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

Friday, February 5, 2010

The HiG insurgency in Kunduz and Baghlan

Najibullah Quraishi's report from Baghlan and Kunduz, for Channel 4's Dispatches, is a must-see. Here is a link to where you can watch it in its entirety.
I will put down my quick notes.
- Commander Kalakub (HiG), interviewed in the report, says Hekmatyar's Hizb-i Islami has 3,000 to 4,000 fighters in the two provinces. (Hekmatyar's men recently held talks with members of parliament in the Maldives by the way.)
- 30 to 35 active groups in Baghlan.
- "Central Group consists of 140 to 150 members."
- Commander Mirwais is named as the overall commander in the two provinces.
- A spotter network is already up and running along the Kunduz-Baghlan highway that goes on down towards the Salaang Pass and Kabul (it is an increasingly important logistical artery for ISAF).
- Foreign fighters are present (mostly from Yemen and Saudi Arabia, it seems - but there is even one man who is introduced as Chechen).
- Training in bomb-making ongoing.
- The impression created is that the Taliban (around 4,000 of them, allegedly) come to fight there during the warmer part of the year (spring to autumn) only, while HiG is fighting there year-round.
- My overall feeling about what one can see in the report? To a degree, the Western presence works almost as a sideshow to some of what these people are going through/what they are involved in. It is something like a necessary ingredient to it. The challenge that gives sense to it all. Moving around as mujahids, learning about Islam from the group's religious scholar while moving around, accepting the hardships that come with this (cold, sleeping in uncomfortable places, being up at night, taking risks etc). And also the nicer aspects: villagers usually pay you respect when you visit, they bring you food and water. Theirs may also appear and appeal to them as an institutionalised form of life, leading from somewhere to somewhere, thus giving some comfort. Otherwise, no regular ISAF patrols in the areas concerned, and no direct contact (shown here) with the Western soldiers who the insurgents want to blow up. Watching the video only, and (inappropriately) ignoring how structural factors direct people's lives in only relatively freely chosen directions, one could be completely and hopelessly clueless as to possibly what the West or anyone could give these men, for them to do something else, instead of killing/trying to kill/getting killed. Per their own words, the one thing they want most of all is a withdrawal of Western troops, and with it, perhaps, an invitation to take the struggle to the West even (one insurgent speaking in the video does go so far).
- Meanwhile, there are the recurring statements that the government "mistreated" many of the villagers who are giving support to the insurgents. I wish Najibullah Quraishi had asked about exactly how, because it would be useful to know. Though I would stress that this of course does not deduce from the extraordinary value of his reporting.

Part One (for a taster, @ You Tube)

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