Posts Tagged ‘Human Terrain’

Badal: A Culture of Revenge – The Impact of Collateral Damage on the Taliban Insurgency

8 July, 2008

The ever-useful Combined Arms Research Library (CARL) has published a report – written by Raja G. Hussain of the US Naval Postgraduate School – that examines the role played by collateral damage in exacerbating the Afghan insurgency.


This thesis examines the impact of collateral damage on the Taliban insurgency. It reveals the relationship between death of innocent civilians and the tribal concept of badal (revenge). Research also analyzes Taliban propaganda leaflets to illustrate the compromise of popular support caused by collateral damage stemming from the Coalition’s tactics.

Research probes into the historical Anglo-Afghan wars and the 1979 Soviet invasion to draw parallels to the current insurgency. In doing so, it highlights the rising role of religion and FATA, Pakistan. FATA is analyzed to show the effects of intrusions by outside actors as well as historical and recent events that have shaped the populace and structure of these tribal regions.

Lastly, the research concludes by offering non-kinetic solutions to curbing the Taliban insurgency. The solutions focus on FATA and offer socio-economic and political remedies to hinder with the Taliban recruitment efforts and cross-border incursions. Thesis recognizes FATA and reduction in collateral damage as pivotal factors to fostering stability in the region.

Access the report here.


Afghan Power Structures & Social Modelling

7 July, 2008

Christian Bleuer has an interesting post over at CTLab which assesses a recent paper by Geller and Moss on the subject of Afghan power structures. The paper focuses on the role played by qawm – a form of identity grouping key to understanding social dynamics in Afghanistan – in creating a human terrain susceptible to the kind of episodic low-level conflict which has long been a feature in Afghanistan.

Check the full post here.

Afghanistan’s Local Power Structures

17 March, 2008

Ghosts of Alexander is a new blog focused on COIN in Afghanistan from an anthropological angle. Early posts suggest it will be worth keeping an eye on, particularly following the demise of Afghanistanica.

The most recent post examines the nature of local power structures in Afghanistan, highlighting the complex challenge these fluid entities pose to foreign military and civilian personnel operating in the country. Particular attention is paid to the difficulty of avoiding inadvertently influencing the often fragile ‘balance of power’ that exists between these multiple local networks, and between them and the central government.

So how to interact with these local authority figures and power/survival structures? Are NGO workers and soldiers to act as an agent of the central government, extending its authority to a more local level? Or are they to give more weight to the needs of locals? Or of local authority figures? And is there a way to conduct oneself that can be acceptable to both the central government, local communities and local authority figures? And how does one reconcile those with the goals and needs of the foreign military and international aid community? How do you avoid pushing the losers of local power struggles onto the insurgents’ side?

Also, for those without the time to read Barnett Rubin’s authoritative but weighty sociological study, The Fragmentation of Afghanistan, there is also a useful overview of the concept of qawm – a form of identity grouping key to understanding social dynamics in Afghanistan.

Read the full post here. Also worth checking are the following earlier posts: The Taliban in 5 Books, and Strategic Communication Plan for Afghanistan.