Civilian Casualties (CivCas): The Reason for Failing Strategies in Afghanistan

child 60652 1920“I have plans on Afghanistan that if I wanted to win that war, Afghanistan would be wiped off the face of the Earth,” President Trump said this in July last year while speaking alongside Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan in the Oval Office. POTUS continued, “It would be gone. It would be over in — literally in ten days. And I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to go that route.”[1]

This kind of casual disregard for the massive civilian casualties such an undertaking would inflict, coming from the US leader, is abysmal. Civilian casualties remain at near-record levels in Afghanistan. In the first nine months of 2019, at least 2,563 civilians were killed and 5,676 wounded, according to figures published by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). Since UNAMA began compiling records in 2009, there have been more than 100,000 Afghans killed or injured. Nearly 34,000 Afghan civilians have been killed during that period, many of them children. Afghanistan remains the deadliest conflict in the world for children.[2]

Following the September 2011 attacks, a US led coalition invaded Afghanistan to dismantle and destroy Al-Qaida bases along with removal of the Taliban regime. Bursting with the arrogance of Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) and technological advancement in war fighting capabilities, the perpetrators of the war expected a clean and swift win against a worthless adversary armed with dated weaponry. However, contrary to common expectation and to the utter dismay of the invaders, the adversary proved to be far more determined in taking on a superior enemy. The abyss of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) has been swallowing up lives of many for over a decade, irrespective of allegiances and neutralities.

Eight years into the war, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) announced its change in Afghan counterinsurgency strategy in 2009 which was primarily based on its experiences in Operation Iraqi freedom.[3] Then ISAF commander General Alastair McChrystal laid his emphasis upon a population centric strategy of winning the hearts and minds of the local populace.[4] The premise behind this change in strategy was McChrystal’s conclusion that Civilian Casualties (CivCas) is the primary factor in the growing support of the insurgency,[5] and was evidenced by the decline in insurgent attacks which followed.[6] However, the impact of that change did not last long and the war in Afghanistan continued with growing number of civilian casualties.[7]

Despite spending trillions of dollars and losing hundred and thousands of precious lives, both of soldiers and non-combatants, the security scenario in Afghanistan never showed any promising improvement. In his February 9, 2017 testimony before the United States Congress, General John W. Nicholson, Jr., Commander of Resolute Support Mission (RSM) and of US Forces in Afghanistan (USFOR-A), told the US Senate Armed Services Committee that the battle theatre in Afghanistan was at a “stalemate”.[8] The irony is that the perpetrators of “war of choice” still refused to acknowledge that ending civilian casualties was the only way forward out of the quagmire. The governments, strategists and academia behind the US led coalition failed alike in articulating this core issue, and were unable to empathise with the local population’s perception of foreign troops and their attributed CivCas. Resultantly, the “tyrant regime” which was toppled by a coalition of more than 40 countries, now has increased public support and seems determined to gain its lost ground.[9] Sadly, after nineteen long years of intense effort, the CivCas graph in Afghanistan is still moving up.[10]

The Taliban led insurgency has become a powerful obstacle in Afghanistan. To understand the ideology, one must peel back the Afghan identity and delve into their political, religious, and tribal culture, which are embedded with concepts of obligations, honour and revenge. These are the very drivers which mobilize the local populace against a common foe, and it is easy to understand why they have maintained their lustre over the years. In each instance of foreign occupation in Afghanistan’s recent history – by the US led coalition during OEF, by the British when they colonized India, and by the Soviet Union in their invasion of the country – the invaders failed to empathize with Afghans and these values. This is partially due an overwhelming reliance on technology and force to stabilize Afghanistan. The government’s inability to harness the insurgency, the growing influence of Taliban and a highly discontent local populace are signalling a defeat for the US and her allies in Afghanistan.

First Anglo-Afghan War

The British army was the first Western military to confront the culture and people of Afghanistan. Having defeated the Mughals in then Hindustan (Pakistan, India and Bangladesh), Great Britain strengthened its hold on the fertile lands of the Indian sub-continent which were of great importance to its economy.[11] The British feared a Russian military onslaught on areas under its influence and geographic control;[12] to thwart this Tsarist threat from the west, in 1838 the British invaded Kabul with an estimated 16,500 troops and installed Shah Shuja as its puppet leader in 1839.[13] Following their invasion, the British treated the local population harshly and ruthlessly without any regard for local tradition and culture.[14] General Harlan (an American living in Afghanistan until the British invasion) wrote in his memoirs, “The British settled in, importing foxhounds, cricket bats, amateur theatricals and all the appurtenances of empire.  After an easy victory, it was assumed that the Afghans were docile. The invaders rode roughshod over the local culture, treating the Afghans with disdain, oblivious to the growing rumble of discontent.”[15]

