September 17, 2012

An 'Afghan Summer' of Revolt

By David H. Young

An 'Afghan Summer' of revolt

It remains unclear why Afghans appear more resistant to Taliban rule this summer than in the past. Perhaps the Taliban have been making even more burdensome demands than usual, increasingly aware that American and NATO forces are heading for the exits.  Or perhaps Afghans are seeing the drawdown as a wake-up call that ensuring their own security is more vital than ever.  Both explanations are simplistic, if only because the uprisings taking place across Afghanistan are, like nearly every other phenomenon in the country, occurring in isolation from one another, ever dependent on local actors and factors. 
Still, with the Taliban as resilient as ever, it is understandable for American and Afghan officials to capitalize on the uptick in local resistance to Taliban predation.  Given that there are certainly not enough resources to support all the uprisings, examining options in Kabul becomes a game of odds determined by how far into the future officials care to look.  Where, for example, should they invest their precious resources: in the less capable popular revolt that is organic and loyal to the government, or the proficient uprising that aggressively fights the Taliban, despises the government and is brimming with former Taliban members and others with a history of fighting the government?  It all depends on one's perspective.

With most ISAF tours lasting nine months to a year, it's tempting to play the short game and prioritize capability over loyalty, hoping the next brigade commander can control the fallout.  Similarly, Afghan security officials, while there for the long term, are also under tremendous pressure to show results or be shown the door.  And though it is difficult to discern loyalty and capability when any given uprising has so many moving parts, there are, inevitably, a number of telltale signs.
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