‘The guerrilla wins if he does not lose. The conventional army loses if it does not win’.
– Henry Kissinger
2.0 : Afghanistan – History, Geography and Demography
15. Afghanistan’s history spans five thousand years and the Afghan people have contributed to the emergence of many Central Asian empires. The ancient centers of culture and civilization were influenced by diverse outsiders such as Rome, Greece, Arabia, Iran, Central Asia, India, and China. Great conquerors such as Chenghiz Khan and Timurlane swept through Afghanistan during the 13th and 14th century. These rulers brought with them the desire to establish kingdoms, and founded cultural and scholarly communities in Afghanistan. In particular, during the Timurid dynasty, poetry, architecture and miniature painting reached their zenith. The rise of the great Mughal Empire again lifted Afghanistan to heights of power. The ruler, Babur, had his capital in Kabul in 1512, but as the Mughals extended their power into India, Afghanistan went from being the center of the empire to merely a peripheral part of it. In the 18th and 19th century with European forces eroding the influence of the Mughals on the Indian subcontinent, the kingdom of Afghanistan began to emerge. Ahmad Shah ruled from 1747 and successfully established the concept of a united Afghanistan.
16. In 1919, Afghanistan gained independence from British occupying forces. From 1919-1973 Afghanistan modernized and built extensive infrastructure with the assistance of the international community. This period of relative stability ended in 1973 when King Zahir Shah
was overthrown while away in Europe. In 1978 and 1979, a number of coups brought to power a communist government that drifted increasingly toward the USSR, ending with a Soviet puppet government in Kabul led by Babrak Kamal and an invasion of Soviet forces. Throughout the eighties, an indigenous Afghan resistance movement fought against the invading Soviet forces. With the help of the United States, Afghans successfully resisted the occupation. On February 15, 1989 the last Soviet soldier retreated across Afghanistan’s northern border. As hostilities ceased, more than a million Afghans lay dead and 6.2 million people, over half the world’s refugee population, had fled the country. The Soviet withdrawal in 1989 weakened the communist government of President Najibullah, leading to his ousting in April 1992. An interim president was installed and replaced two months later by Burhanuddin Rabbani, a founder of the country’s Islamic political movement, backed by the popular commander Ahmad Shah Massoud.
17. The government remained unstable and unable to form a national consensus amongst its various factions. This instability was exploited by a group of Islamic fighters called the Taliban (‘talib’ means ‘religious student’ or ‘seeker of knowledge’). With the assistance of foreign governments, organizations, and resources, the Taliban seized Kandahar and in September 1998 entered Kabul. Taliban rulers became infamous for their repression of women and dissidents as well as their destruction of the country’s cultural heritage. Showing little interest in trying to govern and rebuild Afghanistan, they instead played host to the radical Al-Qaeda terrorist
18. Afghanistan is a landlocked mountainous country located within South Asia and Central Asia. ‘ The country is the 41st largest in the world in size. Kabul is the capital and largest city of
Afghanistan, located in the Kabul Province. Strategically located at the crossroads of major trade routes, Afghanistan has attracted a succession of invaders since the sixth century BC.’
The Hindu Kush mountains, running northeast to southwest across the country, divide it into three major regions: the Central Highlands, which form part of the Himalayas and account for roughly two thirds of the country’s area; the Southwestern Plateau, which accounts for one-fourth of the land; and the smaller Northern Plains area, which contains the country’s most fertile soil. Land elevations generally slope from northeast to southwest, following the general shape of the Hindu Kush massif, from its highest point in the Pamir Mountains near the Chinese border to the lower elevations near the border with Iran. To the north, west, and southwest there are no mountain barriers to neighboring countries. The northern plains pass almost imperceptibly into the plains of Turkmenistan. In the west and southwest, the plateaus and deserts merge into those of Iran. Afghanistan is located on the Eurasian Tectonic Plate. The Wakhan Corridor and the rest of northeastern Afghanistan, including Kabul, are situated in a geologically active area. Over a dozen earthquakes occurred there during the twentieth century.
