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  • Author: Antonio Giustozzi
  • Publication Date: 03-2012
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: PRISM
  • Institution: National Defense University Press
  • Abstract: The predominant image of the Taliban is a military organization bent almost exclusively on wreaking havoc on the Afghan state and whoever sides with it. However, for all their reputation of “warrior mullahs,” the Taliban have not altogether neglected the civilian dimensions of power. In the early post-9/11 period, as an insurgent organization, they were indeed little more than roving bands of warrior mullahs who were trying to regroup and relaunch an insurgency. They did not have the resources or capacity to develop a shadow government structure. After 2003, however, the situation gradually changed and the Taliban started investing greater resources in their shadow government. Apart from the increased availability of financial resources, what might have driven the Taliban's desire for building their own shadow government was their thirst for legitimacy. They wanted to show that they were the authentic government of Afghanistan and not merely an opposition military force. Another reason appears to have been that the Taliban actually realized that a shadow governance structure brought them some practical benefits, such as a greater ability to interact with the population. Particularly since the Taliban started entering relatively heavily populated areas in 2006, their commanders were no longer skilled enough to deal with the villagers. In a sense, the Taliban realized that they could not outfight the forces arrayed against them, which included the strongest military on the planet and a series of allies, also of respectable military capability. They tried, therefore, to outgovern their rivals, identifying the ineffectiveness of Kabul's government as their greatest opportunity.
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Taliban
  • Author: Robert Hulslander, Jake Spivey
  • Publication Date: 06-2012
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: PRISM
  • Institution: National Defense University Press
  • Abstract: This article examines the security and stability programs known as Village Stability Operations (VSO) and Afghan Local Police (ALP). Created through the combined efforts of the U.S. military, other U.S. Government departments and agencies, and the Afghan government, VSO/ALP enhanced security, governance, and development in strategically important rural areas critical to the Afghanistan campaign but beyond the effective reach of the Afghan government and U.S. conventional forces. VSO/ALP attempts to link and effectively balance centralized and decentralized authority by bolstering traditional governance mechanisms. The program was designed to mitigate shortcomings in Afghan governance and security capacity and capability, while “buying time” for those capabilities to mature. Although the program's official inception was in August 2010, its roots go back to earlier efforts that served as the basis of the current initiative. Ultimately, VSO/ALP aims to provide a framework through which the Afghan government can strengthen its relationship with its citizens and wrest control and influence away from the Taliban, other insurgents, and criminal networks.
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, Taliban
  • Author: James Stavridis
  • Publication Date: 03-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: PRISM
  • Institution: National Defense University Press
  • Abstract: Today, the Afghan people and the international community have an opportunity to secure large areas of terrain and population from the Taliban while simultaneously creating sufficient governance and security capacity in the Afghan government to enable them to take the lead in their own country. Above all, we can prevent the return of al Qaeda, the fundamental reason we are there.
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Taliban
  • Author: Norton A. Schwartz
  • Publication Date: 03-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: PRISM
  • Institution: National Defense University Press
  • Abstract: In 2001, the U.S. military, aided by indigenous forces, swiftly toppled a Taliban government responsible for providing sanctuary to al Qaeda. In 2003, the Iraqi military disintegrated in the face of a devastating demonstration of American power that ended the regime of Saddam Hussein. America showcased its unique ability to project power over vast distances to achieve substantial results. Unfortunately, those initial victories were short-lived. As the security situations deteriorated in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States became engaged in longer term irregular conflicts. American and allied militaries struggled to adapt their doctrine, training, and technology to counter an elusive foe. While ground forces relearned and incorporated counterinsurgency (COIN) lessons, Airmen explored how airpower's flexibility, responsiveness, and bird's-eye view of the battlefield could respond to those lessons.
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, Iraq, America, Taliban
  • Author: Frank C. DiGiovanni, William B. Caldwell IV, James A. Schear
  • Publication Date: 03-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: PRISM
  • Institution: National Defense University Press
  • Abstract: The Taliban and other insurgent elements fighting against the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan are convinced that they will succeed if they simply wait us out. They think if they maintain their influence in key areas such as Helmand and Kandahar provinces, they will be poised to regain control of the entire country when coalition forces begin to drawdown in the next few years.