The deployment of Hindu troops by the British to tame the Muslim populace, further exacerbated the situation.[16] The resentment of the Afghans against maltreatment by foreign invaders resulted in the outbreak of guerrilla warfare.[17] The British control of Kabul concluded in 1842 through a massacre of its forces.[18]  During their retreat through the five-mile Khurd Kabul pass, the English soldiers were picked off one after the other by Gilzai snipers from their positions on the higher grounds.[19] Louis Dupree, the premier historian of Afghanistan, analysed the British disaster as an outcome of four factors, which he listed as “the occupation of Afghan territory by foreign troops, the placing of an unpopular Ameer (ruler) on the throne, the harsh acts of the British-supported Afghans against their local enemies, and the reduction of the subsidies paid to the tribal chiefs by British political agents.”[20]

Second Anglo-Afghan War

In 1879, the British carried out a second military campaign to gain strategic territories and subdue Afghanistan.[21] Once again, they overlooked previous lessons pertaining to the culture and tribal codes of the Afghans. Lack of empathy and ruthless behaviour on the part of British forces led to the same result as the previous war. The city of Kabul was overtaken by hundreds and thousands of Afghans following the outbreak of rebellion and insurgency, and the British withdrew from Kabul in an embarrassing defeat. The Afghans perceived the incident as merely fuel for the already burning flames from the first Anglo-Afghan war and their hatred only intensified for the Britishers.[22] Rudyard Kipling summed up the extent of the Afghans’ hatred in his famous words, “When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains.  And the women come out to cut up what remains. Jest roll to your rifle an’ blow out your brains. An’ go to your Gawd like a soldier.”[23]

Soviet Invasion of 1979

In 1979, Khomeini’s religious revolution overthrew the secular government of the Shah in Iran.[24] A similar story was playing out in the East. Pakistan was under military rule led by General Zia-ul-Haq who executed the secular minded premier Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, while providing leverage to various hardline religious groups.[25] For the Soviet regime, the mushrooming growth of Islamic regimes in its near abroad was a source of insecurity.[26] Additionally, the visible penetration of Islamic fundamentalists in Afghan politics had endangered Soviet interests in the country and provided a catalyst for their subsequent invasion of the country.[27]

For the Soviets, marching into Afghanistan was easy, just like the British in the Anglo-Afghan wars. However, arresting the insurgency that ensued proved to be a challenging task. The Soviets brought to bear over 85,000 troops and some of the best technology to carry out a mission which many characterized as an occupation from the very beginning. Like the British, Soviet role extended not only to crushing the opposition but to forming a puppet government. Neighbouring Pakistan grew cautious with the presence of a superpower next door. Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency, the ISI, began to implement plans concerning strategic depth and security as the Soviet war machines rolled into the countryside and wreaked havoc.[28]

The fighters that opposed Soviet troops were diverse. Among the factions of the Afghan mujahedeen there was a varying emphasis on Islam, nationalism, and other ideologies.[29] Graham E Fuller, in his report for RAND, mentions that in the Afghan resistance against the Soviets, there were seven Islamist parties, allied in the ‘Group of Seven’, and three traditionalist parties, allied in the ‘Group of Three’.[30] The presence of Soviet troops served to overcome many internal divisions in these groups, and inspired support for them with many segments of the Afghan population. In addition to financial support from the U.S., Europe, China and the Middle East, many Muslims came to join in the fight against the Soviets.[31] Leaders such as Jalaluddin Haqqani and Osama bin Laden established organizations and training sites in Pakistan to facilitate the Muslim world’s participation in the fight against the Soviets.[32] These foreign fighters did not make a very large impact tactically, but their presence spoke to the broader themes and implications of the Soviet-Afghan war. The US also took an active role in providing covert financial and arms assistance via the Saudi and Pakistani channels.[33]

Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF): 2001-2014

Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) was launched in October 2001 to punish Afghanistan for harbouring the al-Qaeda terrorists responsible for the 9/11 attacks against the US.[34] Although the Taliban regime was overthrown, the United States never committed sufficient forces in the country.[35] With insufficient troop strength and inadequate logistical support to eradicate all Taliban insurgents throughout Afghanistan, the US and NATO forces had to concentrate on subduing one insurgent “hot spot” and then moving on to the next one that popped up. This was a tactic the troops call “whack a mole.”[36] Yet without sufficient forces to hold an area permanently, the Taliban would move back in once the Western forces departed.

