1 2010 NATO says it has captured many insurgent leaders and that it has detained at least 438 suspected militants over the previous month. On Oct 8 the Kunduz provincial governor and at least 19 other people are killed by a massive bomb blast inside a packed mosque in Takhar province. The same day armed men burst into a mosque and shoot dead a religious scholar in Kandahar city. On Oct 23 a suicide car bomber and three armed militants wearing explosives vests and dressed as women attack a UN compound, but Afghan security forces kill the attackers and no UN employees are harmed. On Nov 13 a group of would-be suicide bombers try to storm a major NATO base on the edge of Jalalabad, but are also repelled before they can enter – six insurgents are killed, including two wearing bomb-laden suicide vests.

On January 7 2011 a Taliban suicide bomber in Spin Boldak kills a police commander and 16 others at a public bath. On Feb 19 gunmen and suicide bombers dressed as border police kill 38 people in an attack on a bank in Jalalabad. (Feb 25 2011 3rd exact Out Square date) 2 days later a suicide bomber blows himself up at a government office in Kunduz province, killing at least 30 people. On March 14 another suicide bomber posing as an army volunteer strikes an Afghan army recruitment centre in Kunduz, killing 35 volunteers. On March 27 suicide bombers detonate a truck loaded with explosives, killing 24 people in Paktika province.

 The next stage in this cycle is the maximising Opposition which comes into orb at the end of June 2013 until June 2014. The Opposition is exact in 7 August 2013 and 31 January and 20 April  2014. This page will be updated in July 2016.