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Why the Taliban Just wont Die


As I write this, the war on terror ( translated War in Afghanistan ) has been raging for 7 years. So has the terrorism threat diminished??

Not so says the Oxford Research Group.

Six years after the September 11 attacks in the United States, the “war on terror” is failing and instead fuelling an increase in support for extremist Islamist movements, a British think-tank said on Monday.

A report by the Oxford Research Group (ORG) said a “fundamental re-think is required” if the global terrorist network is to be rendered ineffective.

“If the al Qaeda movement is to be countered, then the roots of its support must be understood and systematically undercut,” said Paul Rogers, the report’s author and professor of global peace studies at Bradford University in northern England.

“Combined with conventional policing and security measures, al Qaeda can be contained and minimized but this will require a change in policy at every level.”

Lets not forget what the war was in Afghanistan was about – Not the Taliban, if thats what you were thinking!! Al-Qaeda. It was about Al-Qaeda and before this war started the Taliban were ready for talks back then over Al-Qaeda and despite the seven year war, are willing to cut ties with Al-Qaeda even now … but the US was just too eager for war.

7 Years ago the Taliban offered to hand over OBL – no talks then, straight to war – the US was just too eager to start a war!!

US leaders had to have something more than a hand cuffed OBL to show for 9/11 – they were looking for a war. Even BEFORE 9/11

And thats history. Afghanistan and the US go to war, Pakistan is dragged into it. The war rages on and there is no sign of it letting up, the civilian cost is heavy not just for Afghanistan but also for Pakistan, on account of the thousand of Taliban fighters that escape into Pakistan while the US looks on.

The Oxford Research Group report was not the first sign that things werent going well. In the infamous Guantanamo Bay turned into a recruiting camp somewhere along the way. Most of the detained had no links to Al-Qaeda or the Taliban but by the time the US realized and released them, many had developed ties to Al-Qaeda and Taliban – Some – Even became leaders.

Not all fronts in the war on terror presented such gloamy scenarios. There were sucesses. Most notably in Indonesia.

Even before the Bali attack, Indonesia had suffered a wave of bombings in the winter of 2000, and earlier that year someone had bombed the Jakarta Stock Exchange. The Al Qaeda affiliate Jemaah Islamiah was actively recruiting across the archipelago, establishing radical schools to train a young generation of jihadis and planning attacks in Indonesia and throughout the region, including in the Philippines and Thailand.

But today, Indonesia has become a far different kind of example. Even as terrorism continues to grow more common in nations from Pakistan to Algeria, Indonesia is heading in the opposite direction, destroying its internal terrorist networks and winning the broader public battle against radicalism. And it has done so not only by cracking heads but by using a softer, innovative plan that employs former jihadis to wean radicals away from terror.

But if they really hoped to reduce the pool of possible new recruits for groups like Jemaah Islamiah, Indonesian leaders realized they had to win public support for their battle. Otherwise, police could arrest or kill hundreds of militants, and new radicals would just take their place.

And thats exactly what they did.

To win militants’ hearts and minds, Indonesia instituted a program called deradicalization. Realizing that hard-core militants will not listen to prominent Muslim moderates, whom they view as soft, as irreligious or as tools of the government, the deradicalization initiative employs other militants — former terrorist fighters or trainers. These are men like Nasir Abas, once a Jemaah Islamiah leader, who have sworn off most types of violence. Former fighters who agree to help the deradicalization program often receive incentives, such as reduced sentences or assistance for their families.

The result was the least violent and possibly most effective Anti-Terrorism campaign to date. But then again there is no foreign occupation in Indonesia. There is certainly one in Afghanistan and with Obama’s presidency, their presence in Afghanistan is set to increase. Another ‘Surge’. A repeat of, what the public thought were, strategies employed in Iraq. It wasnt a surge that worked in Iraq – granted – the level of violence fell, the Level of violence actually fell months before there was a surge in troop levels.  Not to mention there was a surge in violence in 2005 alongside a similar surge in troop levels in Iraq or when British troops LEFT Basra there was an even greater drop in the level of violence.

To say that increasing numbers of soldiers in Afghanistan would do any good is a leap of faith. It might just do the Opposite. Very likely would.

A RAND study, Titled “How terrorist Groups End” explains.

