Small Wars Journal

Afghanistan: The De-evolution of Insurgency

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Afghanistan: The De-evolution of Insurgency

by Kevin Meredith, Sergio Villarreal, and Mitchel Wilkinson

Download The Full Article: The De-evolution of Insurgency

Given the complex nature of conflict in Afghanistan and the history of external pressures in the region, there exists a need to constantly reexamine the local situation. The dynamic nature of tribal cultures in South West Asia and the shifting relationships that occur at local levels demand revisiting the question of military strategies and reassessment of US and Coalition involvement in the Afghan theater. Afghanistan, as a country ensconced in conflict for centuries, is homeland to numerous ethnic groups. It is further divided into hundreds of tribes and villages; all with varied needs, wants and demands. Scholars have argued that the root causes of regional and local conflict stem from geographic location, imperialist domination and colonial oppression. This article will not focus on these root causes, though important to the present situation. Instead, this article will focus on the present conflict and the label of Insurgency that it bears. In this article we will examine contemporary definitions of insurgencies as presented in The US Army and Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Manual (FM 3-24), compare the insurgency in Afghanistan to other insurgencies and present an argument that the present situation in Afghanistan is in-fact, not an insurgency. In our conclusion, we will present a theory that the situation in Afghanistan more closely resembles a synergy of criminal elements that have coalesced into a loosely organized front to form an anti-government, anti-coalition movement that has insurgent elements involved. Our theory also suggests that there is a cyclical nature of conflict in Afghanistan that includes the growth of insurgency and the de-evolution of insurgency as a part of a constantly changing Chaotic Cannibalistic State; a state of being that consists of groups of people in perpetual conflict, feeding on each other until a foreign body is introduced, at which point they frenzy on the foreign body, sapping strength and resources until the foreign body must limp away.

Download The Full Article: The De-evolution of Insurgency

Colonel Kevin Meredith is an Armor Officer who served in various command and staff positions in combat tours to Iraq and Afghanistan. Currently, he serves as Team Leader of a Human Terrain Analysis Team in Southern Afghanistan.

Major (ret.) Sergio Villarreal is a PhD Candidate in Psychology who serves as a social scientist on a Human Terrain Analysis Team in southern Afghanistan. He has experience as a military advisor in Colombia and Afghanistan.

Dr. Mitchel Wilkinson is a social scientist on a Human Terrain Analysis Team in Southern Afghanistan. Previously, he served in advisory duties in Afghanistan, Australia, New Zealand, and Vietnam, and he is a former instructor at the University of Oregon and Oregon State University.

About the Author(s)


MikeF, you missed another one near the end of his paragraph just below "ICBM." Recommend deleting the entire comment as hate speech.


Your first sentence was deleted. In the western world, using the N-word is considered hate speech and will not be tolerated.

That is your first strike. We'll assume that you did not know and allow you to present your views accordingly. If you choose not to act in a polite manner, then please feel free to take your views elsewhere.


Sergio Villarreal (not verified)

Sun, 10/10/2010 - 12:58pm

Hi Joe,

we really appreciate your comments. Without being able to read your NPS thesis, I seem to generally agree with your notion of the synergy of criminal elements with respect to gangs, especially the Latin American models.

With respect to the Mexican cartels, that problem has been existing for over 50 years, the difference is that they keep adapting to police's counter strategies, and we do not make a collective effort to get ahead of the game. I worry that some people are referring to these cartels as narco-insurgencies, or simply insurgencies. This is not the case because in the study of insurgencies, there are definitely verifiable characteristics present, that cartels do not meet. They need to be addressed for what they are, criminals. If you get a chance, look up the following another NPS thesis: "The Mexican military as a hindrance in Mexico's consolidation of democracy."

Joe Long (not verified)

Sat, 10/09/2010 - 9:57am

Interesting theory on the "synergy of criminal elements" that constitute the Afghanistan insurgency. Likewise, I recently completed my thesis work at NPS on the similar notion that street gangs within the US share similar anti-government and anti-societal sentiments regardless of affiliation. Using social movement theory, I was able to one, demonstrate that most counter-gang strategies employed by police forces only increase collective identity and further gang violence; and two, the collective effect of street gangs as a movement degrade our government's ability to control gangs at the local level. Just as with your argument in Afghanistan, the affects of globalization have equally morphed both US street gangs and the Afghan TB from "spiders to starfish" in a way that has become increasingly uncontrollable. Therefore, I believe that we should look for similar COIN related strategies to address both situations in order to preempt the Mexican cartel effects. Possibly the lessons learned countering that new enemy can likewise stop the two previously mentioned. Thanks for your time!

Wilkinson (not verified)

Fri, 10/08/2010 - 7:48am

Mannnn, my push-up muscles are gonna be huge with all you history buffs out there correcting me....ok, I was finally able to brush up my Ranger history and get on a web-site that was not blocked here in the wonderful desert of certain death.....the unit I should have been referring to was "Knowlton's Rangers". another 25 + 1 for the Ranger in the sky.
Thanks for the heads up before we made the correction.

Robert (not verified)

Fri, 10/08/2010 - 7:01am

"Rogers' Rangers did not fight the British - they fought the French during the French & Indian War..."

"We will correct this to read Mosby's Rangers."

I thought Mosby's boys fought Yankees, not British.

Wilkinson and … (not verified)

Fri, 10/08/2010 - 12:45am

Thank you for your comments. You are very correct about Rogers. We were trying to recall our early years in RIP, back in the early eighties, when we were learning Ranger history and droning; fighting off the Z-monster. We will correct this to read Mosby's Rangers. We will do the appropriate 25 push-ups + 1 for the Ranger in the sky.
Thanks again,
Sua Sponte - Rangers Lead the Way

tequila (not verified)

Thu, 10/07/2010 - 8:59pm

A few quibbling points.

Rogers' Rangers did not fight the British - they fought the French during the French & Indian War, not altogether successfully, and Robert Rogers was a notorious Tory.

I think the idea that the Taliban are criminals under sharia law would not find many supporters among Islamic jurists. That Taliban members have violated most of the tenets of proper conduct in war under sharia is indisputable, but the overall cause - defense of Muslim land under assault or occupation from non-Muslim forces - is difficult to dispute. That would be like saying that all American soldiers are war criminals under the Geneva Conventions because of the alleged actions of some 5th Stryker Brigade troopers.