Despite ample lessons from the Anglo-Afghan war and the Soviet invasion, the United States and her allies, with all their political and military might, failed to plan and conduct the Afghanistan war intelligently, consistently and with the urgency necessary for success.[37] Most lacking in OEF had been the failure to understand and empathize the Afghan strategic culture along with disciplined intellectual integrity that is essential to develop, resource and aggressively implement a coherent COIN strategy.[38]

Afghan Perceptions of Foreign Invading Forces and Their Attributed CivCas

Political Perspective

The Afghan political perspective of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) lies within the context of their dominant narratives. The most acceptable perspective revolves around the story of Afghan nationalism, a small Muslim nation under threat from foreign superpowers.[39] The story starts with the invasion by Alexander the Great and proceeds through Anglo-Afghan wars of the 19th and 20th centuries to the Soviet invasion of the 1980s. This perspective regards the US as the latest empire intent on destroying the Afghans’ way of life.[40] They see the American military as the newest in a long line of foreign invaders. “By bringing more forces it will not bring security. It will bring insecurity,” says Abdul Jalil, resident of the Nara district in Kunar Province, in an interview with ABC News.[41] “It is ironic to observe that all the people, whether they are civilians, or mujahedeen (religious fighters), or even Taliban, they all despise foreign soldiers in their country.”

Another perspective resorts to conspiracy theories. According to this viewpoint, the Afghans’ own war lords, the “Mujahedeen” of past decades and the Taliban of today, are considered as mercenaries on the payroll of Washington.[42] In such a perspective, the militant Islamism is a US creation, 9/11 is the US government’s own plot, and the War on Terror is the American agenda to stir up trouble among Muslims and weaken their resolve in order to make them recognize the state of Israel as legitimate.[43] The advocate of this perspective also explains the presence of foreign forces in Afghanistan to exploit its vast natural resources.[44] To support this argument the New York Times published an article where they identified “minerals” as the reason the Trump administration wanted to keep troops in Afghanistan.[45]

The presence of varied political perspectives reflects a diversified Afghan society. However, the thinking is homogenous when it comes to the matter of CivCas attributed to foreign forces. Correspondent of csmonitor.com Tom Peter mentioned Najib Mamalai (independent political analyst in Kabul) in his article, who stated that, “The foreigners absolutely did not communicate…. They only spoke with bombs and guns”. He added that, “the US alienated every single human body in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and Iraq to their causes.” [46] Another Afghan namely Momin, who sells tailoring supplies in Jalalabad, describes his opinion in the same article about US led foreign troops as, “They know why they are here. I don’t know the reason they are here. You should ask them why they are here, to make peace or to destroy Afghanistan. I don’t know why.”[47]

Religious Perspective

The debate that has followed the 9/11, attacks has been dominated by two subjects: warfare, and Islam in Afghanistan. In Islam, jihad is interpreted in two ways. The greater jihad or struggle is the daily internal battle that a person faces to keep to the true path of the Islamic faith. The lesser form of jihad is that fought in defence of Islam itself.[48] To truly qualify jihad in an Islamic context, this latter form must be a response to an attack on Islam itself. To such an attack, the faithful can legitimately respond by bringing such force to bear as may be required to destroy the aggressor.[49] After the Soviet invasion of December 1979, the enemy was presented and perceived as a satanic force determined to overthrow Islam in Afghanistan.[50] There was a natural response generated within the Afghan masses which was solely based upon religious motivation. An immediate insurgency kicked off against the infidels threatening the very existence of Islam. The wider the rebellion spread, the more pressure the Soviets applied to contain it. The civilian casualties attributed to Soviets acted as an accelerant and the insurgency spread like a forest fire.[51] With the departure of the Russians on 15th February 1989, America claimed victory, however nobody gave much attention to the Afghans, who paid in blood for the so called “Jihad” against infidels.[52]

The Taliban rule from 1996 to 2001 exacerbated the hardline Islamic mindset of ordinary Afghans.[53] Most of the population perceived the developments after 9/11 from a viewpoint influenced by Taliban rule. Hence, when the US led coalition invaded Afghanistan, many Afghans automatically considered the arrival of the foreign forces as the entry of infidels in the country.[54] Ironically, the coalition forces never understood the religious dimension of their war in Afghanistan very well. The biggest weakness in the coalition forces’ operating strategy was the misunderstanding of religion and its role in shaping the thinking of ordinary Afghans.[55] Emsharaff, who was a senior translator for the US field command, shared his thoughts with reporter Charles Sennott, that the counterinsurgency strategy requires the US forces to understand Islam and to make it part of countering the Taliban. He further added, “I think in COIN, we really need to understand religion and culture. If you want to win this COIN war, we can also use our religious leaders, Islamic leaders who see the truth to let them know what’s the real Islam. If they hit us by religious bullet, we have to hit them back with the same thing.”[56]

