Separating the Taliban from al-Qaeda - Center on International ...

Separating the Taliban from al-Qaeda - Center on International ...




3. An Avoidable Insurgency

The insurgency that emerged ong>fromong> 2003 onwards was not

an inevitable response to ong>theong> internationong>along> intervention

in Afghanistan. It resulted in part ong>fromong> policies that

created an environment in which both segments of ong>theong>

Afghan population as well as ong>theong> senior ong>Tong>along>ibanong> leadership

perceived that ong>theong>y lacked reong>along> ong>along>ternatives. Elements

of ong>theong> Pakistani state ong>along>so thought ong>theong>y could use an

insurgency in Afghanistan as pressure against ong>theong> Afghan

government and ong>theong> U.S. Al-ong>Qaedaong> has had little or no

influence on ong>theong> origin and course of ong>theong> insurgency,

though it has assisted with training and fundraising.

Little known, for example, are ong>theong> attempts of ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong>

and Haqqanis to reconcile with ong>theong> Karzai government

after 2001, a possibility totong>along>ly ong>along>ien to ong>along>-ong>Qaedaong> ideology

but logicong>along> for ong>Tong>along>ibanong> who still saw ong>theong>mselves as part of

Afghanistan. There was no coherent response, though,

ong>fromong> eiong>theong>r Afghan actors or ong>theong>ir internationong>along> backers.

Some ong>Tong>along>ibanong> (by and large ong>fromong> ong>theong> politicong>along> cohorts of

ong>theong> movement) were accepted as individuong>along>s without

much fanfare, often after lengthy detention, while oong>theong>rs

found ong>theong>mselves confined in Guantanamo or oong>theong>r

detention facilities.

In November 2002, senior ong>Tong>along>ibanong> figures gaong>theong>red

in Pakistan and considered ong>theong> possibility of politicong>along>

engagement and reconciliation with ong>theong> new Afghan

government. One participant later described ong>theong> meeting:

“Mullah Mohammad Omar wasn’t ong>theong>re, but everyone else

was, ong>along>l ong>theong> high-ranking ministers and cabinet members

of ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong>. We discussed wheong>theong>r to join ong>theong> politicong>along>

process in Afghanistan or not and we took a decision that,

yes, we should go and join ong>theong> process.” 3

One interlocutor who was asked to engage with this

group has since stated that this was an important moment

for ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> leadership; if ong>theong>y had been given some

assurance that ong>theong>y would not be arrested upon returning

to Afghanistan, he said, ong>theong>y would have come, but neiong>theong>r

ong>theong> Afghan government nor ong>theong>ir internationong>along> sponsors

saw any reason to engage with ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> at that time

ong>theong>y considered ong>theong>m a spent force. Similarly, in 2002,

Jong>along>ong>along>uddin Haqqani’s broong>theong>r Ibrahim came to Kabul to

meet with American and Afghan government officiong>along>s

to inquire about this possibility. He was detained and

ong>along>legedly mistreated. 4

The leadership ong>along>one, however, could not have launched

ong>theong> insurgency. It required both an ong>along>ienated Afghan

population ong>fromong> which to recruit and Pakistani support

for ong>theong> creation of secure areas of operationong>along> retreat.

The Afghan population in ong>theong> immediate aftermath of

ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong>’s ouster was supportive of ong>theong> internationong>along>

intervention, particularly as ong>theong> new government

promised positive changes in ong>theong>ir lives. Within two years,

however, this attitude began to change. The new Afghan

government, supported by ong>theong> internationong>along> community,

was plagued by entrenched corruption and nepotism.

Individuong>along>s and certain groups found ong>theong>mselves in

conflict with ong>theong> new powers in charge.

The U.S. reliance on a strategy driven by immediate

military objectives led to ong>along>liances with commanders such

as Gul Agha Shirzai, a Karzai rivong>along>, who became governor

of Kandahar as a result of U.S. support to ong>theong> militias

he led. (Today Shirzai is ong>theong> governor of Nangarhar in

eastern Afghanistan). These locong>along> ong>along>lies captured ong>theong> state

apparatus for personong>along> gain. While not identicong>along> in ong>along>l parts

of Afghanistan, individuong>along>s, warlords, and semi-warlords

fought over shares of ong>theong> state and monopolized access to

ong>theong> government, foreign forces, and resources, including

contracts with those same forces.

The politicong>along> vacuum that followed ong>theong> ouster of ong>theong>

ong>Tong>along>ibanong> gave ample space for old and new conflicts to

erupt. In Kandahar, U.S. ong>along>ly Shirzai and his ong>along>lies moved to

consolidate ong>theong>ir power and to settle old and new scores.

President Karzai’s broong>theong>r, Ahmed Wong>along>i, belatedly developed

a power base to counter that of ong>theong> family’s rivong>along>, using ong>theong>

same methods but attracting far more public criticism.

The United States became an unknowing instrument of

locong>along> feuds and power struggles, at times manipulated

by misleading intelligence provided by Afghan partners.

Entire tribes – ong>theong> Eshaqzai in Maiwand, a district west of

Kandahar City, for example – were systematicong>along>ly targeted

and denounced as ong>Tong>along>ibanong> members. Family and tribong>along>

ong>Separatingong> ong>theong> ong>Tong>along>ibanong> ong>fromong> ong>along>-ong>Qaedaong>: The Core of Success in Afghanistan | A CIC Study

More magazines by this user
Similar magazines