A Non-Military Strategy for Afghanistan

Posted: May 22, 2009 in Uncategorized
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Our methods for dealing with the spread of the Taliban in Afghanistan continue to come back to bite us:

Arms and ordnance collected from dead insurgents hint at one possible reason: Of 30 rifle magazines recently taken from insurgents’ corpses, at least 17 contained cartridges, or rounds, identical to ammunition the United States had provided to Afghan government forces, according to an examination of ammunition markings by The New York Times and interviews with American officers and arms dealers.

Keep in mind, the U.S. ousted McKiernan because he was not sufficiently enthusiastic about arming locals. The fact that weapons supplied to the Afghan government keep falling into the hands of the U.S.’s opponents in Afghanistan should temper any enthusiasm for handing out guns to locals as a way of reducing violence in Afghanistan. But those plans will presumably proceed under the command of General McChrystal, along with the meat-grinder airstrikes that have caused more than 2/3rds of the coalition-caused civilian casualties.

Guns that end up being used to kill U.S. soldiers (and other Afghans), rage-inducing airstrikes, a flat refusal to stop such airstrikes despite demands from the Afghan government (which undermines the local population’s faith that their government can protect them)…all supposedly in service of a counterinsurgency strategy supposedly predicated on convincing the local population to stop supporting opponents of the local government. If the U.S. government is serious about stability and reducing violence in Afghanistan, officials must adopt means that do not contradict the desired ends.

The Resource Problem

Adopting a violent paradigm for what constitutes “fighting the spread of the Taliban” severely restricts the number of participants who can be trained for the struggle. Cultural norms will often restrict the pool of recruits to the male population; physical demands of violent struggle will likely exclude the old, the sick, and the very young. Relying primarily on armed conflict further reduces the recruiting pool to match the number of available weapons, and it restricts the length of time fighters can participate in the conflict to periods where ammunition is available. Afghanistan’s rugged geography will constrict the ability to transport ammunition to the fighters. So, by relying on armed groups of young men, the U.S. strategy excludes large numbers of potential defenders of a non-Taliban-dominated society and sets limits on defenders’ time frame of activity. A better strategy would allow the entire population a maximized, meaningful opportunity to resist the encroachment of the Taliban.

Sowing the Seeds of Future Conflict

Beyond imposition of recruiting and activity restrictions, the U.S. strategy also virtually ensures continued conflict and instability in the area. As we’ve seen, the weapons we’re supplying to our allies are finding their way into enemy hands. Further, by flooding the Afghan security forces with resources while providing insufficient attention to civil society and good governance, we deform Afghan society into one in which the military forces are the most resourced and powerful arm of government, a situation conducive to future coup attempts by would-be military dictators. A better strategy would support the growth of civil society while resisting the encroachment of the Taliban on Afghan life.

A Better Solution: A Non-Military Anti-Insurgency Strategy

What follows is an outline for a non-military anti-insurgency strategy which draws heavily from a recent Carnegie Endowment for International Peace report and Gene Sharp’s “The Anti-Coup.” [Sharp’s work deals with defending against coups d’etat and “putschists,” so were appropriate I’ve replaced these terms with “insurgency” and “insurgents” in applicable passages.] It aims to enlist as many people as possible in the resistance against the spread of the Taliban and to maximize their ability to participate. Concurrently, it will lay the groundwork for civil society in Afghanistan and de-emphasize political violence as a method of participating in conflict. This strategy will cost far less and lead to far fewer casualties–both civilian and military–than the current military approach.

Step One: Sharply Reduce Military Confrontations

Recent experience shows that we will not cease our most counterproductive activities so long as COIN remains our paradigm, which ensures that we will not win the “hearts and minds” of the Afghan people. Airstrikes and night raids will continue. We will continue to attempt to seal the Afghan border to trap insurgents and prevent the use of safe havens, which will drive us to continue a dangerous escalation of the “covert” war in Pakistan (and we are at war in Pakistan, make no mistake, regardless of whether the bombs are falling from drones or manned aircraft). These activities induce the outrage driving Pashtuns into the arms of the Taliban. In addition, this military violence on behalf of the United States creates a false unity among various factions, galvanizing them against both coalition forces and the Afghan national government on whose behalf we fight. In other words, our participation in the ongoing political violence in Afghanistan provides the contradictions in our counterinsurgency rationale that will ultimately doom the strategy.