In the teachings of Islam, fraternity has been given great importance. It is the saying of the Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) that, “The parable of the believers in their affection, mercy, and compassion for each other is that of a body. When any limb aches, the whole body reacts with sleeplessness and fever.”[57] CivCas by coalition forces is one of the main reasons ordinary Afghans have joined the insurgency.[58] Most Afghans indicate that they or close family members have been victims of coalition operations. Those who have not been victimized know of villagers or “other Muslims” who had been killed or wounded.[59] Many Afghans believe that it does not matter whether they or their loved ones were victimized or not, if fellow Muslims were targeted. They perceive all the killings by the US led coalition as the murder Muslim brothers.[60]

Tribal Perspective

Pashtunwali” is the tribal code of conduct every proud Pashtun follows.[61] Be he an Afghan, Pakistani, or a refugee anywhere in the world, the Pashtun believes that this social code produces men who are superior to any other men of a different culture.[62] Additionally, no Pashtun is desirous of having a new social system imposed on them by outsiders.[63]Melmastia” (hospitality) is a key component of the Pashtunwali code. “Melma” means a guest.[64] However, hospitality is not to be interpreted in the manner a Westerner would interpret it. It means offering hospitality to a guest while transcending race, religion, and economic status. It also means once under the roof of the host, a guest should neither be harmed nor surrendered to an enemy. This will be regardless of whatever prior relationship the guest and the host have enjoyed previously. Hence, even the enemy who comes seeking refuge must be granted it and defended against his pursuers. When the Taliban refused to hand over Osama bin Laden to the US, they were bound by this tribal code. Elphinstone, in 1815, observed that, “The most remarkable characteristic of the Afghans is their hospitality. The practice of this virtue is so much a point of national honour, that their reproach to an inhospitable man is that he has no Pashtunwali”.[65]

The code “Badal” means “to seek justice or take revenge against the wrongdoer.”[66] There is no time limit to when the injustice can be avenged. If Badal is not exercised, the offended man or his family will be considered stripped of honour. The exercise of this principle can lead to generations of bloodshed, feuds and hundreds of lives lost for one insult. It requires a violent reaction to the insult or death or injury inflicted. A Badal usually ends with revenge.[67] Khushal Khan Khattak, the great Pashto poet, warrior, and soldier, was not far off the mark when he said: “Let the head be gone, wealth be gone, but the honour must not go, because the whole of dignity of a man is due to this honour.”[68]

CivCas and its Impact on Indigenous Support and Intelligence Preparation for Operational Environment (IPOE)

The support from the local populace has always been the Centre of Gravity (COG) for both insurgents and counterinsurgent forces. For a foreign military like the US, the allegiance and support of local populace is critical for preparing Operational Environment (OE) and make its COIN strategy a success. However, in Afghanistan, unfortunate civilians became the rope in a tug of war, stretched, brutalized, and used by both the Taliban as well as the US led forces in OEF. It is estimated that, over 100,000 Afghan civilians have lost their lives in this war since 2001.[69]

In a counterinsurgency operation, the ultimate objective is to uproot the insurgency. However, the more counterinsurgent forces harm the populace in their drive to defeat insurgents, the more the populace will turn away from it and support the insurgents or at least refute any help to counterinsurgent forces. It is the involvement of the local populace that is the turning point for the preparation of an effective OE and subsequent success of COIN strategy. Many of the insurgents come from the locals’ own neighbourhoods and regions, from their own tribes and ethnic backgrounds.[70] Nonetheless, it takes the personal involvement of citizens at the local level, cooperating closely with counterinsurgent forces, to turn the tide against insurgency.

Civilian Casualties in COIN: What Went Wrong in Afghanistan?

Flawed Intelligence

The intelligence shortfalls, caused by lower local support due to CivCas, exacerbated the already volatile situation in Afghanistan as it left international forces and the Afghan government vulnerable to manipulation. Local and national elites exploited this aspect by naming their personal and political rivals as al Qaeda or Taliban in the hope of deceiving international forces into military action.[71] It is difficult to measure the occurrence and scale of operations that were conducted on flawed intelligence. Those flaws include misidentification of targets, deliberate misinformation from Afghan intelligence sources, and poor understanding of the political economy and conflict drivers. Such intelligence failures contributed significantly to civilian harm. Many of these concerns were captured in an unprecedented report in 2010 by International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) director of intelligence, then Major General Michael Flynn, who expressed alarm at the inadequacy of US intelligence efforts.[72] “Because the United States has focused most of the collection efforts and analytical brainpower on insurgent groups, our intelligence apparatus still finds itself unable to answer fundamental questions about the environment in which we operate and the people we are trying to protect and persuade.”[73] He made key changes to the ISAF intelligence staff and recommended sweeping reforms in the intelligence community. The enemy centric focus in Afghanistan marginalized social, political, and cultural understandings and led to costly mistakes by coalition forces and their ally, the Afghan government.

