Afghanistan: relationship problems in the counterinsurgency campaign

In an excellent article published in Foreign Affairs magazine, Bing West uses two documentary films about the counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan to make some important observations. I have heard similar observations from other soldiers who have been there.

One film, “Restrepo,” portrays US troops in Kunar province in northeastern Afghanistan; and the other, “Armadillo,” follows Danish troops in Helmand province in southwestern Afghanistan. Yet both films make similar points about the difficult relationship between the counter-insurgent force and the population it is attempting to protect.

Good intentions are not good enough, and as West observes, “money does not buy commitment.” Excerpts from his article are below.

Good intentions are not good enough


The primary mission of counterinsurgency is to form a protective, mutually beneficial bond with the local population. In Vietnam, this was achieved through combined platoons of U.S. troops and village militias; in Afghanistan today, U.S. Special Forces are doing much the same with village militias, albeit on a much smaller scale. The preponderance of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, however, have been trained as fighters, not advisers.

The films show the U.S. and Danish soldiers to be hopelessly, almost comically separated from the day-to-day activities of the insular Islamic communities they seek to win over. The strained talk — dialogue would be an overly generous description — between the soldiers and local villagers borders on parody. The soldiers mean well, constantly proffering money in the hope of receiving some modicum of cooperation that never materializes. In Armadillo, teenagers openly mock the facial features and intelligence of a well-intentioned Danish soldier. Many Afghans see foreign troops “as people who’ve just landed from the moon,” Metz, Armadillo’s director, told a reporter.

Kearney, the company commander in Restrepo, offers to give fuel for the entire winter to a village if it will turn in just one machine gun to U.S. forces. An Afghan interpreter translates the proposal from English into Dari, another man translates that into Pashto, and then a tribesman translates that into the local dialect. The tribal leader sniggers; a trade with foreign infidels is inconceivable. I will “make you guys richer,” Kearney pleads. “I’ll flood this whole place with money.”

Among other restrictions, NATO’s rules of engagement forbid patrols from entering civilian compounds, except in extreme peril or when Afghan soldiers have entered first. In Restrepo, U.S. soldiers are left standing outside houses, expressing suspicion as residents proclaim their innocence of colluding with the Taliban. Insurgents walk among the farmers without fear of betrayal. In Armadillo, suspected insurgents drive around the district on motorcycles, indistinguishable from civilians. As a Danish soldier says, “You can’t tell who’s who.”

Both the U.S. and the Danish soldiers began their deployments hopeful that their good intentions would win over the Afghans they came in contact with. The troops in Armadillo are particularly sympathetic: “Give [food] to the children as a sign of goodwill,” one urges. But in short order, the Danish soldiers are surrounded by demanding youngsters whenever they set out on patrol — an apt metaphor for how Western largess has created a culture of entitlement in Afghanistan. Inundated with entreaties for money day after day, the Danish troops grow suspicious of the loyalties and intentions of the Afghans around them. By the end, the soldiers have become cynical or flatly dispassionate.

Indeed, the locals do not cooperate, partly out of fear. In Vietnam, the local population was committed on both sides, with 200,000 members of the pro-U.S. South Vietnamese Popular Force guarding their villages against an estimated 80,000 Vietcong. The 11 million ethnic Pashtuns of northeastern and southern Afghanistan largely dislike the Taliban but rarely fight them; fewer than 100 self-defense militias have formed among thousands of villages. In Restrepo, a local explains why his family refuses to even answer the Westerners’ questions: “If we let you know about Taliban, we will get killed.” A mullah in Armadillo echoes the same belief: “If I talk, they’ll cut my throat.”

This mutual suspicion and alienation between the troops and the local tribes complicates hopes that U.S. counterinsurgency doctrine, which requires soldiers and marines to be nation builders as well as warriors, can be effectively implemented. This strategy is vastly more ambitious than during the Vietnam War, when the United States’ focus was on destroying the Vietcong guerrillas and beating back the North Vietnamese regular army.


Money does not buy commitment


The U.S.-led coalition invaded Afghanistan in 2001 in order to destroy al Qaeda and drive out the Taliban government that had sheltered the group. This first phase worked: within a few months, both al Qaeda and the Taliban had fled into Pakistan. Rather than pursue them, the U.S. and NATO militaries undertook a second phase, choosing to remain in Afghanistan for the long haul in order to build a democratic nation there. The theory went that the West would offer protection and tangible goods, such as jobs, to the Afghan people and the people would reject the Taliban once and for all. Dollars would replace bullets, and development projects would replace shooting the enemy: enter the new military doctrine of economic determinism.