In Focus and Exit, Carnegie’s Gilles Dorronsoro argues:

The key idea is to lower the level of conflict (i.e., to reverse the current trend of ever-increasing violence). The only way to weaken, and perhaps divide, the armed opposition is to reduce military confrontations…The presence of foreign troops is the most important element driving the resurgence of the Taliban. Combat troop reduction should not be a consequence of an elusive “stabilization”; rather, it should constitute an essential part of a political-military strategy. The withdrawal must be conducted on U.S. terms only, not through negotiations, because negotiations with the armed opposition would weaken the Afghan government. Negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban cannot bring positive results until the Taliban recognize that the government in Kabul is going to survive after the withdrawal.

The first step, then, in reversing the growth of Taliban power in Afghanistan is to begin a sharp, unilateral withdrawal of U.S. forces from combat zones into what Dorronsoro calls “strategic zones,” where they will prepare for a final withdrawal from the theater. Information operations specialists in the U.S. civilian and military services, in coordination with the host nation government, should vigorously publicize this move as a concession by the U.S. to the government in Kabul, which will immediately reap a boon of political capital across the country.  This should be accompanied by an immediate halt to drone attacks in Pakistan, also publicized as concessions to the Pakistani civilian government.

These counter-intuitive moves will have a bewildering effect on the Taliban leadership. Their claim to be the “home team” will be seriously challenged by the ability of the Afghan and Pakistani governments to extract meaningful concessions from the coalition forces. Without the pressure of military confrontation, extremist groups will be robbed of their overriding justification for recruitment, conscription and consumption of community resources. Caught unprepared to add anything of value to the community, groups will suddenly find themselves in a “sea” of locals less willing to cede power to them now that the military emergency has passed. Coalitions of extremist groups artificially unified by U.S. military pressure will fracture as they attempt to consolidate control of their territories and make power plays against one another.

In short, at a moment when insurgent groups will assume they have won militarily, they will face a moment of maximum political danger, which will be exploited by the second plank of the strategy: civilian anti-insurgency.

Civilian defense against Taliban control

The goal of an insurgency is to topple and replace a government. While important differences exist, this goal imposes on the insurgent group(s) the same prerequisites for success as a coup d’etat. This means that successful methods of popular resistance to a coup attempt can be instructive when dealing with an insurgency. Writing on the topic of anti-coup defense, Gene Sharp said:

Defense can be waged by the attacked society itself.

…[A] defense policy against coups d’etat is possible. The essence of such a defense policy is two-fold: (1) that those who attack the constitutional system and intend to replace the elected government by a regime of their own choosing must be denied all legitimacy–they have no moral or political right to become the government, and (2) they must be denied all cooperation–no one in the government or in the population should assist or obey them in any way.

To secure legitimacy, insurgents will seek to compel endorsements by “persons and institutions in whom moral and legitimate political authority resides, whether they are elected officials, unofficial moral leaders,” etc. In addition, to attain control, they “require that a multitude of people who operate the political system, the society’s institutions, and the economy will passively submit and carry out their usual functions as modified by the [insurgents] orders and policies.”

With this in mind, the coalition and the Afghan government should undertake a concerted effort to educate the population about the possibility of resisting a Taliban takeover through denial of legitimacy and cooperation. Beginning in areas not currently under Taliban control and gradually expanding to areas where insurgents operate, these efforts should seek to familiarize the population with various methods that can be used to block insurgents’ ability to establish themselves as the de facto government in a given area. At the same time, the government and the coalition should begin working within the societal structures in these areas to prepare them to take on organizational roles in confronting and resisting an insurgent infiltration. By innoculating local communities against insurgent infiltration and providing resisters in insurgent-controlled territories tools needed to resist, the coalition and government can help resource a stout anti-insurgency movement at a moment when the Taliban struggles to adjust to the new strategic landscape.