19. The greater part of the northern border and a small section of the border with Pakistan are marked by rivers; the remaining boundary lines are political rather than natural. The northern frontier extends approximately 1,689 km southwestward, from the Pamir Mountains in the northeast to a region of hills and deserts in the west, at the border with Iran. The border with Iran runs generally southward from the Hari River across swamp and desert regions before reaching the northwestern tip of Pakistan. Its southern section crosses the Helmand River.
Six different countries bound Afghanistan. Its longest border is the poorly marked Durand Line, accounting for its entire southern and eastern boundary with Pakistan. The shortest one, bordering China’s Xinjiang province, is a mere 76 km at the end of the Wakhan Corridor (the Afghan Panhandle), a narrow sliver of land 241 km long that extends eastward between
Tajikistan and Pakistan. At its narrowest point it is only 11 km wide. The border with Pakistan runs eastward from Iran through the Chagai Hills and the southern end of the Registan Desert, then northward through mountainous country. It then follows an irregular northeasterly course before reaching the Durand Line, established in 1893. This line continues on through mountainous regions to the Khyber Pass area. Beyond this point it rises to the crest of the
Hindu Kush, which it follows eastward to the Pamir Mountains. The Durand Line divides the Pashtun tribes of the region between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Its creation has caused much dissatisfaction among Afghans and has given rise to political tensions between the two countries. Political map of Afghanistan is at Map 1.
20. There are seven distinct and ideologically conflicting ethnic groups within Afghanistan. They are the Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek, Aimack, Turkmen, and Baloch. Each of these groups identifies strongly with a country other than Afghanistan. For example, the Pashtun ethnic group heavily identifies with their Pashtun brethren in neighboring Pakistan. This type of individual association leads to Afghans not seeing themselves as citizens of Afghanistan but rather as members of a specific ethnic group . Exacerbating the situation are further divisions within each major ethnic group. The Pashtun, for example, is divided between the Ghilzai and the Durrani super tribes. These super tribes have ancient conflicts among each another. The tension created by these two tribes alone has been the root of serious internal conflict within Afghanistan. We see recurring evidence of the same type of internal friction among the other main ethnic groups within the country. Warlords and competition amongst smaller elements within the ethnic groups creates this strife. Each conflict contributes to the division of the country. This environment has led to a high degree of ethno- centralism in Afghanistan, causing ethnic groups to look for leadership only from those within their particular ethnic group.
21. In addition to ethno-centralism, the geography of Afghanistan lends itself to further isolation of ethnic groups. Afghanistan is characterized by large mountains and sweeping desert like expanses. These features isolate even smaller groups within the same ethnic group. For example, a Tajik in one mountain valley may live only a couple of miles from another group of Tajiks in a neighboring valley. They most likely do not know each other and may not be able to
understand one another. Many of these enclaves have varying dialects of their ethnic language. Some are discernable to one another, others are not. Many of these sub-ethnic groups have grievances towards one another that lead to sporadic warfare between them. Furthermore, Afghans historically and culturally see themselves in a reverse western order of hierarchy of belonging. Within the western world, people generally see themselves as a member of their country, state, town, and then their family. Afghans understand this in complete reverse order. They see themselves as first belonging to their family, their extended family, their clan, their tribe, their ethnic group, and then part of Afghanistan. This further compounds ethnic divisions within the country and creates an atmosphere necessitating strong local governance. In fact, this has led to local governance and a dislike of external influence upon local authority. The Afghan local governmental system is based upon family, clan, tribal, and ethnic backgrounds. In many of its dynamics, it is very similar to a federal system in its make-up. They have resolution of routine issues at the lowest level of government, raising major issues to a Jirga or meeting of the clan leaders. The ethno-linguistic map of Afghanistan is given at Map 2.