But as Restrepo and Armadillo show, money does not buy commitment. The handouts have bred opportunism rather than patriotism or a desire for self-improvement. In Iraq, insurgent gangs dominated by al Qaeda brutalized local Sunni tribes and imposed harsh Islamist rules. In response, the Sunni tribes rebelled in 2006 and 2007 and joined forces with U.S. troops. In contrast, the Pashtun tribes in Afghanistan have clung to their culture and, believing the Taliban will eventually return to power, have avoided close association with the U.S.-led coalition. In the meantime, the entire Afghan hierarchy — from President Hamid Karzai and his coterie down to village elders — has sought to squeeze as much wealth as possible from the foreigners while they are there.

As shown in Restrepo and Armadillo , the soldiers were winning no hearts and minds. Their earnest efforts and offers of development assistance failed to persuade the Afghan people to assist them. After a decade of lavish aid, the Afghan government has also not established a bond of trust with the Pashtun tribes, nor has it deployed an army sufficiently motivated or well led to defeat the much smaller guerrilla force. In some ways, Restrepo and Armadillo are the Groundhog Day of the Afghan war, in which life repeats anew every morning: platoons venture out on patrol, attempt to talk to impassive villagers, are occasionally fired on, shoot back, and then return to base, day after day.

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  • Bungo says:

    That’s why it’s not going to work. The “winning of hearts and minds” concept will NEVER work in a War Zone. It never did and it never will. Winning hearts and minds will only, possibly, work in a “relief” effort where the population is not under threat of death by an armed enemy. Self preservation is priority number 1 for any civilian. The “hearts and Minds” idea (yea, I know it wasn’t called such in this particular article, but that’s what is is) was dreamed up by some hippie in a think tank during WW Nam and didn’t work there and won’t work here. The culture chasm is simply too wide. The vast majority of Afghans don’t understand Westerners (literally and culturally) don’t trust Westerners, don’t like Westerners and don’t want Westerners in their country. Though some of them probably don’t love the Taliban they have much more in common with them than they do with Westerners. Add to that the belief that the Taliban are arguably more honest and more reliable than the Kabul regime and you can see why the populace acts as they do. As ignorant as they are even they realize that the Taliban will always be there and the Westerners won’t. They only people in Afghanistan who cooperate with Westerners are the ones who see an oportunity to make some money and have an escape plan for when the whole thing falls apart. This whole concept of Nation Building and Hearts and Minds is a losing proposition in Afghanistan. Abandon this concept as quickly as possible, put major pressure on Pakistan and the Taliban sanctuaried there, negotiate a deal and support the Afghan Defense Forces for long as is reasonably possible and move on to other things.

  • mike merlo says:

    The article cited as excellent in Foreign Affairs is as self effacing as that which it claims to be naive. It should be noted that the publication Foreign Affairs harbors parochial views that are Euro-centric. The Council on Foreign Relations(CFR), through which Foreign Affairs serves as a ‘mouth piece,’ is an institution whose members & courtesan’s are adherent’s of an anachronistic world view. Steeped in Continentalism & ‘Round Table'(see Milner’s ‘kindergarten’) agenda(s) ‘they’ve’ of late shown themselves no longer nuanced or prescient. The ‘hearts & minds’ mantra was supplanted many years ago. David Kilcullen just a few years ago went on record dispelling ‘it’ as a baseline ‘ingredient’ in COIN strategy. Though the publication Foreign Affairs still attracts serious scholarship, as well it should, it is wise to seek contrasting commentary rather than have one’s self held hostage to what are more often than not pedestrian & dated views. To fully appreciate this divide revisiting positions & views held by Daniel Patrick Moynihan & Henry Kissinger concerning the Cold War particularly the Soviet Union. Kissinger was & is a classic Euro-centrist where as Moynihan was a New Englander grounded in the outlook of the Founding Fathers. Moynihan was absolutely convinced of the Soviet Union collapsing. Kissinger, Round Table aspirant & European sycophant, was as convinced of a Soviet Union as a collection of historical relics was convinced of the Thousand Year Reich. Every foreign adventure, Western Hemisphere withstanding, indulged in by America in the many decades following the close of WWII have in one way or another been influenced of varying degrees of interest by the Europeans. From the stand point of ‘policy’ it appears that at the very least ‘we’ve’ come to recognize this Euro-centric outlook as inimical to responsible outcomes & the best interests of all involved to & including the Europeans themselves. It would behoove contributors to TLWJ to at least contour their……accordingly.