Under an anti-[insurgency] policy, the resisters will aim to:

  • Repudiate the [insurgents] as illegitimate with no rightful claim to become the government;
  • Make the attacked society unrulable by the attackers;
  • Block the imposition of viable government by the [insurgents];
  • Maintain control and self-direction of their own society;
  • Make the institutions of the society into omnipresent resistance organizations against [the insurgency];
  • Deny to the [insurgents] any additional objectives;
  • Make the costs of the attack and attempted domination unacceptable;
  • Subvert the reliability and loyalty of the [insurgents’] troops and functionaries and induce them to desert [the insurgency];
  • Encourage dissension and opposition among the [insurgents’] supporters;
  • Stimulate international opposition to the [insurgency] by diplomatic, economic, and public opinion pressures against the attackers; and
  • Achieve international support in communications, finances, food, diplomacy and other resources.

Resistance in an area facing insurgent encroachment would come in two forms: general resistance and organized resistance.

General resistance refers to a “grassroots” form of anti-insurgency defense. The population would be trained to watch for trigger actions on the part of the insurgents, which, once taken, signal that it is time to resist. This allows the population to resist in a coherent way even if they cannot communicate with resistance leaders, or if the leaders have been killed or captured. Sharp suggests that

“These points might include, for example, efforts to promote the [insurgents’] regime as legitimate, attempts to remake or abolish the elected legislature, measures to remake the courts or impose a new constitution, abridgments of freedom of speech and religion, and efforts to control the society’s independent institutions.”

In the specific case of Afghanistan, these triggers might be more localized, such as the attempted imposition of the Taliban’s version of sharia law, attempts to meddle with the leadership structure of a locality, the attempt to ban music or beard-cutting, etc.  (I readily admit that I do not know which of these might already be part of a given cultural norm in Afghanistan; these triggers should be decided upon by those most familiar with the localities’ norms, not outsiders.)

Sharp identifies the following as possible guidelines for general resistance:

  • Keep all resistance strictly nonviolent…to make the anti-[insurgency] defense the most effective possible.
  • Repudiate the [insurgency] and denounce its leader as illegitimate.
  • Regard all decrees and orders from the [insurgents] contradicting established law as illegal and refuse to obey them.
  • Refuse and disobey all attempts by the [insurgents] to establish and extend controls over the government apparatus and society.
  • Noncooperate with the [insurgents] in all ways. This applies to everyone at every level of society.
  • Persist in maintaining the normal operations of the society in accordance with the pre-attack constitution, laws, and policies of the legitimate government and the society’s independent institutions.
  • Preserve the functioning of legitimate political and social organizations.
  • Refuse to supply the [insurgents] with needed supplies and equipment, hiding these when appropriate.
  • Engage in friendly “creative communication” with the functionaries and troops serving the [insurgents] while continuing resistance. Explain to them the reasons for the defense struggle, affirm the absence of any intended violence against them, seek to undermine their reliability, and try to induce them to be helpful to the defenders.
  • Refuse to assist the [insurgents] in disseminating their propaganda.
  • Document…the [insurgents’] activities and repression. Preserve and distribute it to the defenders, internationally and to the [insurgents’] supporters.

Organized resistance refers to a “grass tops” anti-insurgency effort. These efforts would be guided by recognized, legitimate community leaders and respond to strategic calls to action. Leaders would analyze and respond to moment-by-moment events and opportunities and work to seize the initiative in the struggle. According to Sharp,

“Such resistance may take the form of specific acts of symbolic protests or resistance, of which there are dozens of possible types.”

In fact, Sharp’s Albert Einstein Institution has identified 198 forms of resistance that might be suitable for this kind of resistance.

As early as possible when encroachment begins, the resisters should communicate to the insurgents their hostility to the insurgency’s goals and that they will face resistance and noncooperation. The population should in the strongest (nonviolent) means possible urge the insurgents to leave. Should this fail to dissuade the insurgents from their encroachment, the population should repeatedly communicate that they lack “violent intent or threat toward the individual soldiers, accompanied by clear resistance.” According to Sharp, this may cause or worsen morale problems among the insurgents.

Sharp also warns, however, that there is no guarantee that nonviolent discipline will affect the troops, and extreme brutality may ensue. Resisters are warned that the attackers may use repression to attempt to terrorize the population into passivity. However, if the resisters persist in their noncooperation and resistance, the repression can fail, as has happened in successful anti-coup resistances.