2.1 : Reasons for the American Intervention
Rise of Taliban in Afghanistan
22. During the power vacuum created by the Soviet troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989, the country was torn apart by warring mujahideen groups and the ISI of Pakistan grasped the chance to wield power in the region by fostering a previously unknown Kandahari student movement. ‘ They continued to support the Taliban, as Pakistani allies, in their push to conquer Afghanistan in the 1990s.’ Taliban initially enjoyed enormous good will from Afghans weary of
the corruption, brutality, and the incessant fighting of Mujahideen warlords.’ One story is that the rape and murder of boys and girls from a family traveling to Kandahar or a similar outrage by Mujahideen bandits sparked Mohammed Omar (Mullah Omar) and his students to vow to rid Afghanistan of these criminals.” Another motivation was that the Pakistan-based truck
shipping mafia known as the “Afghanistan Transit Trade” and their allies in the Pakistan government, trained, armed, and financed the Taliban to clear the southern road across Afghanistan to the Central Asian Republics of extortionate bandit gangs.’ Many senior leaders of the Afghanistan Taliban were closely associated with and had attended the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary in Akora Khattak in Pakistan, including Mullah Omar, and its role in supporting the Taliban.’ The seminary is run by Maulana Sami ul Haq of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam who is often referred to as the “Father of the Taliban”.”
23. Although there isn’t any evidence that the CIA directly supported the Taliban or Al-Qaeda, some basis for military support of the Taliban was provided when, in the early 1980s, the CIA and the ISI (Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency) provided arms to Afghans resisting the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and the ISI assisted the process of gathering radical Muslims from around the world to fight against the Soviets.” Osama Bin Laden was one of the key players in organizing training camps for the foreign Arab volunteers, although his organization, Maktab al-Khidamat, was exclusively Saudi funded.’ The Taliban were based in the Helmand, Kandahar, and Uruzgan regions and were overwhelmingly ethnic Pashtuns and predominantly Durrani Pashtuns.’ The first major military activity of the Taliban was in October’November 1994 when they marched from Maiwand in southern Afghanistan to capture Kandahar City and the surrounding provinces, losing only a few dozen men.’ Starting with the capture of a border crossing and a huge ammunition dump from warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a few weeks later they freed “a convoy trying to open a trade route from Pakistan to Central Asia” from another group of warlords attempting to extort money.’ In the next three months this hitherto “unknown force” took control of twelve of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, with Mujahideen warlords often surrendering to them without a fight and the “heavily armed population” giving up their weapons. By September 1996 they had captured Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul.
9/11 and Lead Up to the American Intervention in Afghanistan
24. As heinous as their domestic policies were, the worst aspect of Taliban governance was its virtual adoption of the al Qaeda terrorist organization. Osama Bin Laden came back to Afghanistan in 1996, shortly before the Taliban took Kabul. He had fought there with the mujahideen for short periods during the Soviet war. His duties had included a little fighting, much fund-raising in Pakistan, and the supervision of construction efforts. After a few years at home, he was ousted first from Saudi Arabia in 1991 for objecting to the introduction of U.S. forces during the Gulf War, and then from Sudan in 1996 because he had become a threat to the regime. Neither country would put up with his revolutionary activities and radical ways. Osama bin Laden reportedly saw Afghanistan as the first state in a new Islamic caliphate. Although he did not know Mullah Omar beforehand, Bin Laden held him in high regard, and intermarriage took place between the inner circles of al Qaeda and the Taliban. In return for his sanctuary and freedom of action, Bin Laden provided funds, advice, and, most important, trained cadres, Afghan or otherwise, for the Taliban war machine. Pakistan was also generous in support of its allies in Afghanistan, which it saw as a sure bulwark against Indian influence. In 1998 alone, Pakistan provided $6 million to the Taliban.