  • theirishdragon says:

    As for the criticism that “hearts and minds” is outdated, perhaps in certain scholarly circles it is. Mr. West was, and has been, referring to the ideas and strategies espoused by the senior command in Afghanistan and Iraq. Having been on the ground in both places, it is still the driving goal, as set down in the commander’s intent.

  • Neonmeat says:

    @ Mike Merlo
    I assume you are claiming ‘Foreign Affairs’ is biased to some degree? Which may be a fair point but I do not see how it relates to the above article which on the whole is a reflection on two Documentaries that look in-depth at the Soldiers experience in Afghanistan.

  • Bungo says:

    Re: mike merlo
    I didn’t understand ONE thing you said in your post.

  • mike merlo says:

    With all due respect to “having been on the ground…” parroting a slogan is not necessarily indicative of policy or doctrine. Short of rotating every single enlisted person & officer through a ‘Graduate Program’ whose curriculum consists of Cultural Anthropology, Political Geography etc., adhering to an innocuous slogan is adequate under the present circumstances. As a matter of political expediency it also serves a ‘salve’ when giving testimony in committee’s & PR sound bytes for the ill informed & ‘less than knowledgeable.’ As for “certain scholarly circles” I’d be curious to know how ‘irishdragon’ feels about Director Petraeus views on the matter. Because as a General he is on record of having ‘recalibrated’ ‘hearts & minds.’
    Bing West goes far beyond ‘referring.’ It is a Fortean Fantasy tailored to present a distorted view to an audience already convinced of ‘the illusion.’ Allusions to “starship troopers set down on an alien planet where the tribes are a thousand years less advanced,” & “People From the Moon,” is not only misleading its insulting. Lest anyone forget the people of Afghanistan experienced 10 yrs of Soviet military presence. A military as modern & technologically advanced as any on the planet. The following decade was more of the same. Pakistan, Saudi Arabia & other members of the GCC provided manpower, material, money & technical expertise to the Taliban while the forces opposing it were beneficiaries of much the same from multiple sources & nations. Millions of Afghan refugees were exposed to the modern world as never before albeit many in conditions quite wanting but exposed nonetheless. At one time a Pathan led armies from Afghanistan to gain control & lord over India, one of the world’s most advanced civilizations at that time, for a couple of centuries from Delhi. Ayub Khan, the first military leader of Pakistan, was a Pathan. He was urbane, cosmopolitan, forward thinking, & a keen observer of the world in the aftermath of WWII. Though Afghanistan is predominantly rural organized along agrarian ‘constructs’ it has a rich history of Mercantilism & a tradition of democracy, beginning with the Hellenization of Persia, as practiced by tribes & feudal societies. Alluding to the people of Afghanistan as a collection of country bumpkins reveals Bing West to be an acolyte of selective amnesia or ignorant of Afghanistan’s history, seemingly both. If I didn’t know any better I’d think Bing West is a publicist for Hamad Gul or on the editorial staff of one of the ISI’s media mouth pieces.
    While Bing West’s sophomoric pandering is expected what’s disturbing is that Foreign Affairs saw fit to publish such pablum. The 2 Documentaries are the near equivalent of sending camera crews to some dusty border town in Arizona or a Mt hamlet in Wyoming then presenting it as ‘all’ that ails America. The print media use to call that ‘yellow journalism.’ Bing West’s Groundhog War is the flip side to Walter Duranty’s journalistic window dressing. Bing West & many of his ilk are simply ‘gaming the system’ in trying to position themselves in the emerging ‘schools of thought’ in the wake of Iraq & Afghanistan. Putting it ‘bluntly’ one does not always get to choose where their next war is to be fought. Best to fund EFV(see Indian Ocean & Communist China’s latest addition to their ‘core interest.’
    Tragedy and Hope authored by Carroll Quigley 1966, Notes On Afghanistan & Baluchistan authored by Major Henry George Raverty 1878. Once having satisfied the aforementioned I’ll provide you with other titles.

  • Bungo says:

    RE: mike merlo
    I STILL have absolutely NO idea where you stand as far as our current strategy in Afghanistan. Do you think we are on the right track (re: “nation building” and “winning hearts and minds”) or do you suggest a different strategy?

