Stanley's blog

“By May 1928 the basic principles of guerilla warfare…had already been evolved; that is, the sixteen-character formula: The enemy advances, we retreat; the enemy camps, we harass; the enemy tires, we attack; the enemy retreats, we pursue.” (Mao Zedong, 1936).

This post is inspired by the columnist Gwynne Dyer.

“The ability to run away is the essence of the guerrilla,” wrote Mao.

We are still talking in terms of winning the ‘war’. The plan in Helmand province, is to capture the towns (“clear and hold”), and then saturate the area with Afghan troops and police and win the hearts and minds of locals by providing better security and public services.

But the people of Helmand province are Pashtuns, and the Taliban are almost exclusively a Pashtun organisation. Almost no-one of the troops and police who are supposed to win local hearts and minds are mainly Tajils and unwelcome outsiders in Helmand.

It is hard to believe that the plan in Helmand province or elsewhere in Afghanistan can possibly work. The Taliban leaders are locals and have unlimited staying power: NATO troops do not.

History offers us many examples of guerrilla successes but very, very few of failures. Afghan history is particularly graphic but has been consistently ignored.

Everyone agrees that only the Aghans themselves can solve long-term the problems of their country. The idea of a Karzai-led Afghanistan winning the hearts and minds of the population as a whole is a pipe dream.

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