Home World Al Jazeera Interview with Professor Theo Farrell: The Social and Military Resilience of the Taliban | Afghanistan | Al Jazeera

Al Jazeera Interview with Professor Theo Farrell: The Social and Military Resilience of the Taliban | Afghanistan | Al Jazeera

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After the “911” attacks, the United States launched a blitzkrieg against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and ended the rule of the “Islamic Emirate.” However, within a few years, the Taliban assembled again and returned to the battlefield.

By 2016, Taliban fighters had occupied at least one third of Afghanistan. Today, when the United States began to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan, the Taliban successfully entered Kabul and controlled all areas of Afghanistan, thus once again controlling the country’s territory. Military and political arena.

To understand the deep social and military roots of the Taliban movement and its resilience, Al Jazeera reporters interviewed Professor Theo Farrell, Dean of the Faculty of Law, Humanities and Arts at the University of Wollongong, Australia.

Farrell previously served as the head of the Department of War Studies at King’s College London, and has published many books on military and strategic affairs, including “Afghanistan Military Adaptation” published by Stanford Press and “The Invincible Battle: The British “War in Afghanistan 2001-2014”, in addition, he served as an adviser to the British Army Command and the Afghan International Security Forces from 2009 to 2010. The specific content of the dialogue is as follows:

  • What are the reasons and social roots that led to the return of the Taliban?

“Social heritage” is very important for recruiting people to join or support insurgent movements. It includes pre-existing networks, common identities, common beliefs, and rules of reciprocity, all of which contribute to cooperation and collective action, especially at short-term costs. Position and promise of long-term return.

The cohesion of the rebel group is related to the social network established before the war, and “social heritage” is also very important for recruiting people to join or support the rebel movement

The cohesion of the rebel organization is also related to the social network established before the war. The leaders of the rebel movement usually adapt to the existing collective action structure within the organization. This can be embodied in two forms: the first is a horizontal network, the second The second is vertical links. Horizontal networks can connect people who share ideological beliefs but are scattered in different geographical locations. Many insurgent organizations continue to develop their structures to provide services to civilians. This requires insurgent organizations to transfer part of the resources that should have been allocated to insurgents to civilians to ensure their loyalty.

This is largely reflected in the Taliban movement-the movement has a horizontal service network that provides religious education and military experience, which is also a strong foundation for strengthening the movement’s ideological framework. This movement, initiated by the Deobandi School of Pakistan, has mobilized thousands of young people from the school to join the war against the Soviet Union in the 1980s. This also makes it a larger network, one of the “frontline” organizations, each frontline has a leader who can distribute military supplies provided by foreign donors to field command officers.

The main challenge facing the Afghan Interim Government established by Hamid Karzai in 2002 was to maintain the authority of the government outside Kabul and prevent the country from falling back into civil war. To achieve this, Karzai first allowed several local military leaders to join the new Afghan government. In this way, several corrupt warlords who were ousted by the Taliban movement in the 1990s returned to politics and became local consuls and police leaders. Under the guise of official authority, these figures who have returned to power continue to plunder and abuse the people, thus providing fertile soil for the Taliban to gradually retake southern and eastern Afghanistan since 2004.

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When Karzai became the president of Afghanistan, the Taliban did not go to war. However, the intervention of the US government and the Afghan authorities against Taliban family members caused the Taliban to return to fighting in the provinces of Kandahar and Paktia.

“Invincible War: The British War in Afghanistan 2001-2014” (Al Jazeera)

Since 2004, the Taliban movement has infiltrated rural areas and returned to southern Afghanistan in a more powerful way: at first, Taliban teams visited various villages, contacted sympathizers and instigated rebellion, intimidated or killed chiefs and pro-government Of the clergy. As confidence in them continued to grow, Taliban envoys held public meetings to call on people to launch jihad against “corrupt governments” and “foreign invaders,” and sent Taliban clergy to various villages to call for jihad. The strategic task of these “vanguard squads” is to prepare for the subsequent escalation of the rebellion.