“Such tragedies do not, however, mean the failure of the resistance. Instead, given continued, disciplined resistance, brutalities can weaken the [insurgents] and strengthen the defense struggle.”

“Nonviolent defiance often risks serious casualties, but it seems to produce far fewer casualties than when both sides use violence. At the same time, persistence in nonviolent struggle contributes to much greater chance [sic] for success than if the resisters had chosen to fight  militarily prepared opponent with violence.”

Furthermore, repression can boomerang on the insurgents in a process called “political jiu-jitsu.” In these cases, repression against nonviolent resisters:

  • Convinces more people to join the resistance;
  • Galvanizes resisters;
  • Damages morale of insurgents and their supporters;
  • Greatly increase international pressure and rejection of insurgent claims to be the legitimate government.

(I’d note that this process seems to be happening right now in Afghanistan–to the United States–in reaction to our killing of civilians, night raids, etc.)

Sharp cautions that though this process is a boon when it occurs, it is not required for a victory. Instead, victory comes through persistent noncooperation and rejection of insurgents’ legitimacy.

Use of civilian anti-insurgency methods will mark a major shift, and will likely take the Taliban by surprise. AK-47s and contraband government armaments may make them competent opponents in a battlefield situation, but their battle prowess can be turned into a liability by a stout civilian resistance. Unprepared for the sudden withdrawal of U.S. forces and faced with a kind of resistance against which their weapons are a liability, the Taliban will struggle to regain their bearings in the strategic landscape. They will either fall apart, or be forced to unmask themselves as the enemy of the population, in which case, they’ve already lost.

Advantages of this strategy over current U.S. strategy

  • This strategy clearly links means to desired ends, and provides a clear plan for reducing violence in the short term, unlike the current military-focused strategy.
  • This strategy would immediately strengthen the political position of the Afghan and Pakistani civilian governments within their own countries, as described above.
  • This strategy would be much more likely to peel off large numbers of reconcilable Taliban than the current U.S. overtures. Instead of being limited only to blocs of fighters or militias with leaders than can be compromised by U.S. and Afghan-government enticements, this strategy allows for the process of political jiu-jitsu to ensue, which could peel off shards of even hardcore insurgent groups.
  • This strategy maximizes the pool of potential recruits for an anti-insurgency strategy, and it allows for constant resistance independent of continuous flows of ammunition. The young, the old, men and women can participate, maximizing the amount of pressure that can be brought to bear to repel an insurgent encroachment.
  • This strategy would have the effect of laying a solid foundation for a more participatory, more democratic society than the current U.S. strategy. Instead of relying on the Afghan security forces or foreign militaries, the Afghan people would be masters of their own destinies.
  • Because it is an adapted form of civilian-based anti-coup defense, this strategy would provide the Afghan people with an effective tool to block future attempts by a well-resourced military to stage a coup against the young civilian government in Kabul.
  • This strategy would likely involve far fewer U.S. and Afghan casualties and reduce violence almost immediately.

Responses to Potential Challenges

“This strategy assumes that the people of Afghanistan will defend the Karzai regime as the legitimate government, when that’s far from a given.” This is true. However, the counterinsurgency doctrine under which U.S. forces supposedly operate in Afghanistan also makes this assumption and has a legitimate host nation government as a prerequisite for its success. So, while it’s a legitimate objection, it’s not a variable among the two plans under consideration. The Kabul government is fraught with corruption, and many groups, especially women, have very serious and well-founded complaints with the regime. If any strategy is to have any hope, this regime must begin to address its own shortcomings. Otherwise, we’re just as well picking up stakes and leaving now rather than wasting another dime on any doomed strategy.

“We lack the capacity to train large numbers of Afghans in nonviolent methods.” At the moment, the U.S. likely lacks the communicative and training capacity to undertake this strategy. That, however, is beside the point: we also lack the capability to undertake a properly resourced military counterinsurgency. But, ratcheting up capacity to implement this strategy would be far less expensive than would be the case for a “pure” implementation of military COIN doctrine, and would be far less expensive to sustain in the long run. Thus, the current lack of resources could be resolved quickly and could be sustained longer than a continued military intervention.

