Stalemated insurgency and a marginalised Taliban? Thinking long-term about the Afghan conflict after 2014…
I’ve been neglecting the blog for quite some months as I work on a Master’s Degree in Peace and Conflict Studies at the excellent Malmö University. I handed in my final thesis paper last week. It was an attempt to look at aspects of the conflict beyond 2014. I looked at what I felt were some of the less travelled angles and came up with what, to me, seemed some quite interesting avenues to explore, namely:
- With talks going nowhere (see the recent AAN report here) and neither protagonist ready to concede the field of battle, we could be looking at a very protracted insurgency stalemate.
- A stalemate could push in two directions – a “positive” stalemate, where the ANSF hold cities and communications routes, Najibulllah style, and reforms of political, economic and developmental natures slowly take root, or a corrosive stalemate which undermines the stability of Afghanistan further.
- If the latter, the Taliban may dwindle in importance as other Afghan political/military factions (“warlords” for want of a better cliche) intervene unhelpfully, pulling the (very) fledgling Afghan democracy down with it.
- A struggle for the control of the army could be pivotal.
I will post up the main analytical components of the paper in due course. For what it is worth, I attach the abstract here:
Afghanistan’s complex conflict shows little sign of abating. This paper looks at the nature of the conflict and factors that might influence its post-2014 direction. It treats Afghanistan as a qualitative case study, using a hybrid of approaches and positions itself in the middle of historical context, civil war theory and the post-2001 political and military situation. Although disagreements within broader civil war theory make analysis of Afghanistan challenging (how to address complex conflicts and concepts of stalemate might benefit from further exploration), Charles Tilly’s work provides a fresh perspective and a flexible platform from which to view the conflict. The paper identifies areas analytically “less-travelled”: the idea that a military stalemate might be a long-term result after 2014 and that other political/military factions might also get drawn in to contest for control of the state. It found that a struggle for army loyalty is plausible and could become a further danger to the stability of the country. The international community and the Afghan population could perhaps give thought to three issues: the implications of the term “civil war”, how to consider and address the notion of stalemate after 2014 and, finally, that the Taliban might not be the only group contesting state control.
The picture at the top? Its my attempt to depict the old Soviet fort overlooking the Norwegian PRT in Faryab when I spent two weeks there in July 2008.