Growth of Insurgency While Forfeiting Public Support

The civilian harm caused by international forces and their Afghan partners contributed significantly to the growth and resilience of the insurgency.[74] CivCas by international forces and the Afghan government eliminated avenues for reconciliation. Their actions convinced community leaders to fight back. This all ended up reinforcing the Taliban’s “foreign occupation” narrative, and provided them room to seek protection and retaliation.

Empirical studies suggest strong correlations between civilian harm and detrimental effects on public support and levels of violence in Afghanistan. Such studies in conflict zones are methodologically challenging and their findings of causality vary. One study involving over 200 Afghan villages in conflict areas showed “harm inflicted by ISAF was met with reduced support for ISAF and increased support for the Taliban, but Taliban-inflicted harm does not translate into greater ISAF support.”[75] Despite the fact that the Taliban were also committing atrocities against civilians, the study suggests that the civilian population perceives ISAF as the worse of the two. This “asymmetry” indicates that ISAF was perceived as an “outsider group,” and was judged more harshly for harm inflicted than the Taliban, who were being perceived more as an “in-group.”[76]

Undermining the Legitimacy of International Forces and Host Nation Government (HNG)

Civilian harm posed twin challenges for legitimacy. It severely undermined the legitimacy of the international forces and the Afghan government. The former Under-Secretary of Defence for policy, Michèle A. Flournoy was quoted in the 2016 report by the Open Society Forum as saying, “We were losing the moral high ground. It starts undermining support for or creating intolerance of the international military presence.”[77] He was further mentioned as saying, “If you’re there ostensibly to support a government that’s meant to be legitimate, but lots of civilians are dying on the government’s behalf, you start undermining the government’s effectiveness.”[78] Lieutenant General Dave Barno, Commander of 2003 Combined Forces Command-Afghanistan (CFCA a predecessor command to ISAF), reflected in the same report that the United States was “really alienating the population” with its use of airpower.[79]

Operation Enduring Freedom Vs Operation Rah-e-Rast: What’s the Difference

What did the Pakistani army do differently in Operation Rah-e-Rast? First, it stopped trying to buy peace with the Taliban through deals that inevitably collapsed. Second, the spread of the Taliban led insurgency out of the Swat valley made other big population centres vulnerable, including the capital city of Islamabad.[80] Therefore, Pakistan Army, had no option left to them but to confront the threat head on, with full vengeance.

There are three glaring factors in the operation’s success. Firstly, the army sent enough troops to do the job. It comprised of two divisions, totalling about 25,000 men, rather than the 3,000-man brigade that had failed to contain the insurgency during Operation Rahe-Haq. Secondly, the army acknowledged the fact that they could not succeed without gaining local support and for this they need to avoid civilian casualties. To allow the use of heavy firepower, soldiers moved civilians out of the operation area, creating more than 2 million temporary refugees in the shape of IDPs.[81] Thirdly, the army had popular support from the local populace who were then fed up with the Taliban and their so-called interpretation of true Islam.

There are some lessons here for US troops across the border in Afghanistan. The most important truth is that the US led coalition, as an outside force, simply cannot do some of the things that worked best for the Pakistani military in the Swat Valley. No matter how fervently Gen. Stanley McChrystal spoke of a “population-centric” strategy, it is hard to implement reforms if it is not your country. McChrystal’s strategy echoed some of the Pakistani precepts of more troops, more focus on the population, more security. But even with an additional 30,000 troops, the US led coalition could not enjoy the same popular support that the Pakistani Army enjoyed in Swat.[82]America is fighting, what many Afghans will always regard, as a war of occupation. The Afghan populace will not “fall in love” with the US led coalition. The political, religious, and tribal perceptions of the Afghans will continue to label U.S led forces as “Unwanted Outsider Infidels” who violates sacred tribal customs.