  1. Nonviolence against the Taliban is unlikely to work. Afghanistan and the rigged no man’s land it shares with Pakistan is not a semi-liberal democracy whose elites can be shamed through civil disobedience; those areas that practiced nonviolent resistance would be met with violence, or would be forced to submit to Totalitarian rule.

    While the current strategy being employed there is worthy of criticism (and is likely to be changed in the coming months as a new General and his team arrive ) the strategy suggested above is pure fantasy; typical Afghan groups do not practice nonviolence within their own tribes, never mind when dealing with outsiders to a village or an area.

  2. dcrowe says:

    Hi wilsonrofishing. Thanks for continuing to engage.

    I am confused as to how your link supports your assertion that “nonviolence as unlikely to work.” The article seems to hammer home how our superior expertise at the use of violence isn’t pushing us toward victory. I’m not a newbie to strategic counterterrorism communications, however; in fact about a year and a half ago I was part of a group government staff who spent a week in London to discuss counterterrorism communications strategies with our counterparts in the British government. My notes from that trip helped guide some of the recent legislation that focuses on strategic communications. (As an aside, strategic communications are themselves nonviolent methods…) In fact, this material, in my view, supports my criticism of using violent methods to break consent to the Taliban’s movement: we play right into their strengths and increase a population’s hostility to us. (This material also points to what I view as a silly view on the part of the Defense Department, which remains willfully blind to the fact that the strategic realities of the modern communications world make their use of violence a liability in the fight for the “hearts and minds” of the population. “Dammit, those civilian casualties that we knew we’d cause by using airstrikes in support of ground forces are on al-Jazeera again!”)

    No, Afghanistan is not a semi-liberal democracy. That is also a non-sequitor. These methods have been used against regimes far more efficient at mass slaughter than the Taliban. While in some cases “shaming” plays a role, it’s not essential to method. The above is not a flower-power leaflet; it explicitly contemplates the brutality of the opponent and accounts for it.

    I admit to being a little confused by your argument here, but it might be because I’m making an assumption about your position. Do you subscribe to the same theory of counterinsurgency as posited by the U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual?

    If so, you might be surprised to find that both the strategy and tactics described above and COIN actually share their fundamental view of “victory.” The COIN manual is very clear: victory is achieved when the local population stops supporting the insurgency and switches to supporting the host-nation government instead. That’s flat out stated in print on paper in the COIN manual. There is no caveat on the number of insurgents still operation, troop strength of the enemy, etc. Victory according to modern COIN doctrine happens when consent to the insurgency ends in localities, period. The insurgency cannot survive without a willing “sea” of locals to swim in. That’s not a theory posited by some nonviolent hippie; it’s been a staple of counterinsurgency/insurgency strategy since there was such a thing (see Mao, for example).

    The problem for COIN, however, is that its means fight against the desired end, both in its pure implementation and in the bastardized version which we’re currently calling “counterinsurgency” in Afghanistan. We’re not going to field anything remotely close to the troop numbers required for anything like a “textbook” minimum force level for COIN in Afghanistan; it’s not politically or economically possible. So we’ll try to compensate with heavy doses of technology and force-protection-oriented tactics that will entail heavy civilian casualties. Our methods and the backlash they cause are wonderful at killing people but not sufficiently eroding consent to the insurgency.

    I’d hate to quibble with you about Pashtun cultural experience with nonviolence, but…خان عبد الغفار خان

    Whether they currently “practice it within their own tribes, never mind when dealing with outsiders” is also irrelevant. Effective military training and sufficient weaponry to hold off hardened groups of Taliban in a violent confrontation also appear to not be present across the country, yet Petraus and McChrystal aren’t writing off the attempt to rectify that situation, right? Strategic nonviolence is a militant method of fighting; it can be taught the same way we’re hoping to teach them to fight with guns–and if it ends up being used against us like the munitions we’re shipping to the Afghan government, that’s a hell of a lot better for our people in uniform.

    P.S. I really hope you haven’t been trying to respond to this in the last hour because I’ve been obsessively editing it and adding to it. Sorry LOL

  3. Hello DC.

    I will certainly admit my ignorance to the gentlemen you linked to who led campaigns of non-violence; whenever I think I know all there is to know about a place, my ignorance reaches up at grabs me! I will definitely read some if the reference cited concerning Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, thanks!

