Frustrated by their inability to punch through the reinforced plating on Canadian fighting vehicles, the Taliban are scouring the black market for bigger and better weapons to take on Canadian armour, coalition and Afghan security sources say.
Being able to destroy even one light armoured vehicle - a Bison armoured troop carrier or Coyote reconnaissance vehicle - would be a significant moral victory in the eyes of insurgents, a senior coalition source told The Canadian Press.
"They want to take out one really bad," said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "To them it would be a huge victory because they haven't be able to do that to this point."
A handful of LAV-IIIs have been attacked with rocket propelled grenades and roadside bombs, suffering relatively minor damage such as blown tires. But none has been seriously disabled with a major loss of life.
Four Canadian soldiers did died recently in an insurgent attack, but they were travelling in a relatively lightly armed Mercedes G-Wagon.
There also have been no direct attacks Canada's forward operating bases in the Sangin district of Helmand province and the Shah Wali Kot district of Kandahar province - a peaceful interlude coalition commanders attributed to the presence of armoured vehicles.
"The reason they haven't tried to attack our (forward operating bases) is because of the presence of the LAVs," said one combat officer.
The anti-armour weapon of choice among the Taliban and al-Qaida is the RPG-7, which can be fired by an individual fighter.
Insurgents are apparently looking for shoulder-launched weapons similar to the German Armbrust and possibly armed with some kind of supercalibre warhead, said an Afghan security source.
Ideally, the Taliban would like to lay their hands on a jeep-mounted AT-1 Snapper, a Soviet-built system that was part of the Taliban's arsenal prior to the 2001 U.S.-led invasion that drove them from power. It's unclear how many of those systems, exported to the Middle East during the Cold War, are still available.
In addition, the hunt is on for additional anti-tank mines, which have the dual benefit for the insurgents of being easily rewired into lethal improvised explosive devices.
In an interview with The Canadian Press, the commander of coalition forces in southern Afghanistan said the Taliban were "looking for ways to kill us."
But Brig.-Gen David Fraser declined to discuss the specifics of the threat, which coalition counterintelligence officers are working to mitigate.
"We just don't sit around and wait for them to kill coalition forces," said Fraser, who is also the multinational brigade commander in the south.
"We're always changing and adapting and staying ahead. We can counter anything the Taliban can throw at us right now."
Prior to deploying Canadians to southern Afghanistan, Ottawa spent $34 million adding reinforced plating to almost all of its thin-skinned vehicles operating in Kandahar.
"The Taliban are frustrated right now," said Fraser. "They're frustrated because they can't kill. Having said that, I can't reduce the risk to zero. We've had casualties and we are prepared for casualties."
In the craggy mountain passes and mud-walled compounds north of here, mujahedeen veterans attempt to school a new generation of jihadists on how to destroy armoured vehicles. They rely on their experience fighting slow-moving Soviet tanks, such as the T-72, a generation ago.
"The tactics we see date back to the mujahedeen, but we studied the same books," Fraser said.
Unlike Soviet tanks, the LAVs and Bisons move swiftly and are more manoeuvrable, especially off-road, making them a much tougher target to hit with either a shoulder-mounted weapon - or even anti-tanks mines, which are traditionally sown along roadways.
Just as worrisome are the persistent rumours the Taliban have managed to reactivate a handful of U.S-made Stinger missiles using recently purchased battery packs. The CIA-sponsored weapons date to the Soviet occupation.
To date, it's not been conclusively proven that the militants have such capability, but it is also a subject coalition commanders are loath to discuss.
Two interview requests directed to the U.S. military by The Canadian Press were turned down.
Afghan sources said a turncoat Taliban commander has offered to turn in two of the weapons for the $100,000 US per missile reward offered by the Afghan government. However the unnamed commander has yet to produce verifiable evidence he has access to them, said a coalition intelligence source.
Last year, Pakistani forces along the Afghan border seized as many as six dilapidated Stingers.
Since the Canadians fly only a handful of transport planes into Kandahar and have no battlefield air transport of their own, the principal threat from the missile comes when Canadian troops ride in coalition helicopters.
"It's something we consider every time we do our planning," Canadian Maj. Blair Baker, the air space co-ordinator for the multinational brigade, said in a recent interview.
"We're always aware of the threat that's out there and we do take precautions."
For security reasons, Baker wouldn't discuss the range of countermeasures being taken, but all helicopters are equipped with flares and other devices meant to confuse incoming missiles
I know many of you will use this post as an opportunity to show their anger towards our troops being in Afghanistan and to criticize the conservative's agenda, But for once try to see that the Taliban are driven by hatred to the west ,They're dangerous enough with whatever they have now , Can you immagine if they get heavier weapons?