The Taliban led insurgency has entered its seventeenth year in Afghanistan since the events of September 11, 2001 took place. The initial objectives of the military intervention in Afghanistan were to capture the Al-Qaida leadership, topple a tyrannical Taliban regime, and liberate an oppressed populace. Until now the US led international forces and the Afghan Government are engaged in countering a resilient Taliban insurgency. As the country continues to be a source of instability in the region, the adapted strategy in Afghanistan warrants a closer examination to discover where mistakes might have been made. Blaming Pakistan, as has been done by President Trump in his prime-time speech of August 2017, is not going to solve the problem for the US and will only aggravate the situation in Afghanistan.[83]

By studying the role of religion and tribal culture in the perceptions of the Afghan populace, this essay concluded that adopted military strategy in Afghanistan has done more harm than good. Contrary to the US led coalition’s initial approach based on Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA), technological superiority and mass did not prove useful in the face of hardened local perceptions. More specifically, the issue of civilian casualties, attributed to the foreign forces and the Afghan Government, provided the fuel for many Taliban propaganda campaigns, worsening the anti-Western sentiment, and lessening the legitimacy of the Afghan government. The death of innocent civilians has led to mistrust of the Coalition and Afghan government while creating a perception of oppression and injustice.

Concepts of revenge, coupled with Jihad against infidels, had been the underlying theme behind the loss of the hearts and minds campaign in Afghanistan. Simply put, neglect in understanding and acknowledging local perceptions towards the action of coalition and Afghan government, especially civilian casualties, has led to compounding the insurgency. Considering the problems plaguing the region, the solution must come in non-kinetic means. It must also be consistent with the goals of the coalition and recognize people as the critical factors in defeating the insurgency. Just as the coalition and Afghan government must take measures to reduce the loss of innocent lives, they must also adopt actions to mitigate the effects of previously inflicted civilian casualties.

Thus far, the Afghan strategy has been heavily reliant on military tactics, the results of which have appeared in the form of civilian casualties and loss of trust of the locals. To ensure a lasting success, the coalition must explore the political and social aspects of winning the hearts and minds of the populace it claims to have liberated from the clutches of the Taliban. The coalition and the Afghan government must not underestimate the power of the local populace in defeating the insurgency. The adopted Afghan strategy has to be population centric, while keeping strict prohibition on civilian harm by the counterinsurgent forces. The success of the coalition and the Afghan government is critical in curbing future terrorism. Being the primary front in the War on Terrorism, a defeat in Afghanistan may not only compromise the security of South Asia but may have deadly consequences for the broader international community as well. An unfavourable outcome may possibly be encouraging for the terrorists’ cause give them confidence across the globe to take the insurgency elsewhere.

[1] https://www.politico.com/story/2019/07/22/trump-afghanistan-war-1425692 (Accessed 28 January, 2020).

[2] https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/01/afghanistan-violence-reduction-must-mean-no-civilian-casualties/ (Accessed 31 January, 2020).

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/mar/27/obama-new-strategy-afghanistan-war (Accessed 20 July 2017).

[4] Richard B Lovelock, The General as Statesman? Exploring the professional need for commanders to support viable political outcomes in peace and stability operations as typified by the UK military approach, U.S. Defence Academy College of Management and Technology (August 2010), p.192.

[5] Ibid, p.193.

[6] Zaki Laïdi, Limited Achievements: Obama’s Foreign Policy, Palgrave Macmillan, 2012, p.95.

[7] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/17/civilian-deaths-in-afghanistan-war-at-record-high-says-un (Accessed 20 July 2017).

[8] Wolfgang Hellmich, Afghanistan: Draft Special Report, NATO Parliamentary Assembly, (April 2017), p.1.

[9] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/21/world/asia/trump-afghanistan-war-taliban.html?mcubz=3 (Accessed 26 August 2017).

[10] https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/01/afghanistan-violence-reduction-must-mean-no-civilian-casualties/ (Accessed 31 January, 2020).

[11] http://thecommonwealth.org/our-member-countries/india/history (Accessed 28 July 2017).

[12] http://www.britishempire.co.uk/forces/armycampaigns/indiancampaigns/afghanistan1839.htm (Accessed 28 July 2017).

[13] https://www.military-history.org/articles/the-first-anglo-afghan-war-1839-1842.htm (Accessed 28 July 2017).

[14] Raja G. Hussain, Badal: A Culture of Revenge, The Impact of Collateral Damage on Taliban Insurgency, Naval Postgraduate School Monterey, California (March 2008), p.11.

[15] Ben Macintyre, The Empire Strikes Out, New York Times, May 8, 2004, Section A, Late Edition. http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/08/opinion/the-empire-strikes-out.html?mcubz=1 (Accessed 29 July 2017).

[16] Bruce Collins, Fighting the Afghans in the 19th Century, History Today, (December 2001), p.12.