    Most of the medical clinics I saw operated at small bases in Eastern Afghanistan treated several gunshots wounds from inter-tribal violence; anecdotal perhaps, because I have no stats on it, but I do not recall anyone being shocked by the fact that people were shooting each other in Afghanistan over land, money and women.

    My link led to a page talking about the successful tactics the Taliban have been using to get their messages out, and I intended to highlight the night letters; besides the ability to rapidly engage with the media after an event such as the recent one in Farah, the Taliban excel at leaving “Night Letters” threatening violence against people unless they do exactly what the Taliban want. Such letters were once left under the door of two teachers in a small town in eastern Afghanistan, who subsequently stopped teaching at the school in fear for their lives. Lovely. What would have happened had the teachers stayed in place, or if the small town had employed nonviolent resistance? I think the school would have remained an empty building in either case, although the teachers or leaders in the town, or their children, or an unholy mixture of them all would have been met untimely deaths with bullets or bombs.

    I agree that the current strategy, or at least the implementation of it, is failing. I also expect that General McChystal (pending his confirmation in Congress) will dramatically change the strategy, and energize its implementation.

    Operationalizing mass civil disobedience at this point would be a herculean task, and there is no leader that I know of who could unite the geographically and ethnically fragmented populace into such a campaign, nor an external organization with the wherewithal to organize one.

    If McChrystal is not successful, especially from the outset, then America (and therefore everyone else) will likely abandon Afghanistan, and satisfy itself with UAV and missile attacks on terrorist camps in the region, and say that it is meeting its foreign policy objectives of “isolating Al Qaeda”; for the sake of the Afghan people and their future, I hope it works. . .

    • dcrowe says:

      Hey wilsonrofishing:

      Ah–gotcha on the night letters. Now I understand what you were getting at. Thanks for the clarification. I have a couple of thoughts regarding that particular scenario, but I will admit that this is all speculative because responses have to vary from place to place depending on circumstances. I don’t intend to be patronizing in the following–I know you know a lot of this, but I include it for the sake of others reading our conversation.

      First, I think a community under that kind of threat has to understand that the Taliban needs their cooperation. All groups like this are parasitical, and they need the community to continue to function (with the modifications demanded by the Taliban, obviously) to support their existence. So in responding to night letters, etc., you’d want to put them in a position where they cannot have what they want if they carry out the threat.

      So, for example, one possible response would be to behave like you’d behave if the night letter were a kidnapping: the best response is to publicize it as loudly as possible and demand the letter writer come forward to the community if they are so brave. Then, you find the key leaders of the community necessary for it to continue to function (the local religious leaders, community admins, or even key agriculture workers) and you put them in the school as teachers if permitted by local social mores or they position themselves around the school as human shields. Now the Taliban has to choose. But under no circumstances should the community bow to the demands of the letter, ever. This tactic has an even better chance at working if the locals have access to communications tech of any kind: their resistance can be broadcast or disseminated, which will encourage others, whether it succeeds or fails.

      Yes, this is dangerous in the extreme. All resistance to totalitarianism is. However, the alternative posited by McChrystal, if I understand correctly, is to arm the locals. Some of those arms will likely find their way into Taliban hands. Some of those will be used ineffectively by new trainees, and those that are used effectively will have to win a firefight against the Taliban to protect the women and children threatened by the night letters. You seem to have some direct experience with Afghanistan and these kinds of situations, so I’ll ask you: what tends to happen to the women and children in a locality that resisted by armed force if they lose? In both cases, the consequences for failure are the same: the Taliban retaliate viciously. But historically, the people in our hypothetical town have a much better chance at surviving–even if their resistance fails–than they would if they failed at an armed resistance.

      And here, I’d just reiterate the advantages that such a strategy has over the violent strategy: the chance for political jiu-jitsu to ensue, the possibility of damaging Taliban morale, etc.

      One thing we always try to push in our trainings: this strategy doesn’t need a charismatic leader. For example, the Rosenstrasse 2-4 incident in Berlin vs. Hitler’s regime (which saved the Jewish men in mixed marriages from deportation to death camps) was spontaneous and had no charismatic leader. That’s the point of including “general” resistance as described above alongside “organized” resistance, so that people don’t have to wait for orders from the top down to proceed.

