Is US losing ground in Afghanistan?: The average length of an active insurgency is 10 years. In the case of Afghanistan, the US military operation is already nine years old, the normal length of time in which one or other of the parties begins to show signs of fatigue. But which side is it most likely to be?

Author:Vesely, Milan

ON 29 APRIL, AMERICAN SPECIAL Forces attacked an Afghan family compound outside of Kabul, just another military operation in which Afghan civilians are reported to have been killed. As has become the norm, there was no notification from the US military command, the first report coming from Afghan government sources on the ground. Equally as is the norm, NATO and the American military immediately labelled the attack in Nangarhar province as an "operation to capture a known Taliban facilitator". In this case, however, the man shot dead was the brother-in-law of Safia Siddiqi, a female member of the Afghan Parliament, certainly no Taliban facilitator by any stretch of the imagination.


"My brothers thought they were thieves," Siddiqi said of the 100-personnel, nighttime raid which she described as a "murder operation". Elaborating further, she stated, "My brothers asked them in English 'Do you know whose house this is? This is the house of Safia Siddiqi, a member of the Afghan parliament'."

The raiding troops are alleged to have responded by not allowing Siddiqi's relatives to say another word after reportedly claiming "We know". Whether this was just bravado or the truth will certainly never be known.

As has been the case in so many of such incidences, a large-scale riot in Jalalabad immediately followed, the angry burial crowd carrying the white-shrouded body shouting anti-American and anti-Karzai government slogans. This riot was erupting even as the US military was reporting to Congress in late April that while no specific progress could be reported in the war against the Taliban, a real turnaround appeared to be looming on the horizon. Unfortunately for the military officers seated at the Congressional hearing, their own report also stated that Taliban attacks on NATO and American forces had increased in the preceding six months, this embellished with the eye-opening statement that "The Taliban appear confident of winning".

So is the US military just playing down its success against the Taliban insurgency to pressure Congress for even more funds, or is the truth more likely to be found in their statement that "The Taliban appear confident of winning"?

In late April, the Rand Corporation in Washington published a report on 89 past and current insurgencies, the study focusing on the factors that led to military success by either side. In particular, they detailed historical trends such as the availability of insurgent...

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