View Full Version : Can tribes take on the Taleban?

Cannoneer No. 4
02-04-2008, 03:11 PM

Britain planned to build a Taliban training camp for 2,000 fighters in southern Afghanistan, as part of a top-secret deal to make them swap sides,

An Afghan government source said the training camp was part of a British plan to use bands of reconciled Taliban, called Community Defence Volunteers, to fight the remaining insurgents. "The camp would provide military training for 1,800 ordinary Taliban fighters and 200 low-level commanders," he said.

But the Afghans feared the British were training a militia with no loyalty to the central government.

IW doesn't repeat itself, but it rhymes.

BBC, 26 December 2007 (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7155500.stm)

Speaking to the British parliament on 12 December, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said that Britain advocated a shift in strategy that would favour "hard-headed realism" and work "with the grain of Afghan tradition".

"One way forward is to increase our support for community defence initiatives, where local volunteers are recruited to defend homes and families modelled on traditional Afghan 'arbakai'," he said.

US general rejects UK militia plans (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/2/story.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=10486824) Jan 15, 2008

ANALYSIS-Rifts widen on U.S.-British Afghanistan tactics (http://www.reuters.com/article/latestCrisis/idUSL16771258) Jan 16, 2008

Afghanistan's tribal complexity (http://www.economist.com/world/asia/displaystory.cfm?story_id=10608929) Jan 31st 2008

Sensitivity to Afghanistan's tribal complexity has become all the rage. The American army has deployed anthropologists to help its troops understand the shifting mosaic of tribal interest groups. In Parliament in December, Britain's prime minister, Gordon Brown, lapsed into Pushto when he talked about beefing up “traditional Afghan arbakai” (ie, tribal policing arrangements); he said Britain needed to “understand the tribal dynamics”.

Afghans claims UK planned to train ex-Taliban (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2008/02/04/wafg204.xml)

Doesn't sound like any "Helmand Awakening" is welcome in Kabul. Sin loi, chieu hoi.

02-05-2008, 04:31 AM
Well, Paddy Ashdown had barely got off the plane in Kabul when the Afghan Government informed him that his services were not required...:wry:

It seems that any attempts to exploit political divisions within the Taleban and other like groups are falling victim to political divisions within NATO, and especially between NATO and the Afghan Government. This might have had some success otherwise.

02-05-2008, 05:01 PM
Any one who claims to be an expert on Afghanistan is probably a liar, but I think that the UK attempts to use the tribes as a counterweight against the Taliban is the correct course. My take on recent Afghan history is that the weakening of tribal influence which began with 10 years of Soviet occupation, continued with Taliban rule, and is ongoing with the influx of foreign fighters and Afghans raised in the madrassas of Pakistan, has been a huge factor in the recent unrest. The tribes still exist, as does pashtunwali, but their ability to manage and on occasion supress violence has declined. Contrary to the general perceived wisdom, the destruction of the social fabric caused by three decades of war has not strengthened the tribes. On the contrary, it has abetted the rise of supra-tribal players (foreigners, drug traffickers, various commercial mafias, and terrorist organizations) whose continued success is partly contingent on maintaining an environment of conflict. The nascent central government, in addition, has no desire to create rival centers of power in the country.

Don't get me wrong - many of the tribes are hip-deep in troublemaking, which makes Afghanistan the complex and incomprehensible place that it is, and strengthening the tribes involves firmly grasping the tiger's tail. But I can't help but think that a restoration of the tribal social contract would be a positive force in the country's recovery.

The problem is, of course, that the UK policy runs counter to the stated goals of the UN, NATO, and most of the coalition partners. Until there is a coherent operational campaign plan, regional initiatives are bound to fail. There is no chance of creating a campaign plan when the partners can't even agree on strategic objectives. Nevertheless, an end state where Afghanistan bumps along as a confederacy of loosely associated (and troublesome) tribes is attainable, whereas the creation of a strong and stable central government is a pipe dream.

Cannoneer No. 4
02-05-2008, 06:18 PM
Looks to me like the Brits are trying to turn some of the hostile Helmandians like the US Marines turned the hostile Anbarians. (http://cannoneerno4.wordpress.com/2008/02/05/clcs-good-arbakai-bad/)

Turned Taliban are better employed than left unsupervised.