      I agree: this is a herculean task. And, as you point out, violence permeates Afghan civil life at the moment. However, a civilian anti-insurgency strategy seems no less herculean than anything remotely close to a “textbook” COIN effort, and it has the advantage of doing something to change the level of violence in Afghan society while allowing the locals a vigorous method to “fight” in a militant way. It will have to be approached the same way Khan approached it: as a method of jihad. That’s what makes the cultural legacy left by Khan so exciting: by helping it to blossom again, we’d be encouraging an alternative vision of jihad that can fight the Taliban’s perverse jihad for dominance both in the field and in Pashtun cultural life.

      Tell me more about your experiences in Afghanistan, if possible (I know you may not be able to say much.)

  4. Dear Derrick and Wilson,

    A non-military strategy is HERCULEAN, almost like the ‘fable’ Hercules is, but it may be a dying opportunity ‎to free the waterfall ( link and excerpt below ) so I feel we should try.

    Hakim in Afghanistan


    Excerpts :‎

    A dying opportunity to free the waterfall

    In this dream of a kinder world, ordinary people from all races and nations take a dying opportunity to ‎gather at the World Heritage Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan on International Peace Day 21st ‎September 2009,‎
    to hope for peace and reject violence.‎
    And against all odds and dams, to free the waterfall.

    I and my Afghan friends have a waterfall of humane dreams and wishes in which we are grieving, crying and ‎hurting badly.

    ‎“Don’t be silly,” I’ve thought. ‎

    We’ll be misunderstood and laughed at as illogical and unrealistic or as anti-this or anti-that. ‎

    Not to mention the almost complete self-deception, corruption, greed and the culture of war worldwide, ‎perceived by some as perfected in Afghanistan.

    To record, that even in the ‘darkest and driest of places’, there exists waterfalls.‎

  5. Ms. Cynthia says:

    Your ideas about creating resistance among the people of Afghanistan are interesting but there are some factors that may be beyond the control of a local resistance community.

    This is a generation of Afghans who have been treated like indentured servants on their own land by both the Taliban and their own governors (the other war lords). This was never in the far past or the near future about ideology in the rural regions where we are sending our troops.
    It as always been and still is who gets to tax and heard the local people. The local farmers complain in confidence to our journalist. “We are looted by day and murdered by night” by opportunist on both sides.

    Even when our boots on the ground come through, local farmers offer them bags of opium if they have it available, hoping that will be enough to pacify and keep our well heeled soldiers from bringing harm to them and their family while our troops are in the neighborhood. Opium has long been used in the region like cash. People are so poor they have no form of banking or any other form of credit, save their own children, heaven forbid.

    They scummed to raising fields of poppies because the Taliban are the only ones who will offer them the micro financing to survive while the crop is growing. Of course the Taliban or the Afghan mafia take the lions share of the profit from this crop. The mafia builds their palaces in Kabul with it and the Taliban buy arms with it.

    They buy arms and pay salaries to a sea of unemployed youth who have no prospects out side of the drug trade for success, to ambush the American troops who think they are coming to end their rein. But here is the kicker. Who are they buying their arms from? I ask because someone (not ready to name names yet) is selling the US made guns and munitions to kill our boots on the ground with.

    Meanwhile there is no attempt to stop and destroy easily spotted convoys of Taliban running Taliban processed heroin across the desert to all points north of Afghanistan or over the mountains to the ports of Pakistan. Some say the Pakistani secret police and its officials are making great profits by allowing the Taliban to smuggle arms in from their own ports. Is there anyone else in the region willing to trade arms for heroin?

    What amount of military aid sent by the US to the region is ending up in the hands of Taliban War Lords and being used to maintain the production of heroin? Is the fight on the other side of the border in the Swat Valley more about who gets to exploit the peasants?

    What kind of wink and nod is going on with our CIA, the mob in Afghanistan and the gun runners in Pakistan? And how do you undermine this kind of activity with the help of local populations?
    How do you establish a rule of law in a region where the heroin trade is being used by both sides for their own means?

