Insurgency and Counter-Insurgency in Afghanistan and the Role of Pakistan

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ABSTRACT

Afghans weary of the Taliban's harsh rule were a major factor in the overthrow of the Taliban government in 2001. Since then four factors have resulted in the resurgence of their ability to instigate a viable insurgency, namely the Iraq war which drew the United States' attention away from Afghanistan; the cross-border bases which the Taliban were afforded in Pakistan; poor governance and widespread corruption on the part of the Afghan government; and an ongoing poor economy and lack of work opportunities. The Taliban insurgency in Pakistan is of utmost importance to the United States and the international community because Pakistan is a nuclear state. The United States can shift more troops to Afghanistan as they are phased out in Iraq, but Pakistan's insurgency could gain priority at the expense of Afghanistan as happened before. The United States president regards the Afghan war as of vital importance in opposing international terrorism. The safe haven used by the Taliban in Pakistan must be brought under Pakistani military control, and the power of the Taliban in the Pakistani-Afghan border areas must be curtailed, if the Afghan war is to be brought to a successful conclusion.

1. INTRODUCTION

The incidence of violence in Afghanistan, a country regarded to be in a state of revolutionary war, is quite modest when compared to other countries racked by internal insurgent violence such as Iraq and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) during the civil war period. In fact some countries with serious crime problems such as Mexico, Russia and South Africa have higher per capita death tolls from violence than does Afghanistan. (1)) To support this statement it was reported that there had been 100 suicide attacks and 5 086 people killed in insurgency related violence in Afghanistan in 2007. (2)) South African crime statistics from April 2007 to March 2008 showed that 18 487 murders had been committed in this period. (3)) However, it could be argued that the South African authorities could improve the situation considerably, should the government have the political will to do so. The Afghan situation appears to be considerably more complicated and possibly beyond the means of any home-grown government which should take power without foreign aid, because of the cultural and religious contradictions at play in the population, as well as the proximity of Pakistan in which the same contradictions exist.

The Afghan population has little taste for a Western-type democracy which the government backed by North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) forces, have hitherto attempted to establish. The newly elected United States of America (US) President, Barack Obama, has been reported on world media outlets to have adopted a new aim, namely to secure Afghanistan as a stable state, not necessarily as a Western-type democratic state as was the aim of the previous Bush Administration, but that it should not revert to being a base for terrorist organisations such as al-Qaeda. Afghanistan's stabilisation is important to NATO because of its potential to export terrorism should the Taliban insurgency be successful.

2. UNITED STATES COUNTER-INSURGENCY STRATEGY AND DOCTRINE IN AFGHANISTAN

On 18 February 2009 President Obama committed an additional 17 000 troops to Afghanistan. When the three combat brigades arrived, there were about 55 000 US troops in Afghanistan. There were also about 37 000 allied troops deployed. (4)) Not all the NATO allied troops are employed in a combat role, but generally the Western countries are becoming more seriously committed to the war in Afghanistan, particularly since President Obama requested in April 2009 that there be greater European Union (EU) involvement in the war. Canada, Australia, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom (UK) have forces involved in combat roles, applying sound principles of counter-insurgency. They were deployed in combat areas prior to Obama's request however. …