25. In Afghanistan, bin Laden took over or set up training camps for al Qaeda and Taliban recruits. As many as 20,000 Afghan and foreign recruits may have passed through the camps. Many of these trainees received combat experience in fighting the Northern Alliance, raising Al Qaeda’s value in the eyes of the Taliban leadership. Afghanistan became a prime destination for international terrorists. In February 1998, bin Laden declared war on the United States from his safe haven in Afghanistan. Accusing the Americans of occupying Arabia, plundering its riches, humiliating its leaders, attacking Iraq, and more, Bin Laden claimed that de facto the United States had declared war on Islam and its people. On August 7, 1998, Al Qaeda carried out bombings on the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in East Africa. Both Embassies were severely damaged. The casualties, mostly African, numbered over 220 killed, and nearly 4,200 wounded. Among other measures, U.S. retaliatory cruise missile strikes were aimed at Al
Qaeda camps in Afghanistan to little effect. The 9/11 Commission concluded that the strikes missed bin Laden by a few hours. Before and after these attacks, a number of plots to capture or kill bin Laden were stillborn due to sensitivities about civilian casualties. In 1999, the 9/11 plotters received screening and initial training inside Afghanistan. Their guidance, funds, concept of the operation, and detailed plans came from Al Qaeda central in Afghanistan. Beginning in 1998, the United States and Saudi Arabia both urged Afghanistan to surrender Osama bin Laden for legal proceedings. The Taliban government resisted repeated efforts to extradite him even after he had blown up two U.S. Embassies and, in October 2000, a U.S. warship off the coast of Yemen. To this day (2011), the Taliban leadership has never disavowed Al Qaeda or Osama Bin Laden.
26. It is not clear what al Qaeda’s leaders thought would happen in Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks. Perhaps, judging from recent practice, Al Qaeda thought the Bush administration, like some of its predecessors, would conduct a lengthy investigation and be slow to take action. The United States had failed to take significant retaliatory action after other terrorist attacks: the 1983 bombing of the Marine Barracks in Lebanon, the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, the 1996 Khobar Towers attack in Saudi Arabia, and the bombing of USS Cole in 2000. In any case, al Qaeda did not fully understand the passions that they would raise in the United States and among its allies by the murder on 9/11 of 3,000 innocent people from 90 countries. Washington asked the Taliban to turn over bin Laden. Mullah Omar refused again as he had in 1998. The President then went to Congress for support. Congress authorized the President in a Joint Resolution:
‘To use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons’.
27. The US air attacks began on October 7, 2001 signaling commencement of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM in Afghanistan.
2.2 : US Doctrine for Low Intensity Conflict Operations (LICO)
28. US military operations in LICO fall into four broad categories of which counter-insurgency (COIN) is also one. The four categories are –
(a) Support for insurgency and counterinsurgency.
(b) Combatting terrorism.
(c) Peacekeeping operations.
(d) Peacetime contingency operations.
Principles of Counterinsurgency (COIN)
29. The principles of COIN are derived from the historical record and recent experience. They are detailed below to provide guideposts for the joint force in COIN. These principles do not replace the principles of joint operations, but rather provide focus on how to successfully conduct COIN. They are as under-
(a) Counterinsurgents Must Understand the Operational Environment.
(b) Legitimacy Is The Main Objective.
(c) Unity of Effort is Essential.
(d) Political Factors are Primary.
(e) Intelligence Drives Operations.
(f) Insurgents Must be Isolated from Their Cause and Support.
(g) Security Under the Rule of Law is Essential.
(h) Counterinsurgents Should Prepare for a Long-Term Commitment.
(j) Manage Information and Expectations.
(k) Use the Appropriate Level of Force.
(l) Learn and Adapt.
(m) Empower the Lowest Levels.
(n) Support the Host Nation.
30. The US military doctrine states ‘Insurgency is an internal threat that uses subversion and violence to reach political ends. Typically the insurgents will solicit or be offered some type of support from state or non-state actors, which can include transnational terrorists who take advantage of the situation for their own benefit.’ Affected nations may request US support in countering an insurgency, which is typically the circumstances under which US forces become involved in counterinsurgency (COIN) operations. Whatever the mix of actors and level of conflict, and despite the broadly applied label of insurgency, the motivation and objectives of the various belligerents must be understood to be effectively countered.
31. The US model states that COIN is comprehensive civilian and military efforts taken to defeat an insurgency and to address any core grievances. COIN is primarily political and incorporates a wide range of activities, of which security is only one. Unified action is required to successfully conduct COIN operations and should include all host nation, US, and multinational agencies or actors. Civilian agencies should lead US efforts. When operational conditions do not permit a civilian agency to lead COIN within a specific area, the joint force commander (JFC) must be cognizant of the unified action required for effective COIN. Ideally, all COIN efforts protect the population, defeat the insurgents, reinforce the HN’s legitimacy, and build HN capabilities. COIN efforts include, but are not limited to, political, diplomatic, economic, health, financial, intelligence, law enforcement, legal, informational, military, paramilitary, psychological, and civic actions. As capable insurgents evolve and adapt, counterinsurgents must evolve and adapt.