The ending of most terrorist groups requires a range of policy instruments, such as careful police and intelligence work, military force, political negotiations, and economic sanctions. Yet policy makers need to understand where to prioritize their efforts with limited resources and attention.

Against terrorist groups that cannot or will not make a transition to nonviolence, policing is likely to be the most effective strategy (40 percent). Police and intelligence services have better training and information to penetrate and disrupt terrorist organizations than do such institutions as the military. They are the primary arm of the government focused on internal security matters. Local police and intelligence agencies usually have a permanent presence in cities, towns, and villages; a better understanding of the threat environment in these areas; and better human intelligence.

Against most terrorist groups military force is usually too blunt an instrument. Military tools have increased in precision and lethality, especially with the growing use of precision standoff weapons and imagery to monitor terrorist movement. But even precision weapons have been of limited use against terrorist groups. The use of substantial U.S. military power against terrorist groups also runs a significant risk of turning the local population against the government by killing civilians.

The Last words of the excerpt are the most significant. Civilian deaths turn the people against the occupiers. Why wouldnt they turn against them or whoever is causing those deaths. Its a simple function of correspondent inference. People tend to infer the motives — and also the disposition — of someone who performs an action based on the effects of his actions, and not on external or situational factors. Its a Good rule of thumb, but like all cognitive biases, the correspondent inference theory fails sometimes. Most spectacularly when dealing with situations where civilians are exposed to violence.
One research paper looking into this theory was by Max Abrams titled “Why Terrorism Does not Work”

“The theory posited here is that terrorist groups that target civilians are unable to coerce policy change because terrorism has an extremely high correspondence. Countries believe that their civilian populations are attacked not because the terrorist group is protesting unfavorable external conditions such as territorial occupation or poverty. Rather, target countries infer the short-term consequences of terrorism — the deaths of innocent civilians, mass fear, loss of confidence in the government to offer protection, economic contraction, and the inevitable erosion of civil liberties — (are) the objects of the terrorist groups. In short, target countries view the negative consequences of terrorist attacks on their societies and political systems as evidence that the terrorists want them destroyed. Target countries are understandably skeptical that making concessions will placate terrorist groups believed to be motivated by these maximalist objectives.” ^

On the Flip side, that applies just as well to civilians being targetted by occupying forces. The objectives of the occupiers could be anything but will be inferred more often than not to be inflict death and destruction on the civilian population. Many a people of Afghanistan have turned towards the Taliban in the years of fighting that previously wanted nothing to do with the Taliban.

Infact one Taliban commander told the LA Times, he has been sending voluteers back because “There is no need for all of them”. The LA Times was told that Taliban ranks in Ghazni Province have been swelling by 10% a month. They control large swaths of land in Southern and Eastern Afghanistan. The main Highway between Kabul and Kandahar is “enemy territory” for the Taliban, a busy two-lane road where U.S. troops race down the middle, trying to steer clear of suicide bombers. The guerrillas drive it like they OWN it.
Their actions speak of their new found boldness and strenght in Afghanistan. In January of 2009, as many as 600 taliban crossed into Pakistan for an attack on a militar base. Pakistani forces repelled the attack but how 600 militants can cross into Pakistan and creap back into Afghanistan while the ISAF slept is whats really troubling. Clearly the US is not winning the war in Afghanistan in its seventh year.

Lately, I have had nightmarish scenario playing out in my head when once again a Super power wreaks havoc in Afghanistan and packs its bag leaving Pakistan to deal with the mess. Mess thats clearly spilling over and the International community is powerless to contain it while its here – with all its military might. There is window of opportunity – a time frame in which the US must defeat the Taliban. Before the mounting civilian casualties turn the people against them and a Soviet-Afghan guerilla war type situation emerges. Before the political will in the US to fight this war fades.

The problem is – the Taliban dont have to win the war, they just only have to outlive American political will.

Addendum

The Taliban now holds a permanent presence in 72% of Afghanistan, up from 54% a year ago. Taliban forces have advanced from their southern heartlands, where they are now the de facto governing power in a number of towns and villages, to Afghanistan’s western and north-western provinces, as well as provinces north of Kabul. Within a year, the Taliban’s permanent presence in the country has increased by a startling 18%.

Three out of the four main highways into Kabul are now compromised by Taliban activity. The capital city has plummeted to minimum levels of control, with the Taliban and other criminal elements infiltrating the city at will.

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January 13, 2009 - Posted by | Politics

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