  • blert says:

    Mike Merlo
    Please preview your posts. Break up your writing into readable chunks.
    Thanks from those with weaker eyesight.
    I’ve long posted against hearts & minds thinking, myself.
    Pashtunwali is a tribal code appropriate for Neolithic times. We’re not centuries apart, we’re millennia apart.
    It’s absurd to reach back into distant history for Pashtun greatness. In today’s context Afghanistan is a crippled nation at all levels.
    That’s what happens when you’re a battlespace for forty years.
    Almost everything the NATO elements have tried ( non-US ) has been a failure.
    They shied away from security provision ( other than their own ) when security from the opfor is exactly what the doctor ordered.
    It is essential that the ISAF reduce expenses down to a tractable level. Heliborne supplies are too expensive.

  • mike merlo says:

    RE Bungo
    Good question! In spite of the mismanagement & idiocy on the part of Def Sec Rumsfeld & some of our allies the present strategy is sound & on a healthy trajectory.
    This type of warfare is usually ‘generational’ requiring patience & meaningful presence. By its very nature it tends to be sloppy & punctuated by spells where an ‘outcome’ exists, on both micro & macro levels, in a twilight giving rise to irrational introspection & bouts of uncertainty.
    A general once commented, whose name presently escapes me, that these types of wars are difficult to sustain because of the US election cycle & the fickleness of the American electorate.
    Whats ironic is the multiple ‘engagements’ the US has found itself in the aftermath of WWII. Every one of them have ‘fell’ under the rubric of Limited War yet in every instance America reacts in an incredulous manner.
    To date the President has made 2 blunders of significance. 1 the issue of force increases. If President Obama would have just gone ahead & increased the ante to 70K troops he could have gone ahead & brought home 30k 1-1-2012 as opposed to 10K satisfying both domestic concerns & the Pentagon’s desire for sufficient forces. Then bringing another 10K to 20K in the fall of 2012. If the President had chosen to increase troop strength by 1 person he still would have taken heat. It ‘just shows to go ya’ how ignorant people & politicians are & their inability to plan & predict the future.
    2nd the issue of reconciliation is non sequitur. Pakistan will never allow the insurgent groups a platform of discourse even if it’s skewed in their favor.
    Stephen Cohen once remarked that Pakistan negotiates with it’s friends & allies with a gun to it’s own head. Obviously nothing has changed. Of the 3 main ‘players,’ Mullah Omar, Haqqani & Hekmatyar, Hekmatyar is the weakest & most malleable to Pakistani designs. Look for him at some point to be ‘point man.’ Plus he has the advantage of ‘lineage’ with the Paki’s.
    As I said earlier ‘hearts & minds’ is exaggerated & simply a slogan of convenience. And yes the “nation building” so often chastised is reaping positive results. Just look at what Communist China & India have done over the last 30 days not to mention their quiet yet steady presence over the last decade.

  • mike merlo says:

    COIN strategy, & the accompanying politico-socio-economic variables, is consistently mischaracterized, even by the so-called experts, as the “inkblot strategy” formally articulated by the Marines based on their experience of the “Banana Wars.”
    What is presently being employed in Afghanistan is a “patch work” where strategy & particularly tactics are employed to “stitch” together already congruously homogeneous entities.
    It is on these ‘margins’ where the “stitching” is being facilitated that the ‘hearts & minds’ slogan becomes the victim of ridicule, criticism & indifference. As I mentioned in earlier posts the ‘hearts & minds’ slogan has undergone a recalibration & for the sake of brevity it’s present usage sufficient.
    By any appropriate standards of measurement Afghanistan has made remarkable progress.
    Pashtunwali is just as acceptable & applicable, where circumstances permit, as any other collection of social mores presently being practiced in today’s world. Anomie such as what the people of Afghanistan have had to face & live with is never easy.
    Whats absurd is people unable to recognize a continuum, in spite of being subjected to protracted conflict & unspeakable levels of violence by interlopers, that has managed to maintain a tenuous equilibrium & when given the opportunity engages in self correction resulting in additional stability.
    To the contrary NATO has performed admirably & continues to constructively progress in spite of the negative press & the repeated staccato of false propaganda.
    SOP has organized around the principle in openly speaking of actions to be taken then bringing those words to reality. It is an extremely effective psychological warfare ‘tool.’ It sends a clear & concise message to one’s opponent, “we are stronger than you, you know it & now you shall experience first hand.” It also carries positive weight with indigenous population.
    The ‘shifting of politics’ is notable only to ‘uninitiated’ & those lacking in a comprehensive understanding of the dynamics involved in this ‘type’ of warfare.