32. Post the Vietnam Wars, the American military was primarily involved in only one major conflict, Operation Desert Storm to liberate Kuwait from Iraq, which was absolutely conventional in nature and secured the US led allies a comprehensive victory. The wounds of Vietnam were still fresh in the minds of the US Department of Defence and they did not want to get sucked into a messy LICO campaign in Afghanistan, which was popularly called ‘The Graveyard of Empires’. The Department of Defense under Donald Rumsfeld initially denied the existence of insurgency in Afghanistan, but the hard realities of war forced a reevaluation. However, once committed to the task in Afghanistan, US officials pin their hopes for success on the effective implementation of the principles of counterinsurgency warfare. The study of counterinsurgency has become a major priority in recent years. Highlighted in the succeeding paragraphs are the principles of COIN as applied by the US led coalition forces in Afghanistan in support of a planned campaign to stabilize Afghanistan.
2.3: Understanding the Operational Environment
33. The US doctrine advocates this as a prime principle of COIN operations wherein the counter-insurgent must endeavor to familiarize himself with the nuances of the operating environment of the area of operations. This would also include acquainting oneself and developing sensitivity to local customs, traditions and culture and avoid imposing their own on the area of operations. Local Religion, if different, would play a major role and forces must possess the requisite awareness levels to avoid alienating the locals.
34. Afghanistan, at the time of the US intervention was dominated by religious fundamentalism laid down by the Taliban, which was an extreme interpretation of Islam. The Pakistani version of the Deobandi schools in Afghan refugee camps were for the most part run by inexperienced, semiliterate mullahs associated with Pakistan’s JUI. Saudi funds in combination with a lack of appreciation on the part of the mullahs of the reformist Deobandi agenda brought the schools’ curricula closer to ultra-conservative Wahhabism. Deobandi
militants shared the Taliban’s restrictive view of women and regarded Shia as non-Muslims. While in power the Taliban executed deliberate anti-Shia programs against Afghanistan’s
ethnic Hazaras, who are predominantly Shia, and led numerous massacres against them, killing tens of thousands. The other ethnic groups too suffered at the hands of the predominantly Pashtun Taliban and the society was split along ethnic fault lines which greatly complicated execution of operations. The counter-insurgent forces had to carefully negotiate a balancing path in the country.
35. Moreover, since the Pashtuns dominated the nation’s leadership as well as that of the Taliban, it was important to delve deeper into their culture. Pashtun culture revolves around the Pashtunwali, their pre-Islamic code of honor . It emphasizes honor, hospitality, protection of women, and revenge. Louis Dupree, the late eminent Western specialist on Afghanistan, described the Pashtunwali this way:
‘ to avenge blood,’to fight to the death for a person who has taken refuge with me
no matter what his lineage,’to defend to the last any property entrusted to me’to be hospitable and provide for the safety of guests,’to refrain from killing a woman, a Hindu, a minstrel, or a boy not yet circumcised,’to pardon an offense on the intercession of a woman of the
offender’s lineage, a Sayyid, or a Mullah, to punish all adulterers with death’to refrain from killing a man who has entered a mosque or a shrine of a holy man . . . also to spare the life of a man who begs for quarter in battle.’
36. Though Pashtun culture has helped to keep Afghanistan independent, but it has also helped to make it a fractious place, rife with internal violence within and between families and clans. Even conflict between cousins is a thread in all too many stories in this part of the world.
. Xenophobia is another aspect of Afghan culture. Throughout Afghanistan, suspicion of foreigners is strong. This no doubt stems from insularity and frequent invasions. Afghans are independence minded. The Pashtun warning to the government and to foreigners says it all:
don’t touch our women, our treasure, or our land. Non-Pashtun Afghans, 58 percent of the population generally share this attitude and have their own set of hard feelings toward the dominant Pashtuns. Afghans of all stripes have a strong sense of personal and national honor. This cultural baggage was a major consideration facing the US led coalition when it inducted into the country. Understanding these tribal nuances and deep undercurrents was a challenge to this US coalition.