[17] Johnson Rob, British Approaches to Pacification in Afghanistan :1842-1880, April 2012), p.9.

[18] http://www.britishbattles.com/first-afghan-war/battle-of-kabul-1842/ (Accessed 30 July 2017).

[19] Victoria Schofield, Afghan Frontier, St Martin’s Press, New York, (June 2003), p.75.

[20] Milton Bearden, Afghanistan, Graveyard of Empires, Foreign Affairs, (November 2001), p.17.

[21] Major Martha G. Granger, Moving an Expeditionary Force: Three Case Studies in Afghanistan, United States Army Command and General Staff College, (May 2003), p.12.

[22] Raja G. Hussain, Badal: A Culture of Revenge, The Impact of Collateral Damage on Taliban Insurgency, Naval Postgraduate School Monterey, California (March 2008), p.14.

[23] Lester W. Grau and Michael A. Gress, The Soviet Afghan War: How a Superpower Fought and

Lost, Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, (May 2002), p.7.

[24] http://www.nytimes.com/learning/teachers/studentactivity/20090213iranoverview.pdf?mcubz=1 (Accessed 30 July 2017).

[25] Jackson Richard, Contemporary State Terrorism: Theory and Practice, Routledge, (November 2010), p.55.

[26] https://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2014/08/the-soviet-war-in-afghanistan-1979-1989/100786/ (Accessed 30 July 2017).

[27] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/sep/27/10-myths-about-afghanistan (Accessed 30 July 2017).

[28] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-13272009 (Accessed 31 July 2017).

[29] William Maley, Afghanistan: an historical and geographical appraisal, International Review of the Red Cross, (December 2010), p. 866.

[30] Fuller, Graham E, Islamic Fundamentalism in Afghanistan: Its Character and Prospects, RAND Corporation, (March 1991), p. 6.

[31] https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2010/dec/30/uk-mujahideen-afghanistan-soviet-invasion (Accessed 31 July 2017).

[32] http://web.stanford.edu/group/mappingmilitants/cgi-bin/groups/view/21 (Accessed 31 July 2017).

[33] Kyle Tadman, An American Provocation: U.S. Foreign Policy during the Soviet-Afghanistan War, Western Illinois Historical Review, Vol. V, (March 2013), p.63.

[34] http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/the_war_in_afghanistan (Accessed 1 August 2017).

[35] http://www.historynet.com/operation-enduring-freedom-post-u-s-afghanistan.htm (Accessed 1 August 2017).

[36] http://www.historynet.com/operation-enduring-freedom-post-u-s-afghanistan.htm (Accessed 1 August 2017).

[37] http://foreignpolicy.com/2013/03/04/what-went-wrong-in-afghanistan/ (Accessed 1 August 2017).

[38] Colin S. Gray, Irregular Enemies and the Essence of Strategy: Can the American Way of War Adapt?, Booklite Press, (March 2006), p.34.

[39] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/21/afghans-see-america-cowboys-enemy-partner (Accessed 1 August 2017).

[40] http://www.lemonde.fr/asie-pacifique/article/2013/12/10/hamid-karzai-the-united-states-behaves-in-afghanistan-like-a-colonial-power_3528719_3216.html (Accessed 1 August 2017).

[41] http://abcnews.go.com/International/afghans-us-troops/story?id=8699202 (Accessed 2 August 2017).

[42] https://www.dawn.com/news/1162111 (Accessed 2 August 2017).

[43] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/21/afghans-see-america-cowboys-enemy-partner (Accessed 1 August 2017).

[44] http://nationalinterest.org/feature/the-plan-exploit-afghanistan-its-resources-really-bad-idea-21711 (Accessed 2 August 2017).

[45] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/25/world/asia/afghanistan-trump-mineral-deposits.html?mcubz=3 (Accessed 2 August 2017).

[46] https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Asia-South-Central/2011/0909/What-Afghans-think-of-the-war-Why-are-you-Americans-here (Accessed 2 August 2017).

[47] Ibid.

[48] Ken Guest, Dynamic interplay between religion and armed conflict in Afghanistan, International Review of the Red Cross, Volume 92 Number 880, (December 2010), p.892.

[49] https://www.whyislam.org/jihad-2/jihad-faqs/verses-of-quran-on-jihad/ (Accessed 3 August 2017).

[50] Seth G. Jones, Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, RAND Counterinsurgency Study Vol 4, (March 2008), p.44.

[51] Ken Guest, Dynamic interplay between religion and armed conflict in Afghanistan, International Review of the Red Cross, Volume 92 Number 880, (December 2010), p.892.