    1. Can you dry up the sea of unemployed youth by providing them a work study programs that offer them a future and pays them to go to school and build up their communities? (What a great idea, this might even work in South Central, LA)

    2. Why aren’t Americans offering local Afghan farmers abundant forms of micro credit for growing crops that feed people instead of making them slaves of the Taliban War Lords or the Afghan mafia? Give them such a well organized local credit system that they can leave the Afghan mafia in the dust and hire Taliban youth to work in their fields. The best way we can protect our troops on the ground as well as defend the local Afghan peasant, and reduce the Taliban War Lords to a local rag tag phenomenon in the wilderness is by defunding their operations in the heroin trade.

    3. Therefore use your technology to follow and take out all of the heroin processing and convoys supplying it where it is still left. Make processing and shipping heroin too dangerous and unprofitable.

    4. Inflate the cost of the Taliban’s favorite weapons. Of course this is really difficult if the Pakistani army keeps leaving their own guns behind. Have a food for guns campaign in the Highlands where people do not have good land for agriculture.

    5. When ever possible pit the Afghan Mafias and Taliban against each other instead of the local people.

    No doubt this will really upset the Pakistani secret police. The Afghan mafias will use everything they have to leverage against the government and our troops on the ground. But making trouble for the Afghan mafia may gain us respect by moderate Taliban. The Mafia will do everything they can to over turn the current Government. But at least the people will see us going after the oppressors who have created drudgery for them.

    Finally, the Swiss were once a contentious and difficult people at one time in history. But they found opportunities to become more than nomads in the mountains herding live stock and smuggling. What we need to do is find a way for local villages in the AfPak territories, industries that are unique to their geography that provide local people with economic stability. What technologies will allow them to become the next watch makers, craftsman and chocolate makers of their region. And who knows maybe even the bankers.

    • Dear Ms Cynthia,‎

      Yes, I agree that the drug/arms trade is beyond the local community’s control. Which smaller ‎‎‘drug-state/conduit’ (Golden Cresent, Columbia, Mexico/US…..etc etc) has managed to ‎control the lucrative trade? ‎

      Getting involved in un-raveling drug and arms trade in any part of the world is brave ‎‎‘resistance’ work too, but perhaps should be done by every concerned person on his OWN ‎turf or backyard.

      Afghans can handle it themselves IF they want to. “Afghanistan briefly witnessed one of the ‎world’s most successful anti-drug campaigns when Taliban leader Mullah Omar declared ‎that growing poppies is un-Islamic. As a result of this July 2001 ban, opium poppy cultivation ‎was reduced by 91% from the previous year’s estimate of 82,172 hectares. The ban was so ‎effective that Helmand Province, which had accounted for more than half of this area, ‎recorded no poppy cultivation during the 2001 season.”

      Certainly, wise and humane, non-colonial micro-crediting is an important and valuable non-‎military strategy and while no one can deny that economic stability is an essential pre-‎requisite for peaceful development, some one has to have the common sense to divert billions ‎of dollars from the military to building factories etc.

      However, economic stability alone cannot bring a culture of peace. In fact, it can feed greed, ‎so that the wealthy ‘tribal-lord’ who’s getting wealthier or the ‘developed’, rich-world ‎politician who is earning more and more, even if by just means, are not any less violent or ‎war-like.

      This is where nurturing non-violence within the local communities need to go hand-in-hand.

      Our Journey to Smile in Afghanistan ‎

  6. […] More generally, the U.S. must abandon its current military-focused strategy and rapidly shift toward training locals in nonviolent resistance for the purpose of halting Taliban encroachment. A strategy for defeating the Taliban with a primary–or even a significant–focus on […]

  7. […] be much, much better off (to say nothing of the Afghans) enabling the local people to undertake civilian-based defense. But first things first: let’s get it through our heads that accepting benign euphemisms for […]

  8. […] be much, much better off (to say nothing of the Afghans) enabling the local people to undertake civilian-based defense. But first things first: let’s get it through our heads that accepting benign euphemisms for […]

  9. […] be much, much better off (to say nothing of the Afghans) enabling the local people to undertake civilian-based defense. But first things first: let’s get it through our heads that accepting benign euphemisms for […]

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