37. However, the cultural and historical perspective with which the ISAF arrived was not entirely factually correct. The fact that Afghanistan has always been an unstable state perpetually beleaguered by armed rebels is now taken as a fact. Yet Afghanistan actually experienced relatively few insurgencies that were generated by British invasions and died soon after they were gone. The many violent civil wars in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were not insurgencies but rather succession struggles. It was only during the period of resistance against the Soviet occupation (1979-89) that Afghanistan experienced its first national insurgency. The Soviet departure from Afghanistan did not bring an end to the insurgency. One reason for this was that the mujahideen rebels maintained access to their foreign funding and bases in Pakistan, whereas earlier rebels had subsisted entirely on domestic resources. By September 2001, the Taliban were on the verge of expelling the last of their enemies in north-eastern Afghanistan following the assassination of Massud. The US invasion reversed that process dramatically, and within months the Taliban were gone and the new Karzai government was installed. If Afghanistan were truly a land of unending insurrections, one should have arisen somewhere against the United States in 2002. Therefore it is presumed that the American military had already a ‘grey populace’ awaiting them, which had to be weaned away from the insurgents by correct application of the principles of COIN.
38. As assessed by the NATO’s Senior Civilian Representative for Afghanistan, Fernando Gentilini after his conversation with the Secretary General of the Atlantic Alliance in Brussels prior to his assuming the appointment: The three important things were that the solution could
not be just military; for the civilian aspects of its international mission NATO had to be coordinated by the United Nations: the military forces of the ISAF mission were supposed to sustain governance and development activities being carried out by the afghans and the rest of the international community. The US military had to perforce open with a military campaign to oust the Taliban, which was firmly entrenched across the country, and towards, that understandably the initial campaign had to primarily be dependent upon application of force. Local sensitivities understandably would suffer collateral damage during this phase. However, what was important was the recovery time that the campaign had factored into its plan, in order to revert to the civilian governance and developmental activities, which would truly determine the final outcome of the LICO campaign.
39. The Coalition forces also had to balance out the ‘set in stone’ social practices in Afghanistan. Primary amongst them were conducting LICO to radiate complete lack of bias in the deeply fractured society split along ethnic fault lines, respect religious sentiments which were overbearing in their Islamic beliefs and very much alien to the American way of thinking, especially after the September 11 attacks on US soil and finally value the ‘regressive’ though firmly ensconced place of women in Afghan society without seeming to intrude into personal domains of the ferociously territorial nature of the common citizen. The above factors coupled with the historical lack of an organized central government in the country were a nightmare to any commander orchestrating a LICO campaign and imposed severe restrictions on the rules of engagement of the forces operating on ground.
2.4: Legitimacy of Operations
40. To be successful, counter-insurgents must be perceived as legitimate. Legitimacy often is equated to popular support, however, that term is much too simplistic and the LICO often focus efforts in the wrong directions. Popular legitimacy involves a more complex dynamic than the sort of popularity contest implied by phrases like ‘winning the hearts and minds’. Indeed, most
populations caught in the crossfire of an insurgency merely want to be rid of all sides in the conflict. Instead, legitimacy within the conflict zone occurs when populations and their leaders, understand that the counter-insurgency results benefit them more than any alternatives. It is thus as much a result of actions and structures than information operations, and cuts across all tasks. Although the initial invasion of Afghanistan was not mandated by a specific UN Security Council Resolution, relying on the US justification of self-defence to the September 11 attacks on its soil, the Security Council moved quickly to authorise a military operation to stabilise the country. Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1386 of December 2001 laid down the initial mandate for a 5,000-strong International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to deploy to the region in and immediately around Kabul, in order to provide security and to assist in the reconstruction of the country under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.