  • NSA5552 says:

    Karzi Global National Security Imperative
    Attention: Pakistan’s top civil and military leadership in Islamabad. Please be advised that a team consisting of Secretary Clinton will be accompanied by US Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey and Central Intelligence Agency Director David Patraeus. Will be arriving or has arrived for a deal or push for an end game in Afghanistan. After careful analysis including the fact that the region is a arsenal time bomb..Ticking! I have concluded that Pakistan would put its country & people in grave danger, in the case of an operation in North Waziristan. The crisis in this region is the Haqqani Militant Network Core Chain Of Command. The Haqqani tribe is not our concern. The objective of the HQNI Network is the removal of the US/NATO Alliance. Although Pakistan is part of that alliance the HQNI Network has made your presence silent like a word in the alphabets. Its just not good business to attack those that can make a difference in the networks Core Chain Of Commands existence. Technically Pakistan is the life line of the HQNI Network in the sense of the geographical location,control among other things! A decision by Pakistan to implement an assault in NW Pakistan will have grave consequences. The HQNI Network has implemented spectacular attacks on Islamabad & the surrounding cities with mechanized operatives with a one way ticket. The HQNI Network has also buried its boots inside your facilities that house your nuclear arsenal. Enough material for similar device like U236/37’s have a strong potential to be based in the vast array of tunnels reaching 2000-5000 feet used as support infrastructure in the case of a Core Chain Of Command doomsday scenario of the HQNI Network. In the best interest of all the members of the alliance I am recommending that all parties refrain from a “PUSH” for an assault on NW Pakistan until a NATO-Global U2Device Arsenal Security Team is created so we can approach the threat without compromising the health,life and safety of PAK-AFGHAN/USNATO citizens or soil. Furthermore Islamabad must identify the ramifications of the existence of the HQNI Network in its region regardless of denial. In the case of a spectacular attack in a DIRTY or U2 device mechanized or humanely conceived on alliance forces or its soil traced back to the HQNI Network/Assoc. inside Pakistan will implement an emergency DRF3 of the militant hot zones. Any response from Pak-Defence will implement the football.

  • Soccer says:

    The Taliban lose gun fights often, but their goal is the ‘shock value’ of these attacks, not a victory in the firefight itself.
    The Taliban are not becoming unpopular. On the contrary, they are spreading everywhere across AfPak and they are still alive and well.
    As for the heliborne supplies, I’m not sure what alternative you would have done. It is safer for supplies to be airlifted into bases and outposts and cheaper. Nato used to have to pay off tribal leaders when supply convoys would pass through their territory so we don’t “offend” them and look like “occupiers”. That was stupid and counter-productive.
    Blert is correct in stating the point that Pashtuns are thousands of years apart from us socially. They are. Mike Merlo is able to sit on his computer chair and deny that fact but I welcome him to go to Afghanistan/NWFP and see for himself the realities of the Pashtuns today.
    A counter-terrorism strategy is the best way forward. Forget trying to please the populations of Afghanistan that don’t want us there in the first place. Focus on targeting those that are a threat to our national security and interests, and assist the ANSF when they need our help. It would be cheaper and much more effective than our current way of doing things.

  • mike merlo says:

    Taliban support among the Afghans is so inconsequential it rarely merits mention even among the Taliban themselves.
    Suggesting that one never ‘having been there’ is the response of one unable to muster an educated reply. By the way NWFP was renamed Khyber Pakhtunkhwa over a year ago.
    Whats ‘thousands of years apart’ is anybody making that comment then expecting to be taken seriously.

  • Soccer says:

    “Taliban support among the Afghans is so inconsequential it rarely merits mention even among the Taliban themselves.”
    “Suggesting that one never ‘having been there’ is the response of one unable to muster an educated reply. By the way NWFP was renamed Khyber Pakhtunkhwa over a year ago.”
    Wow, speak for yourself. Have YOU been there???? I think not. How is it exactly is it an uneducated reply? I think you’re just the one who can’t counter my point and thus you resort to slithering personal attacks.
    “By the way NWFP was renamed Khyber Pakhtunkhwa over a year ago.”
    You think I didn’t know that? We live in the age of the Internet, get real Mike. I typed NWFP because I didn’t want to type out Khyber Pakhtunkwa and I was running short in time. It is still sometimes acceptably referred to as NWFP.

