Majority of Afghan insurgents not Taliban
* Author Daniel Marston says Pashtun insurgents recently been displaced from position of political power, dominance
By Khalid Hasan
WASHINGTON: The vast majority of Afghan insurgents are not necessarily the Taliban, but those who feel spurred to fighting by broken promises, lack of a stable government, blood feuds and economic considerations, according to a new book ‘Counterinsurgency in Modern Warfare’, released here by the Centre for Naval Analysis (CAN), a local defence-related research establishment.
According to Daniel Marston, who contributed the book’s chapter on Afghanistan, the Pashtun insurgents have been members of a group recently displaced from a position of political power and dominance within its own society.
The main focus of the Taliban is more political and economic than ideological, Marston writes, adding all three insurgent groups in the period from 2001 to 2007 relied upon the vast Pashtun belt of the Pakistani FATA for troops, supplies and support. Pakistan played an important role in the insurgency campaign, despite its governmental stance of support for US and coalition forces, he argues and says the reality of the Pashtun belt is its long history of resistance to government control and its close relationships with Pashtun tribes on the Afghan side of the border.
The Pashtun areas of Pakistan provided safe havens for insurgent troops, and considerable scope for cross-border traffic and smuggling activities, he continues Pakistan sent thousands of troops into the region to wage a campaign against “Taliban” forces and heavy but inconclusive fighting ensued, he says, adding the campaign was a drain on the Pakistan Army’s resources and was highly unpopular with the Pakistani public.
The 2006 peace deal reached by Pakistan with tribal leaders eased the political situation within Pakistan but greatly disappointed Pakistan’s coalition allies as it allowed the Taliban to retain considerable advantage, with sanctuaries over the border, providing volunteers, money and intelligence, he writes.
Marston concludes that carrying out a successful counterinsurgency campaign takes a substantial amount of money, and even more importantly, a substantial amount of political will, which may include the undertaking that such a campaign could last for decades, and that casualties are inevitable in providing security and holding cleared areas.
“For all – military participants on the ground and civilians following through news reports – this means looking at the situation from the perspective of the local community, and remembering that a Western upbringing and perspective is not a great help, and is frequently an active detriment, to understanding the world in which the average Afghan lives.
Greater comprehension paves the way for the implementation of a true counterinsurgency strategy, one that links up all the disparate groups from within the coalition, and includes not only the Afghan government but also the community, including the community fuelling the insurgency.
It is critical to remember that today’s so-called enemy is likely to be part of tomorrow’s solution. This has always been true, throughout the history of counterinsurgency,” Marston writes.