41. Having addressed the larger question of not being labeled foreign invaders, the US led coalition had to next radiate the same message at the ground troops level, where the actual combat was and the lives of its service personnel were at stake. Here, their acceptance amongst the locals would mean the difference between life and death, as also affect the overall success of the LICO campaign. The US operational philosophy dictated that ‘Forces engaged in LICO must be backed by a legitimate order, either through its government or a world body edict, in case it is a foreign country. Legitimacy of operations help establish the lawful writ of governance over the area of operations and also help cover the collateral damage which is an inadvertent result of such engagements. According to their philosophy, there are six possible
indicators of legitimacy that can be used to analyze threats to stability. First, the ability to provide security for the populace, including protection from internal and external threats, is a key indicator of legitimacy. Second, the selection of leaders at a frequency and in a manner considered just and fair by a substantial majority of the populace strengthens the legitimacy of the Host Nation. Other indicators of legitimacy include: a high level of popular participation in or support for political processes; a culturally acceptable level of corruption; a culturally
acceptable level and rate of political, economic, and social development; the existence and acceptance of laws; and a high level of regime acceptance by major social institutions.’
42. Having identified the above parameters and setting them as guidelines, the coalition had to select a face for their campaign, one that would be amenable to the majority Pashtuns, as also the balance milieu of ethnicities in Afghanistan towards projecting a legitimate governing authority. The challenge was finding a leader having acceptability amongst the largely fractious Pashtuns, for which the direct competition was between the legendary Mujahideen Commander Abdul Haq and the largely aristocratic, Hamid Karzai. The balance tilted in favour of Karzai, largely due to internal politics and the assassination of Haq, allegedly by the Pakistan ISI. Also, in the wake of 9/11, it was the Pashtun clans themselves who had approached Karzai to ask him to return to southern Afghanistan and lead them against the Taliban. In the continuing conflict situation, Karzai would never have emerged to the top. Yet in choosing a national leader the Afghans in the Bonn conference were not looking for an uber-warlord but someone who could successfully deal with the outside world-resources from which would be critical in bringing stability to Afghanistan. And thus the coalition was able to project a face to the Afghan people to commence the process of political engagement, as a prelude to normalizing the war torn country.
43. David Cortright opines whether the war in Afghanistan is a just cause depends on the goals of US policy, and whether these can be achieved through military means. The core US objective was defined in the 2010 US National Security Strategy: to ‘defeat, dismantle, and
disrupt’ Al Qaeda and its violent extremist affiliates in Afghanistan, Pakistan and beyond. Similar arguments were also made in the March 2009 White Paper justifying President Obama’s policy of military buildup. While the goal of apprehending those responsible for the 9/11 attacks is justified, the key ethical and political question is not whether the mission is just, but rather how it can be achieved. It is a question of means rather than ends. Therefore the fundamental strategic assumptions on which the US military involvement in Afghanistan is
based are highly questionable strategically and pose serious dilemmas ethically. This was compounded by the initial decision of the US government to unilaterally invade Afghanistan, paying scant regard to the United Nations or world opinion.
44. Hence it was imperative for the coalition forces to specifically target the genesis of the present conflict, i.e. Al Qaeda. Taliban leaders or factions actively supporting and abetting them could also be considered legitimate targets and this was generally acceptable to the common man. However, it was equally important to achieve this aim in the shortest possible time frame and avoid dragging the conflict over a long period of time and being termed invaders, which would seriously undermine the legitimacy of the American presence in the country. Hence, locating and eliminating Osama bin Laden and his key lieutenants who comprised the decision-making apparatus of Al Qaeda, as also key Taliban leadership, which was seen a tyrant by the general Afghan populace was the key to the entire strategy. The American planners too banked upon these sentiments of the locals and pursued their operational policy vigorously. The socio-economic environment existing in the country at the commencement of the US led operations had reached the lowest possible index in the world, and the common Afghan only saw a ray of hope in the US invasion to uplift his living conditions and perhaps provide a better future for his future generations.