The sign of the existence of a strong horizontal network is the unification of the Taliban front in southern Afghanistan under the background of the Quetta Shura Committee. In addition, there is always competition among some senior Taliban leaders. The competition between Abdul-Gani Baradal and Dadullah is particularly prominent, and in due course, this has led to the emergence of two other Shura leaderships that can compete with the Quetta Shura committee. Nevertheless, they did not openly challenge the primacy of the Quetta Shura committee. This point has symbolic significance and conforms to the Taliban’s ideology, which is to obey the central position of the Emir.

  • What is the value of the vertical link between the Taliban and local society? How can they use the courts to increase their popularity?

Vertical relationships are equally important to the Taliban. In the closed political system developed under Karzai’s rule, government resources mainly flowed into the network of the families of current military leaders and their surrounding figures, while oppressed societies chose to form alliances with the Taliban to avoid pro-government. The attack by the militia.

The rebellion depicts pre-existing tribal differences, and the situation that occurred in the Ishagzai community in Helmand province is an example-in northern Helmand province, the communities of Aletzi and Alekuza Ishagzai competition. Under the rule of the Taliban, the residents of Ishagzai held many major government positions, including the governor. Therefore, when Karzai appointed a military leader as governor, he cooperated with the other two After the military leader assumed the leadership of the regional secret police, the situation was reversed. Since then, these war leaders have used their government positions to cover up their taxation and illegal harassment of Ishaqzai.

But when the Taliban controlled most of the territory and began to try to rebuild an Islamic emirate in Afghanistan, there was a strong call for the Taliban to intervene to resolve recurring disputes over rural land, trade, and family issues.

But when the Taliban controlled most of the territory and began to try to rebuild an Islamic emirate in Afghanistan, there was a strong call for the Taliban to intervene to resolve recurring disputes over rural land, trade, and family issues.

On this issue, the Quetta Shura Committee tried to replicate the court system of the Islamic Emirate in the 1890s and established a diversified court in Helmand. As a result, the Taliban was able to restore the emirate’s judicial system within a period of time. However, most provinces are aware of the judicial administration of shadow rulers, Taliban mullahs and military leaders, and the regularity of the Taliban in the judicial system has won them prestige and respect within the local society, as well as their support for their rebellious activities. Especially in southern Afghanistan.

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Due to increasing pressure on the operations of the International Security Assistance Force, the Taliban movement moved from Helmand’s permanent court to mobile courts in 2009, but the Taliban courts are still widely used because they are compared with the official courts in Afghanistan. The courts provide more justice and produce less bureaucracy and less corruption.

  • Although the Taliban infiltrated and controlled the social structure, why did it focus on the military level?

The Taliban’s focus on the military is because they cannot provide public services to the people in the areas under their control. This has also contributed to the intensification of conflicts, leading to a decline in support for the Taliban in many parts of Afghanistan over time. With the exception of the villages and tribal groups allied with the Taliban, many farmers in eastern Afghanistan are pursuing peace but are subject to restrictions imposed by the Taliban by blocking the movement of civilians.

The Quetta Shura Council organizes shadow rulers to ensure that they take actions to win the support of the community, such as prohibiting arbitrary executions and limiting attacks on teachers and health officials.

The 2007 and 2010 editions set out the procedures for the community to file complaints with the Quetta Shura Committee. This procedure can be applied if the governing officials of the province or territory are too authoritarian or corrupt. In 2009, the Sangjin region replaced two governors, one of them was due to allowing Taliban militants to attack local farmers receiving government agricultural assistance, and the other was due to their strong judicial will.

In addition, the Taliban have taken measures to strengthen the military command system and improve the compliance of field command officers with Quetta instructions. As a result, attacks on schools and extrajudicial executions declined in 2010 and 2011.

  • How did the Taliban achieve military adaptation to the surrounding situation?