[52] Mohammed Kakar, Afghanistan: The Soviet Invasion and the Afghan Response (1979-1982), University of California Press, (June 1997), p.119.

[53] Fatima Popal, The Path to Secular Democracy in Afghanistan: Through Educational Reform and Rule of Law, A Thesis submitted to the Faculty of The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Georgetown University, Washington D.C., (April 2011), p.98.

[54] Kathy Gannon, I is for Infidel: From Holy War to Holy Terror in Afghanistan, Hachette, (September 2005), p.32.

[55] Rasul Bakhsh Rais, Recovering the Frontier State: War, Ethnicity, and the State in Afghanistan, Littlefield Publishers, (September 2009), p.113.

[56] https://www.pri.org/stories/2009-07-22/what-motivates-taliban (Accessed 2 August 2017).

[57] https://abuaminaelias.com/brotherhood-in-the-quran-and-sunnah/ (Accessed 3 August 2017).

[58] Jonathan Steele, Ghosts of Afghanistan: Hard Truths and Foreign Myths, Counterpoint Press, (June 2011), p.23.

[59] Andrew Garfield, Alicia Boyd, Understanding Afghan Insurgents: Motivations, Goals, And the Reconciliation and Reintegration Process, Foreign Policy Research Institute, (April 2013), p.3. https://www.files.ethz.ch/isn/166275/garfield_-_understanding_Afghan_insurgents.pdf (Accessed on 3 August 2017).

[60] https://www.hrw.org/report/2008/09/08/troops-contact/airstrikes-and-civilian-deaths-afghanistan (Accessed 3 August 2017).

[61] http://nation.com.pk/columns/06-Aug-2013/understanding-pashtunwali (Accessed 4 August 2017).

[62] http://thallcitylove.weebly.com/pushtun.html (Accessed 4 August 2017).

[63] Scott Atran, A Question of Honour: Why the Taliban Fight and What to Do About It, Asian Journal of Social Science 38, (June 2010), p.341–361.

[64] http://nation.com.pk/columns/06-Aug-2013/understanding-pashtunwali (Accessed 4 August 2017).

[65] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melmastia (Accessed 4 August 2017).

[66] http://epaper.dawn.com/DetailImage.php?StoryImage=06_12_2015_009_012 (Accessed 4 August 2017).

[67] https://easterncampaign.com/2007/06/27/pashtuns-must-have-their-revenge-sometimes/ (Accessed 4 August 2017).

[68] Fehmeedah Khalid, Traditional Mechanisms of Conflict Resolution: An Analysis of Jirga In Pakhtoon society, Department of Political Science, GC University, Lahore, Pakistan, (November 2014), p.28.

[69] http://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/costs/human/civilians/afghan (Accessed 5 August 2017).

[70] Daniel J. Smith, Intelligence Gathering in a Counterinsurgency, USAWC Strategic Research Project, U.S. Army War College, (March 2006), p. 3.

[71] Christopher D. Kolenda et al, The Strategic Costs of Civilian Harm, Open Society Foundations, (June 2016), p.21.

[72] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/jan/05/us-intelligence-afghanistan-michael-flynn (Accessed 6 August 2017).

[73] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/jan/05/us-intelligence-afghanistan-michael-flynn (Accessed 6 August 2017)

[74] Christopher D. Kolenda et al, The Strategic Costs of Civilian Harm, Open Society Foundations, (June 2016), p.23.

[75] Jason Lyall, Graeme Blair, Kosuke Imai, “Explaining Support for Combatants during Wartime: A Survey experiment in Afghanistan.” American Political Science Review, Vol. 107, No. 4, (November 2013), pp. 679-705.

[76] Ibid.

[77] Christopher D. Kolenda et al, The Strategic Costs of Civilian Harm, Open Society Foundations, (June 2016), p.25.

[78] Ibid.

[79] Ibid.

[80] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/apr/23/taliban-clinton-swat-valley-mingora (Accessed 12 August 2017).

[81] http://www.aljazeera.com/news/asia/2009/05/200959184558382844.html (Accessed 12 August 2017).

[82] http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/01/world/asia/01orders.html?mcubz=1 (Accessed 12 August 2017).

[83] https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2017/08/23/president-trump-puts-pakistan-notice-afghanistan-speech/588329001/ (Accessed 25 August 2017).

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About H.F. Siddiqui 1 Article
The writer H.F. Siddiqui works on strategic issues. He has done his BSc from Peshawar University (1996), M.Sc in War Studies from National Defence University, Pakistan (2011) and M.Strat. from University of Exeter, UK (2017). He can be reached at [email protected]

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