The sovereign can no longer say, "You shall think as I do on pain of death;" but he says, "You are free to think differently from me, and to retain your life, your property, and all that you possess; but if such be your determination, you are henceforth an alien among your people."

(Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 1835)

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Who are the Taliban?

I would like to draw your attention to a study by Anne Stenersen of the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment. She seeks to understand who the Taliban are, what they do fight for and how they see themselves.

There is not much debate going on about the enemy that we are fighting in Afghanistan. Governments and NATO usually refer to ISAF as a stabilisation mission to strengthen the Karzai-Government. But only rarely questions about our enemy are discussed. For instance, the Mullah Omar's negotiation offer and his peace proposal was hardly ever discussed publicly.

But how can we defeat an enemy that we don't understand? Sun Tzu famously said: "Know yourself, know your enemy - a thousand battles, a thousand victories". I think we are falling short of knowing our enemy and that might be one of the reasons why we have a hard time winning. Stenersen's paper sheds some light and explains what we are up against.

1 comment:

  1. "These boys were a world apart from the Mujaheddin I had got to know during the 1980s - men who could recount their tribal and clan lineages, remembered their abandoned farms and valleys with nostalgia and recounted legends and stories from Afghan history... They were literally the orphans of the war, the rootless and the restless, the jobless and the economically deprived with little self-knowledge. They admired war because it was the only occupation they could possibly adapt to. Their simple belief in a messianic, puritan Islam which had been drummed into them by simple village mullahs was the only prop they could hold on to and which gave their lives some meaning."

    Ahmed Rashid