Precedent suggests Afghanistan Taliban could win: report
A new study says the Afghanistan Taliban enjoy a slew of advantages that historically correlate with insurgent success, such as Pakistani sanctuary and a weak government in Kabul.
(Page 2 of 2)
The RAND study looked at 89 insurgencies dating to the 1934 start of Mao's uprising in China. In order to be included, the conflict needed to have killed at least 1,000 people, among other criteria. Excluded conflicts include the Iranian Revolution of 1979, the Sikh uprising in 1980s India, and the Uighur independence movement in China's Xinjiang Province.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The final scoreboard: 28 wins for governments, 26 wins for insurgencies, 19 mixed results, and 16 ongoing.
Most of the study's findings conform to the current conventional wisdom surrounding counterinsurgency. One exception lies in the common belief that insurgents have the advantage of time. The average length of government-won conflicts is greater than for those won by insurgents.
The median length of an insurgency is 10 years. However, "insurgencies with more than two clear parties involved have longer, more-violent, and more-complex endings. Afghanistan is a case in point," the report notes.
'Like designing a mission to Mars'
More than half the insurgencies studied ended with some negotiation, even in cases with clear winners and losers, but for Afghanistan that does not represent an easy way out.
"This is an extremely complicated negotiation theory problem," says Stephen Biddle, a counterinsurgency expert at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington. "If you were to say 'I am going to be strategist king and I am going to design the perfect solution,' it's like designing a mission to Mars – the complexity of it is really quite great."
And expectations among experts about the final outcome in Afghanistan have clearly scaled back, particularly since the fraud-riddled fiasco of Mr. Karzai's reelection.
"I doubt anybody is going to get their ideal best case out of this. The Pakistanis are very unlikely to get their Taliban government in Kabul to puppet from Islamabad. The US is very unlikely to get a strong centralized, western-style democracy," says Mr. Biddle.
President Obama's effort to speed up the resolution in Afghanistan by planning a draw down in 2011 elicits concern from Connable. He says that in cases where a foreign power like the US sponsored an embattled government, the premature withdrawal of support tended to result in the government losing.
"...Without addressing the root causes of the insurgency, without insuring the government could stand on its own two feet – then the governments tended to lose," he says.
- Afghanistan war: How Taliban tactics are evolving
- A third of Karzai votes may be fraudulent, EU official says
- Afghanistan war: Who’s who in the Taliban leadership
- All Taliban coverage