2.5: Unity of Effort
45. All forces engaged in LICO must work towards a common goal and preferably under a single commander. It would greatly help matters if this unified chain lies under the political governance rather than military, as it would help present the face of the government to the fore as any lack of such a united front would present an ideal opportunity for insurgents to exploit. Civil authorities, military commanders, and, equally important, the many civil and non-governmental agencies and organizations, whether indigenous or others, must coordinate to achieve the objectives of the counterinsurgency effort. While ideally, one civil or military
commander may be optimal, the civil-military complexities of counter-insurgency make that largely impractical. Nonetheless, unity of purpose can be achieved through the use of coordination centers and processes, integration of civil and military organizations. Counter-insurgency demands clearly defined, unambiguous political and military goals. The pathway to resolution should be identified at both strategic and operational levels. The strategic goal must remain constant and not be swayed by the inevitable tactical and operational changes that will occur. It is not enough that the goals be stated by political leaders, they must also be communicated to all levels and all units, organizations, and agencies involved in the counterinsurgency.
46. Though it appears that coalition forces began operations in Afghanistan with a clearly defined objective, it is difficult to conclude that every ally contributed to the campaign with similar motivations or strategies. For instance, it has been widely suggested that a number of allies have contributed simply to satisfy the United States, in an attempt to maintain healthy relations with NATO’s most powerful member state. Given the competing motivations of those NATO members involved in operations in Afghanistan, it is perhaps unsurprising that there has also been a distinct lack of coherent strategy that has, arguably, hampered operational effectiveness. Fundamentally, there appears to be differing perceptions between allies as to the nature of the conflict in Afghanistan and the ways in which NATO should conduct its operations in response. More specifically, there is a debate within the alliance surrounding the apparent importance of counter-insurgency (COIN) for achieving ISAF’s goals. Most countries who made up the ISAF did not possess the same motivation levels as the US as they had not been directly targeted by the September 11 attacks and were merely there to fulfill their obligations towards NATO.
47. COIN operations in the initial stages dictate maximum military strength to be deployed to clear target areas from the influence of insurgents. This stage is perhaps the most important for establishing the foundation for future success and hence required troop contribution from all
allies to undertake tactical level operations. However it was revealed that NATO allies encountered disparity over the sharing of risks at the tactical level. Operational restrictions placed on deployed forces by national capitals arguably posed one of the biggest threats to alliance unity and operational success. Crucially, these ‘caveats’ have been described by a NATO commander as having ‘the same practical effect as having fewer forces deployed.’ Not only, therefore, has the Afghanistan mission been conducted with far fewer forces than the alliance has declared required, but the forces that have been deployed are of reduced utility to commanders. Often a single successful step forward was hampered by taking two steps back due to the complex nature of coalition politics. It also appeared that it was only the US and a few close allies like the UK which actively pursued insurgents while the others were simply there to make up the numbers. Body bags though unpopular back on US soil, were still acceptable to the nation, seen as price to be paid for exacting just vengeance for the attacks on home soil, however; they were unacceptable to the other NATO allies as the numbers began to pile up, as they were considered to have been dragged into someone else’s war.
48. Another lack of coordination between allies operating in Afghanistan was clearly evident from the composition and tasking. There were two military missions in Afghanistan. One was American and the other was international. The first (Operation Enduring Freedom) focused on seeking out terrorists and had approximately 25,000 staff; the other (The International Security
Assistance Force) supports Afghan security forces and acts pursuant to a mandate issued by the United Nations. While the US forces received or rather took orders only from their own headquarters, they expected ISAF to follow suit. The overall commander of ISAF was generally from one of the allied nations, and this was done with the purpose of projecting a face of unity amongst ISAF and trying to achieve synergy between its various multinational components.
49. Yet another coordination issue to achieving unity of command in a LICO environment was with regard to arriving at a balance between the civilian and military components in the
mission areas. While the operational philosophy largely recognized the end state as primarily being in the civilian domain, the actual synergizing of efforts needed to be enforced in order to derive maximum benefit of an orchestrated counter-insurgency strategy. The initial period of operations did not provide a safe environment for deployment of the civilian apparatus and all developmental activities towards winning hearts and minds (WHAM) were understandably undertaken by Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) composed primarily of military personnel. However, to gain greater acceptance amongst the general population, it was imperative that this task be gradually and completely be taken over by civilians who were the velvet side of the iron fist. Though attacks, kidnappings and even massacres of the civilian personnel engaged in WHAM activities did take place, they gradually began to establish their presence in areas cleared of insurgents by the friendly forces.