  • Bungo says:

    Mike Merlo said : “Taliban support among the Afghans is so inconsequential it rarely merits mention even among the Taliban themselves.”
    Really !?! So is their Resistance.

  • mike merlo says:

    I’m curious to know how is ‘not having been there’ a ‘disqualifier?’ For the record I’ve also not been to the moon nor present during the dropping of the atomic bomb at Hiroshima or Nagasaki, Bay of Pigs, D-Day etc.,.
    What I’ve done is present an opposing point of view. If you’re not comfortable with that then I can’t help that. Rather than feel slighted you should have the presence of self to appreciate positions other than your own & be able to engage in responsible discourse.
    Most everybody that has an opinion on Afghanistan, GWOT, & geo-politics, to including the so-called experts, are either wide of the mark or significant detail(s) escape their attention.

  • mike merlo says:

    I’m pleased read that ‘we’ concur

  • Soccer says:

    ‘I’m curious to know how is ‘not having been there’ a ‘disqualifier?’ For the record I’ve also not been to the moon nor present during the dropping of the atomic bomb at Hiroshima or Nagasaki, Bay of Pigs, D-Day etc.,.”
    Because you are speaking baselessly off your own misinformed and false opinions. If you actually want to see the reality of Pashtuns, the Internet is there for you to look at their social realities of their daily lives. But since you so arrogantly refuse to do so, the only valid option left is for you to get away from your keyboard and computer chair and go see the real world, esp. the reality of Pashtuns in the world today and the squalid way they treat each other and the outside world.
    “What I’ve done is present an opposing point of view. If you’re not comfortable with that then I can’t help that. Rather than feel slighted you should have the presence of self to appreciate positions other than your own & be able to engage in responsible discourse.”
    Yes, you’ve presented an opposing point of view full of conjecture, personal attacks and baseless information. Who ever said I wasn’t comfortable with opposing views? Stop trying to make things up. I do not feel slighted, another thing you make up. I am engaging in responsible discourse, hence the reason I’m not doing what you’re doing which is going over the comments and personally attacking the intelligence and character of everyone who disagrees with you.
    “Most everybody that has an opinion on Afghanistan, GWOT, & geo-politics, to including the so-called experts, are either wide of the mark or significant detail(s) escape their attention.”
    I don’t think you’re that qualified to make such a statement, just sayin’.

  • mike merlo says:

    So now you’ve gone from “not having been there” to stating that ‘the internet is valid point of reference.’ Plus I’ve been informed as to where I have or haven’t been via the net. Uh ok.
    You’re the one that initiated contact by singling me out by name via the threads. So why tizz out when I respond?
    When seeking absolution should I seek out your blessing before or after the accompanying rites & ceremonies?
    For all of my ‘baseless conjecture’ I’ve yet to read a response from you that would give me pause besides maybe being bashed.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Soccer & Mike Merlo, if you want to continue this, please do it elsewhere. I will no longer publish the attack comments; they have no place here.

  • irebukeu says:

    ‘Negotiate a deal’ is the term I keep hearing over and over. The Taliban have always said they will NEVER negotiate. As far as I know the ‘negotiating’i has been incorporated into their military planning, deceptions either at determining what the coalition intentions were ( the fake quetta shura rep flown BY the US to Kabul from the Pakistani border then back to the Pakistan border). Or to gain access to important individuals that were too well protected by bodyguards so that they could kill them (Burhanuddin Rabbani).
    The first myth of Afghanistan has been dispelled. namely that victory can be had there in a western sense of the term with the nation building tactics in use today. This has led to a new goal of bringing the taliban to the table….
    The second myth. Still entrenched even among those that have discovered the actual truth of the first myth ( note the well written first comment after the article) is that the Taliban can be negotiated with and that they will give concessions.
    IMO They will give NOTHING. victory as they define it is so near for them. what advantage do they gain by only now, near the occupations end agreeing to meet with their enemy. This would only give hope to those who think a western victory is possible and undercut those who have stated that they WILL NEVER negotiate ( mullah Omar). It could even perhaps cause a redoubling of efforts ( military action against the taliban) to force even more concessions. It would hurt the taliban cause, make them look weak while providing hope and a morale boost for their enemy.
    Isn’t it time to put to bed the idea that the Taliban will negotiate for anything??


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