A recent Taliban propaganda video indicates just how emboldened the group has become: showing its fighter staging a public demonstration in Afghanistan’s Nimruz province. In a video reported by Military Times, a long line of military vehicles and pickups can be seen moving in broad daylight and unopposed across a desert in the southwestern province.
— Long War Journal (@LongWarJournal) October 5, 2017
Propaganda videos are par for the course for the Taliban, but the most recent demonstrates the group’s ability to organize a large concentration of vehicles and personnel openly and without fear of reprisal from Afghan or coalition forces. In it, a large gathering of Taliban fighters and vehicles — including a few up-armored Humvees, some of which appear to be in varying states of disrepair — can be seen driving along a desert road, as militants fly large white Taliban flags.
Titled “Jihadic Process in Nimrooz and Rehabilitation,” the 33-minute propaganda video was uploaded online in late September, and the militant group has taken to posting short two-minute cuts from the video to social media.
Nimruz province, located in southwestern Afghanistan, is known for its lawlessness, and as Foreign Policy noted in September, is “a microcosm of what has gone wrong in the Afghan war.” A drug-trafficking hub that shares a border with Iran, the province serves a vital financial role for the Taliban, who rely heavily on the sale of opium to finance their operations. The brazen display seen in the propaganda video appears to indicate that the insurgency knows it can operate with relative impunity there.
The vehicles include a mix of Toyota Hilux pickup trucks, Humvees, and the video shows a few quick cuts to four-door sedans and SUVs. Some of the Humvees appear to have been modified to mount Russian-made anti-aircraft guns, machine guns, and recoilless rifles.
The fighters appear to have staged the demonstration over a significant period of time, and stayed in the open long enough to conduct “three separate interviews with local leaders while the convoy sat still,” reports The Long War Journal.
The original clip was uploaded online just days before Secretary of Defense James Mattis loosened the reigns on rules of engagement for coalition forces, as Task & Purpose’s Adam Linehan reported on Oct. 4:
Mattis told the House Armed Services Committee on Oct. 3 that Trump had granted him the authority to make adjustments to the rules of engagement that could expedite the fight against the Taliban, an expansion of his already-broad authority over the war effort. As Defense News notes, Mattis has already made two major changes: removing “proximity requirements” for strikes on Taliban insurgents, and embedding U.S. troops with Afghan units below the division level. The latter tweak will put more Americans near the front lines, while the former will likely result in a significant increase in the number of bombs dropped on Afghanistan.
The video gives credence to the decision to loosen the rules of engagement and comes at a time when U.S. and Afghan forces have already upped airstrikes in the region.
And with looser requirements for air support — U.S. troops are no longer required to be within a certain proximity of the Taliban before calling in an attack — the number will likely further increase. Though considering how closely packed the trucks and vehicles are in that video, you might only need a few JDAMs to get the job done.