Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts Understanding the Taliban and Insurgency in Afghanistan

Understanding the Taliban and Insurgency in Afghanistan


Afghanistan is in danger of capsizing in a perfect storm of insurgency that mimics operations and tactics witnessed in Iraq. This article assesses this insurgency and the re-emergent Taliban. The common view of the Taliban as simply a radical Afghan Islamist movement is overly simple, for that organization has been able to build on tribal kinship networks and a charismatic mullah phenomenon to mobilize a critical and dynamic rural base of support. This support, buttressed by Talib reinforcements from Pakistan’s border areas, is enough to frustrate the U.S.-led Coalition’s counterinsurgency strategy. At the operational level, the Taliban is fighting a classic “war of the flea,” while the Coalition continues to fight the war largely according to the Taliban “game plan.” This is resulting in its losing the war in Afghanistan one Pashtun village at a time.

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