Analysis: A long low-key war is the one Taleban want

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THE shooting of three Nato soldiers in Helmand yesterday adds to a sad tally of incidents where Afghan trainees have opened fire on their Nato trainers.

The post-2014 strategy of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) seems to focus on two parts after the settling of the detention issue in favour of the Afghan government: training and mentoring of various Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF); and continuation of night-raids.

The Afghan government is negotiating terms for night-raids, partly driven by outrage over the Kandahar murders. A successful constraint on these is likely to reduce US, and thus ISAF, willingness to remain there after “transition”.

Training of Afghan security forces is referred to as being on track. But a key component of this is trust between the ANSF and the assigned trainers, now being eroded by what ISAF calls isolated incidents.

This is perhaps the most effective counter-strategy the insurgents can pursue. By slowly forcing prohibitive and segregating counter-measures that reinforce a psychological and physical separation, the situation will eventually make training impossible to maintain.

The insurgents do not need to inflict mass casualties. It would seem that when the Taleban stated that the westerners may have the watches but they had the time, their projections were far more accurate than the ones produced by think-tanks and politicians.

• Dr Karl Sandstrom is an expert on Afghanistan at the Global Insecurities Centre, University of Bristol