In the war with the Soviet Union, the Taliban proved to be a very adaptable opponent. Armed personnel in Afghanistan have accumulated tactical experience suitable for guerrilla warfare, especially setting mines and ambushes for convoys, and launching surprise attacks on military bases. In addition, although the rule of the Islamic emirate was overthrown, the Taliban still gained a wealth of tactical experience and a high degree of adaptability in the war.

The loose organizational structure of the Taliban, mainly based on a large number of semi-autonomous fronts related to the various Shura committees, created a basic problem for the Quetta Shura committee in managing the war effort. Initially, the Quetta Shura Committee tried to obtain front-line cooperation by providing financial incentives. The Taliban also tried to recruit forces by mobilizing experienced armed personnel in the provinces. However, in 2008, the Taliban leadership realized that these attempts were all attempts. Futile.

The Peshawar Consultative Conference began to develop a more centralized command system for Taliban fighters in eastern and northeastern Afghanistan. This new system includes the establishment of regional military committees to plan large-scale operations, manage logistics, handle conflicts between frontline commanders, and appoint local military commissioners to ensure that field commanders comply with instructions. This structural adjustment helps service The military aspect.

Pakistan has provided extensive military support to the Taliban, including military advisers, thereby promoting the establishment and operation of this organizational structure.The Peshawa Shurrah Committee was partly formed by the Hezbollah faction that separated in 2006. In this way, Hezbollah’s idea of ​​organizing insurgency has entered the Taliban movement.

Pakistan has provided extensive military support to the Taliban, including military advisers, thereby promoting the establishment and operation of this organizational structure. The Peshawa Shurrah Committee was partly formed by the Hezbollah faction that separated in 2006. In this way, Hezbollah’s idea of ​​organizing insurgency has entered the Taliban movement.

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After the appointment of Abdul Kayoum Zakir as the chairman of the Quetta Military Committee in 2009, the Taliban in the southern part of the Taliban reluctantly adopted this more centralized system. Baradar appointed Zakir as the head of the Quetta Military Council, and Zakir could ensure the spread of the new centralized system in the southern region. Since 2008, more and more foreign aid flowing through Pakistan has also flowed to the Peshawar Shura Committee, which has gradually increased their war funding expenditures in Quetta Shura, which has also made the Taliban’s military structure more professional.

“Military Adaptation in Afghanistan” (Al Jazeera)
  • How does the Taliban adapt tactically to the ever-changing military situation around them, and how does this reflect in the choice of weapons?

The Taliban will make timely tactical adjustments based on the pressure on the battlefield. For example, in Helmand Province, the Taliban used conventional infantry weapons in 2006 and 2007 to attack outposts established by the British in an attempt to occupy them. The number of Taliban deaths in these operations has not been specified, but according to estimates by the British Defense Intelligence Agency, this number has reached several thousand.

In response to these rising losses, the Taliban’s field troops have now adapted to the new tactics. According to my interviews with Taliban leaders, they all emphasized the importance of reducing losses on the battlefield and said that this is why they changed their tactics. As a best example of tactical adjustment, the Quetta Military Commission issued a general order in 2010, instructing field troops to avoid direct combat and use guerrilla tactics more.

The Taliban also used a variety of warships equivalent to their tactics, including the introduction of heavy anti-aircraft guns, heavy mortars, advanced anti-armor weapons, and the use of sniper rifles and improvised explosive devices.

Regarding issues related to military technology, the most important reform carried out by the Taliban is the transition to the use of industrial-scale improvised explosive devices, and this reform has been implemented in Quetta and Peshawar. The Taliban set up a landmine committee to lead this work. In 2006, about 30% of all deaths in the coalition were caused by improvised explosive devices. In the following year, this proportion rose to nearly 40%. From 2008 to 2010, improvised explosive devices caused allied deaths. More than half of the number.

With the change in tactics, with the support of Quetta and Peshawar’s instructions, a new military training system has emerged, which will force tactical commanders to receive regular guerrilla tactical training and advice. In early 2012, according to a Taliban commander in Helmand Province, the focus of its training included deployment of improvised explosive devices, making guerrilla bulletproof vests, and preparing for guerrilla bombing and guerrilla warfare.


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