The Islamic State in Afghanistan: Examining its Threat to Stability
International Affairs
In seeking to explain why and how the war in Afghanistan has dragged on, most analysis has focused on the western and Afghan government effort. In this article, we examine how the war looks from the perspective of the insurgency. Using Helmand province as a case-study, we draw on a large number of original interviews with Taliban field commanders and fighters to produce a uniquely detailed picture of the Taliban at war. In the first section, we explore how the Taliban returned to Helmand from 2004 to 2006, and show how the British made the situation far worse when they deployed forces to Helmand in 2006. In the second part of the article we examine the evolution of the Taliban insurgency in Helmand since 2006. We show how the Taliban has developed an increasingly centralized organizational structure, a more militarized shadow government and greater professionalism of field units. The overall picture that emerges is of a resilient insurgency that has adapted under immense military pressure. The Taliban have suffered very heavy attrition in Helmand, but they are far from defeated.