Future of the Insurgency

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Intelligence Note                                                                    31 OCT 2009
The Taliban’s future context for Insurgency Strategy
In a post election Afghanistan insurgents will seek to establish and expand influence. They will
remain dedicated to opposing ISAF and GoA expansion exploiting areas of operation based on
sympathetic populations, weak governance, and lack of security force presence. Their structure will
remain diffuse and difficult to penetrate. Although not technologically advanced, insurgents have
proven to be persistent, adaptable, and resilient and their fighters are not easily defeated by military
means alone. Resourced and sustained by elements beyond the Afghan borders, insurgents have
absorbed tactical blows and have continued to be able to strike back. However, moving ahead in a
post election environment, they must produce tangible results that indicate they are capable of
Who are they, why will they continue to
Insurgents can be broadly classified into a
structure ranging from leaders, to experienced
cadre and combatants, to provisional fighters
and supporters. We have some precision of
knowledge about the top tier of leadership and
cadre of the Taliban, Haqqani and Hezb-e
Islami Gulbuddin groups. We understand their
motivations and have a generalized knowledge
of their operational areas and inter-group
relationships. However the lower tier becomes
much more blended and diverse, and offers a
greater challenge to determine “why they
fight?” as this will differ from insurgent to
insurgent, tribe to tribe, region to region. As we enter a post election environment, these
complexities will not change. Insurgents will remain motivated to fight by a range of different
factors and commitment to the leadership’s broader aims. We can identify five main sources of
motivation to take up arms against the GoA and ISAF: power, ideology, money, frustration and fear.
These factors influence all groups in different measures, with those at the top most influenced by
power and ideology, the bottom motivated by fear.
How will they fight?
Insurgent forces in Afghanistan are not as technologically advanced as the forces arrayed against
them. However, they are adept enough to use the resources available, - IEDs, mines, mortars and
rockets, small arms, and RPGs - to accomplish their objectives. More advanced technology is “nice
to have”, but they are facing a relatively unarmored force, and with low geographic security force
densities, and per geographic areas in some cases intimidation and fear are their most leveraged
weapons. They will achieve most of their desired effects not through tactical victories but through
information operations leaving little requirement to employ more sophisticated weapon systems.
They are able, and will continue to translate, the absence or transient nature of ISAF/ANSF elements
into growing control and influence (or at least the perception of) at the local level. It is this ability to
build insecurity from the tribal level up which alleviates the need for insurgent large tactical


victories. This does not inhibit insurgent adaptation as they continue to learn from observation of
ISAF forces and will remain a lethal force.
How many?
We do not have a defined order of battle allowing us to accurately determine strength, and given the
nature of the insurgency it is unlikely one can be developed. COE’s best assessment places senior
leadership numbers in double digits; cadre and combatants in the mid thousands; additionally we
assess foreign elements run to the low hundreds. It is more difficult to evaluate provisional numbers
as fighting at this level is often circumstance-based. It is the insurgents’ ability to garner local
support that is the most undefined. While the upper tiers of insurgents are finite in number, the
number of provisional fighters will remain dependent upon local perceptions of justness, benefits to
be gained, or simply a matter of perception as to who is “winning”.
Main threat to the GoA:
The Taliban is the main threat to the GoA, while other groups follow its lead. We judge the Taliban
will demonstrate a continuance of its strategy which has helped it stay relevant since 2004.
Insurgents will continue direct attempts to expand their influence at the district and provincial level
in the South and East whilst simultaneously undermining GoA in other portions of Afghanistan.
Insurgents will seek to demonstrate an expanded influence in the north and the west, to prevent the
consolidation of GoA authority and draw ISAF resources away from its main effort in the South and
East. The northern and western ethnic demographics will limit the ability insurgent activity can be
sustained. Violence and isolated high profile attacks will project the appearance of increasing
presence disproportionate to their actual freedom of movement. . It will seek the removal of
international development organizations by targeting entities such as NGOs/UN in order to
undermine the GoA ability to deliver development and build capacity to govern, and replace these
organizations with its own shadow governance. Simultaneously, the Taliban will conduct a
campaign of influence and intimidation against the population backed by force in areas security
forces are not present.
The Taliban will likely enter 2010 holding four key assumptions that drive its actions against the
GoA and ISAF:
     - The Taliban has time, can outlast the GoA and ISAF, and eventually return to power.
     - The Talban can inflict isolated tactical defeats on international forces that will hasten their
departure by weakening the international will to remain in Afghanistan.
     - The Taliban views control of southern Afghanistan / P2K as key to victory.
     - The Taliban can balance its relationship with other likeminded groups to achieve its goals.
Assessment - Opportunity:
Any gains made by the insurgency can be reversed and although they perceive that have the ability
to outlast ISAF and the international community, they do not have unlimited time. The insurgency
must demonstrate evidence to the ability to win the war in order to secure expansion of popular
support, especially in the aftermath of tactical defeats. Failure to garner evidence of victory will
reduce recruitment, and force the insurgents to depend more on strong arm tactics which could
alienate willing tribal support. The insurgency is not able to stand back and watch the GoA and
ISAF provide security and governance to the population. The degree, to which our kinetic operations
can be brought to bear against the insurgent leadership while combined non-kinetic operations
separate committed cadre and combatants from the broader populace, will be the primary inhibitor of
the insurgent groups’ ability to maintain or increase their momentum.


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