Lt. Col. Clay Padgett, commander of the Army battalion overseeing Kandahar, was on leave in the U.S. in May when Taliban fighters stormed government buildings in Kandahar and created the impression of a city under siege. Col. Padgett, notified of the attack by his battalion staff, says he immediately contacted his deputy back in Afghanistan with a warning: "Don't let this turn into Tet 2.0." In a critical year for the American war in Afghanistan, as the White House mulls how quickly to begin pulling out troops, U.S. military officers have Vietnam on their minds. Not the specter of a quagmire, but the possibility that the Taliban are emulating the Tet Offensive, the series of attacks by North Vietnam in 1968 that failed to win the war but became a propaganda defeat for the U.S. Many American commanders say relentless military pressure over the past two years has left the Taliban weakened and pushed out of areas they once controlled. A series of urban attacks by the insurgents this year has convinced some in the military that the Taliban are focused less on making gains on the battlefield and more on landing psychological blows on the U.S., Afghanistan and allies. Taliban commanders say that while they aren't looking at Tet for inspiration, they are trying to score a psychological blow using tactics borrowed from terrorist groups. They also insist they haven't given up on securing a military victory. Molavee Barakatullah, a commander in Paktia province, along the Pakistan border, says he considers the public-relations damage his fighters can inflict when he sends them on operations. "The psychological war is also very important, and the attacks we carry out impact the enemy's mental state," said Mr. Barakatullah. "People are scared.We have already won the psychological war." North Vietnamese army documents show that Hanoi wasn't looking for a propaganda victory when, on Jan. 31, 1968, it began a series of attacks on over 100 targets across South Vietnam. Instead, officials sought to spark a popular uprising against the South's government, said Mark Moyar, a Vietnam War historian who has advised commanders in Afghanistan. No such thing happened, and most attacks were repelled. But fierce combat in the South Vietnamese city of Hue, lasting for weeks, and an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Saigon prompted the news media to portray the offensive as a major U.S. setback. Many Americans were convinced that North Vietnam was stronger than U.S. officials had admitted. Since then, the Tet Offensive has become part of the scar tissue of the American military. U.S. concerns about Tet-like attacks in Afghanistan come as the domestic political debate appears vulnerable to a Tet-like public reaction. President Barack Obama is facing calls from the left and the right to speed the drawdown of U.S. troops. Many in the military want to give forces more time to consolidate recent gains. If Taliban attacks make the war effort appear to be failing, pressure to pull U.S. forces out more rapidly could grow. Military officers hope that by talking about their fears of Tet 2.0, they can inoculate the American public by showing that high-profile attacks aren't likely to turn the tide of the war. Officers believe the insurgents' spring offensive has had limited military impact. Taliban commanders, in interviews, make clear they design attacks hoping to sap American's will to fight. "The enemy has to be confronted by both physical and psychological war," said Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman. Mr. Barakatullah said his fighters are looking to hit U.S. military and Afghan government installations in urban areas in part to gain attention that could sap the morale of Afghan and U.S. forces. The Taliban have nothing like the massed combat power that the North Vietnamese and their South Vietnamese allies, the Vietcong, could muster. The Afghan insurgents usually conduct hit-and-run operations or suicide attacks, such as the May 7 Kandahar assault, when several dozen Taliban fighters infiltrated the city. A day after the attack, Afghan and U.S. forces killed the attackers, who had holed up in a hotel. Retired Marine Brig. Gen. Thomas Draude, who received the Silver Star in Vietnam and now teaches "information operations" at the Marine Corps University in Quantico, Va., said he tells his studentsup-and-coming officersthey must try to beat the Taliban to the publicity punch. "After an incident or an attack, it is critical to immediately get the truth out," he said. "Get the story out under your headline so it is not propaganda for the enemy." During the Kandahar attack, commanders in Afghanistan were nervous after a wire service reported that "explosions echoed across Kandahar city." They quickly tried to push out their version of events: that despite heavy fighting the attacks were unsuccessful and had been repelled by the Afghan security forces. The following day, in the U.S., Col. Padgett said scanned newspapers frantically. When he saw few stories of the attack, he breathed a sigh of relief. (The Wall Street Journal)