What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

The insurgency's spread to Badghis and Faryab - update

I realised I should include this here, as an update to yesterday's post about how a more serious, but currently lacking, effort by European-run PRTs in the relatively safer provinces could contribute to a better understanding of such crucial questions as, for example, how the Taliban-led insurgency could spread to places like Badghis and Faryab. As long as these PRTs are not terribly interested in finding out about the social context in their area of operations - something for which they would be in a good position right now - we will have to do without such crucial insights.
Mapping the human terrain, or whatever you call it, is required in order not to be surprised when some bad smells start coming in through the air conditioning.
I won't be able to provide here too much insight of, and on, my own regarding why exactly Badghis is a scene of guerrilla activity. I can only mention the comfortable generalisation about a Pashtun presence anywhere being associated with risks of attack, or possible connections with the drugs trade and so on.
There also have to be guerrilla trails leading all the way to Badghis and Faryab. Supply lines, essentially, but not necessarily for supplies but to maintain an infrastructure of communication. Information is often delivered by human carriers, so the trail has to be physical. If the drugs trade is indeed connected to the guerrilla war's spread to these areas, which seems quite possible, then of course such a trail is very physical indeed.
So here's a map from UNHCR (pdf), showing some of the latest sources of IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) in Afghanistan, in October, 2007. The red spot in Herat province is Shindand district, a scene of much fighting (and air strikes) last year. It would be great to know more about guerrilla's movements between the red spots in northern Helmand and Shindand district in Herat province. As well as about movements across Herat. U.S. forces are of course present there, including in Farah province, but perhaps the Italians and the Spanish should also be able to say something about what's going on there.


Anonymous said...

Sorry to say but, the OMLT's of the Italians and Spanish will never be able to answer ANY questions regarding operational issues in their AOR. They hardly ever leave their FOB up at Camp Stone, Herat Province, and when they do, it usually entails bringing along 2-300 ANA, so by that time, every insurgent knows that they are coming.

I spent a year of my life living and working in Shindand. Taliban were not the main threat. It was war-lord/tribal violence that was the main concern for our team. As one traveled south to the Zerko valley, you would see the poppy fields and when we would stop and talk to local farmers over cups of chai, they would explain the reasons for them to raise the poppys. It wasn't Taliban pressure, rather it was a way for them to make enough money to support their families for the next year. The local warlords (AK, NK, IK) for the most part were not aligned with any Taliban faction.

The US ODA's (for the most part) understand how to operate in a COIN environment, the ISAF units that I had to work with did not have a clue, nor did they seem willing to take the chances needed to actually reach the locals.

Interesting site.


Péter MARTON said...

Thanks for the valuable comment!
May I use the opportunity and ask you for your opinion about this article at the Asia Times Online.
The well-known Pakistani journalist who wrote it went to Shindand to find out about what was going there, back in'007.
But you probably know more about Shindand - so could you point out what you could confirm from the article, or what you specifically couldn't?
I'm taking it on myself to analyse these issues, and will come up with more I can find on Western Afghanistan. Your commentary could be immensely helpful.
Anyways, cheers,