ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

A+| A| A-

Neo-Taliban Insurgency

Koran, Kalashnikov and Laptop: The Neo-Taliban Insurgency in Afghanistan by Antonio Giustozzi;

Economic & Political Weekly EPW november 15, 200833book reviewNeo-Taliban InsurgencyAnirudh DeshpandeKoran, Kalashnikov and Laptop: The Neo-Taliban Insurgency in Afghanistanby Antonio Giustozzi; Hurst Publishers, London, distributed in south Asia by Foundation Books, 2007; Bibliography, Index & Maps; pp 259 (paperback), Rs 395. This book, which has the “here and now” quality of contemporary history, has been published and distributed in south Asia with perfect timing. The global capitalist system is sliding into depression, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation- International Security Assistance Force (NATO-ISAF) troops are heading nowhere in the Afghan war, Iraq remains volatile and fascist forces in south Asia, taking advantage of the modern state’s unwillingness to confront them, are growing stronger. The volume will be received by the anxious people of Afghanistan, Pakistan and India inanatmosphere of growing crime, religious intolerance, fundamentalist violence and widespread breakdown of law and order. This intolerance and violence has almost destroyed civil society in Pakistan and threatens to do the same in India. In a context of growing economic pessimism and social anxiety, here is a book written by a historian acutely conscious of the historicity of the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan. This volume is unlike the semi-official counter-insurgency manuals written by whiskey-sipping international relations andmilitary“experts” sitting at a comfort-able distance from the site of conflict. At the same time, Giustozzi has an eye on policy. Since his primary aim is to locate the causes of Afghan state failures in the face of a refurbished Taliban insurgency, he hopes that his well-informed and fieldwork-based submissions are taken seriously by the policymakers and their foreign sponsors in Kabul. In saying as much he is close to all those who know that history has never been understood enough to be taken seriously by politicians in either Kabul, Islamabad and New Delhi or their friends in the western capitals for that matter. Post-2001 EpisodeAt the end of 2001, after the US attack on the Taliban regime and the subsequent induction of NATO-ISAF forces in Afghanistan, it seemed everything was over for the Taliban. But by 2007, step by step from 2002 onwards, the Taliban seems to have staged a spectacular recovery. The map on page 4 and the intro-duction tells us that by 2007 a very large area of south and south-east Afghanistan had already fallen to the neo-Taliban. The recent US attacks on suspected Taliban strongholds in Pakistani territory should be viewed in connection with this. Undoubtedly these attacks, often using unmanned drones, are symptomatic of the alliedfailures in securing Afghanistan from the forces of Islamic terrorism. The author points out that the Taliban regrouped rather quickly after having been driven out of Kabul in 2001.In fact, as early as 2003 individuals hostile to the insurgents were admitting, “thatmuch of the population of Zabul province was cooperating with them fully” (p 5). Much of the book comprises an attempt to explain how and why the Taliban rose from the defeat of 2001, reinventing itself in the process. The terse introduction is remarkable for raising the most important questions related to insurgency. We are told that mere recruitment or the building up of an organisation does not assure an insurgency of success. Foreign sponsorship and popular support, of course, are important but this book rightly claims that the “intrinsic weaknesses of the Afghan state, both as it was originally conceived and as it was ‘rebuilt’ from 2001” is the chief cause of the rise and spread of the neo-Taliban insurgency (p 7). The non-formation of a viable nation state in Afghanistan and the role of foreign intervention in this process since the 19th century have been the subject of numerous studies to which this book is an important addition. The neo-Taliban owe their success primarily to the deeply flawed process of “nation-building” initiated by the American-supported Karzai regime. This regime is dependent upon tribal chiefs and regional strongmen who make sure that federal power remains weak, thus creating the social and geographical space for the neo-Taliban to operate with impunity. The paralysis of provincial governments, rampant corrup-tion and nepotism, autonomy of ethnic leaders and a weak central government have delegitimised the Karzai regime. Combinedwiththis is the dubious role of Pakistan as America’s ally in the war against the Islamists. Evidence suggests that the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) continues to support the Taliban to reassert Islamabad’s influence in Afghanistan, albeitthisisnot the main reason for the resurgence of the Islamists. Fourth Generation WarfareIn fact matters in Afghan daily life have become so bad under Karzai that in many areas people have started remembering the days of Taliban rule with a degree of nostalgia! The neo-Taliban are also succeed-ing in neutralising the influence of Kabul over significant portions of Afghanistan because they seem to have learnt the les-sons of history much better than their op-ponents. This time the Islamists have em-braced modern technology, including the use ofDVDs, satellite phones and scores of improvised 125 CC Honda motorcycles much better to achieve propaganda objec-tives and military coordination. In addi-tion to this, and as this book asserts vehe-mently, the neo-Taliban have reoriented their military strategy on Maoist lines to fight a “war of the flea” against their enemies based in Kabul and the other important towns of Afghanistan. This has made it relatively easy for small, though highlycommitted, groups of neo-Taliban to operate successfully, carrying out assas-sinations and village level actions against the demoralised Afghan police and the largely inefficient Afghan National Army (ANA). The flexible use of a strategy, which combines elements of Fourth Generation Warfare, Maoist theory, the war of the flea and the occasional willingness to

Dear Reader,

To continue reading, become a subscriber.

Explore our attractive subscription offers.

Click here

Back to Top