In Triage, the new CNAS report on Afghanistan and Pakistan authored by Andrew Exum, Nathaniel Fick, Ahmed Humayun and David Kilcullen, the word ‘Taliban’ is used 69 times. For example:
The Taliban is pursuing a strategy of exhaustion designed to bleed away public support in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Europe for continued Western engagement in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
In Afghanistan, Taliban influence has displaced government control in large sections of the country, while the government and the coalition have been unable or unwilling to guarantee security for the people.
Taliban control is increasing along with civilian casualties. According to one estimate, the Taliban have a ‘heavy presence’ across approximately three-quarters of Afghanistan’s nearly 400 districts, up from one-half only one year ago.
Until the coalition and the Afghan government are able to do so, the Taliban will maintain and expand their control, compelling and persuading the people of Afghanistan to resist the government and the coalition.
My question is this: if these bad guys are so important as to warrant being mentioned 69 times, how come not one word in the 36-page report is devoted to defining who they actually are?
The answer, of course, is that such a definition would’ve exposed a fundamental flaw in the strategy the authors propose. While a group called ‘the Taliban’ does indeed exist, CNAS has chosen to use the term to denote all non-AQ opposition to the Afghan government and the U.S.-led coalition. This misidentifies a wide range of forces currently destabilising Afghanistan, and frankly, I’m at a loss as to why guys with this much combined brainpower didn’t bother to sort out the mess.