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Taliban
  • Author: Joseph A. L'Etoile
  • Publication Date: 09-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: PRISM
  • Institution: National Defense University Press
  • Abstract: Many have characterized the war in Afghanistan as a violent political argument between the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (with its coalition partners) and the Taliban, with the population watching and waiting to decide whom to join, and when. The main value of this analogy is not in its characterization of the war but in its explanation of why the Afghan government and the coalition are finding it so difficult to gain traction against a largely unpopular insurgency. By framing the options as a simple binary choice between the government with its hierarchical, remote, and centralized governing structure and the Taliban with its violently repressive but locally present shadow government, the war is represented—or misrepresented—as a matter of unattractive choices that impel the population to remain on the sidelines waiting to see who will win.
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Taliban
  • Author: Thomas Pickering
  • Publication Date: 12-2011
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: PRISM
  • Institution: National Defense University Press
  • Abstract: Under the George W. Bush administration, negotiations were not included in the strategic mix of dealing with Afghanistan or, for that matter, Iraq. One can only conjecture about reasons. They may have included a sense that a military victory was possible; a belief that talk about negotiations was in itself a sign of weakness that should not—and could not—be conveyed to the opponent; full-blown distrust of the Taliban; a need to have a better balance of forces and more success behind us before we took on the task; a hope that a reintegration process, together with raising the military stakes, would be sufficient to win the day; and a distrust of diplomats and politicians who might be expected to conduct the negotiations—a sense that all achieved with the expenditure of so much blood and treasure would be given away if diplomats and politicians were turned loose on the problem.
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Taliban
  • Author: John Arquilla
  • Publication Date: 09-2010
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: PRISM
  • Institution: National Defense University Press
  • Abstract: Some three millennia ago, the Persian philosopher Zoroaster dubbed mountainous Afghanistan "the land of the high flags." But there is far more to its identity than the powerful shaping influence of terrain upon its culture; there is above all the paradox of the Afghan peoples themselves. Xenophobic from time immemorial, they are nonetheless a mix of Aryans, Greeks, Chinese, Indians, Mongols, and others. Quintessentially isolationist, their country has always been a crossroads of trade and conquest. Indeed, the great city of Kandahar-the true capital of the Taliban-is named after Alexander the Great, who tarried there. And so for all the cool distance conveyed by the notion of the "high flags," the deeper story of Afghanistan is one of a mass mixing of peoples and of a crucial hub in the infrastructure of East-West interconnection. In short, it is a land comprised of dense, ancient social and physical networks.
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Taliban
  • Author: Ali Ahmad Jalali
  • Publication Date: 09-2010
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: PRISM
  • Institution: National Defense University Press
  • Abstract: This summer, a series of interconnected events is expected to strongly influence the political and security landscape of Afghanistan, with potentially fateful consequences. In May, some 1,600 delegates (women among them), including government and elected officials, tribal elders, religious personalities, community leaders, and civil society activists met in Kabul to advise the government on basic terms for negotiation with the armed opposition and ways to accommodate reconcilable insurgents. This was to be followed in July by an international conference in Kabul called for by the London Conference in January. The Kabul meeting was attended by foreign ministers from neighboring countries and by Afghanistan's leading partners. The delegates made commitments to improve governance, security, and development in Afghanistan under Afghan leadership. Meanwhile, the U.S.-led coalition launched a major military effort to enhance security and facilitate effective governance in Kandahar, the second largest Afghan city and the spiritual home of the Taliban.
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, Taliban
  • Author: Tim Foxley
  • Publication Date: 09-2010
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: PRISM
  • Institution: National Defense University Press
  • Abstract: Even 9 years after international intervention in Afghanistan, little is understood about the tribes and ethnic groups that make up the country. How they react, think, feel, and prioritize remain largely unknown quantities, and therefore international attempts to influence them are perhaps unsurprisingly proving problematic. But perception is everything in Afghanistan, and information activities are playing an increasingly important part in shaping perception and generating support for insurgents and counterinsurgents alike, both inside and outside the country. Hundreds of different groups and actors are at work, from the diverse component parts of the Afghan populace to the array of governmental, military, and nongovernmental organization (NGO) elements of international effort. All are communicating-some even coherently. All are influencing-some intentionally, some unintentionally.
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Taliban