Small Wars Journal

The Taliban Have Gone High-Tech. That Poses a Dilemma for the U.S.

The Taliban Have Gone High-Tech. That Poses a Dilemma for the U.S. by Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Jawad Sukhanyar – New York Times

WASHINGTON — Once described as an ill-equipped band of insurgents, the Taliban are increasingly attacking security forces across Afghanistan using night-vision goggles and lasers that United States military officials said were either stolen from Afghan and international troops or bought on the black market.

The devices allow the Taliban to maneuver on forces under the cover of darkness as they track the whirling blades of coalition helicopters, the infrared lasers on American rifles, or even the bedtime movements of local police officers.

With this new battlefield visibility, the Taliban more than doubled nighttime attacks from 2014 to 2017, according to one United States military official who described internal Pentagon data on the condition of anonymity. The number of Afghans who were wounded or killed during nighttime attacks during that period nearly tripled.

That has forced American commanders to rethink the limited access they give Afghan security forces to the night-vision devices. Commanders now worry that denying the expensive equipment to those forces puts them at a technological disadvantage, with potentially lethal consequences.

For years, American commanders have been reluctant to give night-vision equipment to rank-and-file Afghan soldiers and police officers out of concern of widespread corruption among those forces. The devices — headsets and infrared lasers — are usually given only to elite Afghan commandos and police special mission units, according to American military officials…

Read on.


I'm surprised it took this long for the technology and tactics to proliferate.  Asymmetries tend to wane over time if you're fighting an adaptive adversary.  I'm confident U.S. forces still maintain decisive advantages at the tactical level, but what ultimately matters is if the Afghan security forces gain and maintain a decisive tactical advantage over the Taliban. That is getting harder to achieve.