Home > AF-PAK strategy, Taliban > A little something on mujahideen strategy in Afghanistan

A little something on mujahideen strategy in Afghanistan

I’ve been reading through the earlier chapters of my thesis today trying to cull words and quite frankly would prefer to stab myself in the eye with a pen. However, I digress.

Anyway,  I came across this quote  from an interview by Robert Kaplan in 1988 with an old mujahideen commander from the first Afghan war, who was executed by the Taliban in October 2001.

You want to know why it’s dumb to attack Jalalabad? Because it’s dumb to lose ten thousand lives. There’s no way the mujahidin can take the city now. It’s surrounded by a river, mountains, and minefields. And if we do take it, what’s going to happen? The Russians will bomb the shit out of us, that’s what….

And if they don’t bomb the shit out of us, then we have Jalalabad and they have Kabul—parity, two Afghan governments. Then there will be pressure for us to negotiate. No, we must take no cities. Take everything but.

The last three sentences struck me, and to my mind, little has changed in mujahideen strategy since then. The Taliban may carry out attacks in the big cities, but  they too follow this strategy.  Of course after a US withdrawal this would no doubt change, but until then this strategy will stand.

Categories: AF-PAK strategy, Taliban
  1. John
    03/16/2010 at 4:56 am

    This pretty much makes the Taliban a non-entity. They have no real military capacity to conquer and hold. The only real capacity they have is to kill people in an indiscriminate manner that makes them the cause of the largest percentage of civilian casualties. This has made them hated by 90% of Afghans.

  2. 03/19/2010 at 3:16 pm

    I’m not real good on the Taliban. That said, in the Arab Salafi jihadist world, Abu Musab al-Suri has made much the same point about the ability to hold territory in the face of a modern military. Of course, Abu Bakr Naji seemed to think it was feasible, or else he didn’t really ponder the question at all. And AQ in Iraq in its day certainly tried to hold some territory, but they ended up paying for it.

    All this is by way of saying, I suppose, that I wouldn’t change strategic places with these jihadists for love nor money.

  3. John
    03/20/2010 at 2:24 am

    A successful insurgency has to have a ground-swelling base of popular support. The problem is that the Taliban have alienated people when they have ruled. The latest Afghan opinion poll and some background material here:



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