The Taliban at war: inside the Helmand insurgency, 2004-2012

About the author(s):

Katharine Fortin is an Associate Professor at Utrecht University where she teaches IHL and IHRL. Before joining Utrecht University, she worked at the ICTY, ICC and Norton Rose Fulbright. She is the author of The Accountability of Armed Groups under Human Rights Law (Oxford University Press, 2017) which won the 2018 Lieber Prize. She has written widely about the framework of law that applies to armed groups in non-international armed conflicts and is one of the editors of the Armed Groups and International Law blog.

International Affairs A new article – ‘The Taliban at war: inside the Helmand insurgency, 2004-2012’ –  has come out in the journal of International Affairs examining how the conflict in Afghanistan looks from the Taliban perspective. The article is co-written by Professor Theo Farrell and Visiting Professor Antonio Giustozzi of King’s College London.

In seeking to explain why and how the war in Afghanistan has dragged on, the article’s authors note that most analysis has focused on the western and Afghan government effort. This article examines how the war looks from the perspective of the insurgency. Using Helmand province as a case-study, the authors draw on a large number of original interviews with Taliban field commanders and fighters to produce a detailed picture of the Taliban at war.

In the first section, the article explores 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 the authors examine the evolution of the Taliban insurgency in Helmand since 2006. They 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 from the article 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.

See also here for a podcast of Michael Keating, Senior Consulting Fellow at Chatham House talking with co-author Professor Theo Farrell about the article.

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