Tuesday, November 20, 2012


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There are hints of a growing anti-Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, according to a research associate from the Institute for Conflict Management. On at least one occasion, villagers used nothing more than farming tools, sticks, stones, and even their bare hands against Taliban members. These acts of resistance are intermittent and unpredictable, at best, but there are some notable and recent incidents.

  • July 9, 2012: local residents fought Taliban militants and forced the latter to pull back from the eastern Paktia Province, when an estimated 400 Taliban attacked Mirazka District in the Province.
  • May 27, 2012: In Andar District of Ghazni Province, 11 Taliban were killed by villagers and another 15 were held hostage. No further information about the hostages is available in open sources.
  • April 12, 2012: Angry residents cut off a Taliban militant's ear after two children were killed and another two injured in a roadside blast in the Garmsir District of southern Helmand Province.
  • August 27, 2011: Residents in the Pirzada suburb of Ghazni city in Ghazni Province clashed with Taliban fighters who were attempting to forcibly collect zakat (alms) from locals. One Taliban terrorist was killed and another was injured during the attack.
  • August 22, 2011: A mob of villagers stoned to death a Taliban 'commander' and his body guard in the Nawa District of Helmand Province. The villagers turned on the two Taliban insurgents for the unjust and brutal killing of a local village elder.
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Resistance to the Taliban's extremist vision and one-time rule in Afghanistan is nothing new. As we all recall, the Northern Alliance is a military-political umbrella organization
composed of all ethnic groups of Afghanistan including Tajiks, Pashtuns, Hazaras, Uzbeks, Turkmen and others, and it was created by the Islamic State of Afghanistan in late 1996. This alliance fought continuously as a resistance force against the Taliban right up to the American intervention in the country in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, at which point it re-invented itself under the identity of the United Front. It was the United Front that eventually succeeded, at the end of December 2001, in retaking most of Afghanistan from the Taliban, with air support from the US led North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Special Forces in Operation Enduring Freedom.

Interestingly, Hamid Karzai was also an influential figure from the leading ethnic Pashtun tribe, who began a formidable armed uprising against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan at this stage. He fought off a Taliban attack on November 1, 2001, and subsequently secured control of parts of the crucial Kandahar Province - long thought to be the Taliban heartland. Although the rebellion led by Karzai was, at that time, in its infancy, it was welcomed by, and helped, the US, which had launched airstrikes in Afghanistan on October 7, 2001.

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Since Karzai's revolt in 2001, there have been reports of 26 major uprisings against the Taliban, across 21 Provinces, out of the total of 34 Provinces in the country - three each in Helmand and Nangarhar; two in Ghazni; and one each in Badghis, Baghlan, Faryab, Ghor, Herat, Kabul, Kandahar, Kapisa, Kunar, Kunduz, Laghman, Logar, Nuristan, Paktia, Paktika, Uruzgan, Wardak and Zabul. Some of the significant incidents in these earlier uprisings include:

January 27, 2010: A 60-year-old tribal elder Hajji Malik Osman, brought together the leaders of his 400,000-strong Shinwari tribe against the Taliban and concluded a written agreement to keep the Taliban out of six Districts in eastern Nangarhar Province.
  • November 17, 2009: War-weary villagers of Kunduz Province took up arms against the Taliban, sick of having the Taliban encroach on their once peaceful patch of country.
  • July 1, 2008: Civilians confronted a group of 12 Taliban fighters in Faryab Province, sparking a clash that left two Taliban fighters dead and sent the rest fleeing for their lives.
  • May 10, 2007: Local villagers fought a group of Taliban militants, who were trying to attack a Governmental Police post in the Sangin District of Helmand Province. The Taliban militants, including a 'local commander' were killed.
  • August 18, 2006: Two Taliban militants detonated an explosive device outside the compound of a local security official named Madad in the old Sharan area of Paktika Province, killing the official. While trying to flee the scene of the attack, the assassins were stopped by villagers and shot dead.
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Despite the campaign against them by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the progressively strengthening Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), as well as the growing popular resentment and resistance, the Taliban have, nevertheless, gained steadily in strength and intensity of operations since 2006, when they restored their campaigns with Pakistan's visible (though vociferously denied) support. Their campaigns peaked in 2010, even as the US led war against them intensified against projections of an imminent 'withdrawal' of western forces from the country, with a low estimate of 10,826 fatalities in that year (partial data compiled by the Institute for Conflict Management). A total of a least 48,676 persons, including 2,349 Afghan National Army (ANA) personnel; 4,157 Afghan National Police (ANP) personnel; 2,707 ISAF personnel; 13,314 civilians; and 26,149 Taliban have been killed in Afghanistan since 2007. There is some evidence, however, of a slowdown and a significant challenge to their dominance in wide areas of the country over the past months.
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There is growing concern among the Taliban leadership. On July 20, 2012, an unnamed Taliban source was quoted in the media, stating, "Taliban fighters used to control most of the Provinces, but now they are losing ground in areas like Helmand, Kunduz and more recently Kandahar, Zabul and Ghazni. They lost ground to tribal militias because they don't let people access basic services, especially school. That is what happened in Ghazni two months ago." An anti-Taliban fighter, Wali Mohammad, told the local newspaper, 8Subh, "The residents of Andar District [in Ghazni Province] are fed up with the restrictions imposed by Taliban. The Taliban had shut down the schools and bazaars and motivated the people to fight against the Government. To get rid of the Taliban clutch we have decided to stand against them." Significantly, an armed uprising by more than 250 men in the month of May had evicted the Taliban from 50 villages in the Andar District in Ghazni Province, which had previously been under tight Taliban control.

At least some of these 'uprisings', however, have a dark underbelly, and are more in the nature of turf wars within the Taliban, rather than an organized resistance ag
ainst the Islamist extremists. Many of these are led by former jihadi 'commanders' or members, who see an opportunity to consolidate the power of their own group or faction, particularly with a view to the inevitable struggle for dominance in the projected scenario after the 2014 'withdrawal' of US-ISAF troops from the country. 

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As President Barack Obama's 'deadline' for 'withdrawal' of the US Forces - and consequently, the accelerated withdrawal of other ISAF constituents as well - approaches, the uncertainties of the situation in Afghanistan can only multiply. The emergence of an unmanaged 'resistance', led by a mix of vigilante and dubious forces, adds just another 'unknowable' to an already explosive mix. While Kabul may hope that these forces will create increasing problems for the Taliban, it may end up grappling with another disruptive, ideologically uncertain, cluster, even as the gravest challenges to its authority come to a head in 2014. Tentative recognition of this problem and potential clearly exists in Kabul. There is still time for a firm initiative to bring these ambivalent factions into the sphere of Kabul's certain influence.

I believe there is a huge rift between the Taliban and al-Qaeda cultures. They are not  synonymous and their ideologies are not all that closely intertwined. Nor do they shae a common cause to topple Western governments and establish Sharia law in Western democracies. Many experts believe that America's entanglement in Afghanistan is predicated on the false assumption that defeating the Taliban will forestall further terrorist attacks worldwide. If America and NATO forces vacate Afghanistan and even begin talking with the Taliban, I feel al-Qaeda will continue their global dispersal and plan attacks on the U.S. and other Western democracies. Several experts, who I will not mention here, interviewed Taliban decision-makers, field commanders, and ordinary fighters, and learned much about the complex relationship between the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

These two experts found that, from the mid-1990s onward, the Taliban and al-Qaeda diverged far more often than they converged and both men believe this split creates an opportunity to engage the Taliban on two fundamental issues: renouncing al-Qaeda and guaranteeing that Afghanistan will not be a sanctuary for international terrorists. In fact, OSINT News wrote an article about how U.S.-Taliban peace talks could weaken al-Qaeda. Unfortunately, these two experts feel that it may be too late to find a political solution to the two fundamental issues, for certain aspects of the campaign in Afghanistan, especially night raids, the killings of innocent civilians, and attempts to fragment and decapitate the Taliban are having the unintended consequence of energizing the resistance, creating more opportunities for al-Qaeda, and helping it to attain its objectives.
Robert Morton, M.Ed., Ed.S. is a member of the Association For Intelligence Officers (AFIO) and writes about the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC). A portion of Ad revenues generated on this site is donated to the AFIO. His ideas are his own and do not represent those of any organization he's a member of. We will publish your ideas and comments at no charge...for the good of the order! Contact us on the Secure Contact Form

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