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Afghanistan: The De-Evolution of Insurgency

NCJ Number
Small Wars Journal Volume: 6 Issue: 10 Dated: October 2010 Pages: 1-23
Sergio Villarreal, M.A.; COL Kevin Meredith; Mitchel Wilkinson, Ph.D.
Date Published
October 2010
23 pages
This article examines contemporary definitions of insurgencies as presented in The U.S. Army and Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Manual (FM 3-24), compares the insurgency in Afghanistan to other insurgencies, and presents an argument that the current situation in Afghanistan is not an insurgency.
Current definitions of "insurgency" have evolved in recent times from models that describe asymmetric guerilla warfare with grassroots political goals based in land disputes; however, definitions of insurgency in FM3-24 no longer consider territoriality a defining characteristic of all insurgencies. In South West Asian politics, civil wars, terrorism, criminal activity, and regional politico-religious hegemony intertwine with such complexity that it is difficult to distinguish conflict type, strategy, and policy. Current U.S. counterinsurgency (COIN) policy is based in the view that American forces are fighting insurgents, which are defined in the FM 3-24 as "an organized, protracted politico-military struggle designed to weaken the control and legitimacy of an established government, occupying power, or other political authority while increasing insurgent control." This article argues that Afghanistan consists of a collection of competing groups disguised as militias, insurgents, drug lords, warlords, and others. Collectively, they can be labeled as criminal organizations. Although the current COIN effort would normally be an effective measure if it were engaging a single insurgency unified under a common goal-oriented motive, it lacks the flexibility and multi-pronged strategy needed to counter multiple groups seeking to control various localities for different and changing purposes. The problem no longer warrants an international coalition force, and troops can therefore be withdrawn; however, recognizing that criminal elements in Afghanistan will continue to destabilize that country for generations requires the assistance of experienced professional advisors, mentors, and consultants, who should provide guidance for building the Afghan National Army and the National Police. 10 references