Small Wars Journal

The Insurgent's Playbook

Mon, 02/27/2012 - 9:43pm

At Slate, Fred Kaplan argues that the killing of 2 officers in Afghanistan is a classic insurgent tactic... and it's working.

Once again, we find ourselves way in over our heads in Afghanistan, and at the worst possible time ...

We don’t yet know the precise motive of the man who killed two American officers in a highly secure area of the Afghan interior ministry’s headquarters over the weekend. But the incident should not be surprising; it’s a classic case of insurgency tactics ...

Of the 58 NATO soldiers killed in Afghanistan so far this year, 10 have been at the hands of Afghan personnel whom they’d been training. 


If the insurgents demonstrate that not even American officers are safe, not even in the most secure corridors of the Afghan interior ministry, it... reinforces the theme that the government and its protectors can’t protect the Afghan people, ... sows distrust between the government and its protectors, ... [and]  severely weakens the government.

Read the whole short, but excellent article at Slate.  Hat tip to @GregJaffe and @smsaideman for the Tweet.

Categories: advisors - COIN - Afghanistan


I dont think it really matters who did the killing. Of course the Taliban will exploit each incident even if they are not involved.

What I find perplexing is that still at this late stage many observers and seasoned commentators on Afghanistan keep thinking the violence is all from the Taliban. That is rubbish. The violence is from all sorts of people with a vast array of unscrupulous designs. I know of armed robberies and local staff being shot for the pay-day money they carry - but this was not the Taliban. Projects where workers are being shot at but this is not the Taliban. Threats of violence if projects start in one place but not the other and this is from Provincial Governor's offices.

We also know that in places like Afghanistan even if we pay staff, feed them, put a roof over their head, they may still shoot you tomorrow - especially if their honour or religion has been severely trashed. In a nation where violence is and has been a common vent for frustration from many fronts this latest killing is not surprising.

Mr. Kaplan's thesis rests upon motivation. He seems to think the ANSF murderers of ISAF people are Taliban or inspired by the Taliban. That doesn't seem to be the case. They appears to be Afghans in the ANSF who are very upset with us for various perceived personal and general wrongs. That being the case, we have a very great failure on our hands. In a big war or a small war, if your allies get so upset with you that they begin murdering your people monthly, you have done and are doing something very wrong (wrong as in incompetent).

gian gentile

Tue, 02/28/2012 - 6:13am

What was interesting about Kaplan's piece was how much it relied on the now known,proven-to-be-broken FM 3-24 and so called "classic" coin text by Galula. Kaplan writes as if these two works explain what happens in insurgencies. They do not, and perhaps Kaplan would have been well advised to read Gregor Mathias's new book on Galula in Algeria which argues that he largely failed at everything Galula himself said he succeeded at. And 3-24 and Petraeus, Fred? Come on bro, it is becoming increasingly accepted that the Surge and 3-24 played only a marginal role in the events in Iraq in 2007 (Doug Ollivant's recent piece).

What is curious is why Kaplan still bases his writings on these largely discredited works. If we are truly trying to understand events in Afghanistan today I would instead turn to the writings of Bob Jones, or the new book by John Mackinlay; but certainly not on the broken works of Galula and Petraeus.