When the US invaded Afghanistan over a decade ago the Taliban controlled more territory than any other tribal group or faction. As the US begins its drawdown in 2014 the Taliban still control more territory than the rest. Hamid Karzai, barely has any authority beyond his compound, which itself is guarded by US marines. Whilst Afghanistan has historically been the graveyard of empires, the US possessing the most technologically advanced military in history has failed to defeat the Taliban. Peace talks with the Taliban are evidence of the fact that the US has failed to defeat them. The US is now amongst a long list of empires whose military superiority has been undermined by asymmetric warfare.
In a conventional war, warfare is conducted by using military weapons and battlefield tactics between states in open confrontation. The forces on each side are well-defined, and fight using weapons that primarily target the opposing army, normally fought using conventional weapons. The general purpose of conventional warfare is to weaken or destroy the opponent’s military force, resulting in eventual capitulation thereby negating its ability to engage in any war. In a conventional war the strength is superior firepower, resources and organization. This is why the modern armored division, carrier battle group and fighter or bomber wing represent the optimized organization built around a platform designed to assault armies and societies. They remain the basic structure of modern warfare.
An Insurgency, sometimes called guerrilla warfare or irregular warfare, has been practiced for centuries across the world. One example of this was when Muhammed (saw), conducted asymmetrical military operations against the Quraish, targeting their caravans and conducting hit-and-run attacks until he was able to amass the power necessary to conquer Mecca and expand the Islamic state to include all of the Arabian peninsula.
The basic unit of guerrilla warfare is the individual and the squad. They are frequently unarmed – having hidden their weapons and when armed, they carry man-portable weapons such as rifles, rocket-propelled grenades or mortars. When unarmed, they cannot be easily distinguished from the surrounding population. They arm themselves at a time and place of their choosing – selected to minimize the probability of detection and interception. In the 20th century, insurgent theory was codified by leaders such as Russia’s Vladimir Lenin, China’s Mao Zedong, Vietnam’s General Vo Nguyen Giap and Latin America’s Che Guevara. But at its core, the theory is based on the historic concepts of declining battle when the enemy has superior forces and attacking at a time and place where the insurgents can mass sufficient forces to strike where the enemy is weak.
When a conventional force faces-off with an irregular force, as US forces did in both Afghanistan and Iraq there are a number factors that constrain the larger conventional force whilst a number of factors propel the smaller irregular force well beyond its capabilities.
Mobility – A conventional army lacks the mobility available to a much smaller irregular force. The sheer size of a conventional army, however small will never be smaller than an insurgent, this gives the insurgent the element of surprise, something not available to the conventional army. An armored division in a conventional army would also have heavy weapons which further constrains its ability to be mobile. The insurgent on the other hand can blend into its host population and engage in guerrilla warfare as and when it chooses.
Supply lines – The advantage of conventional militaries is there ability to amass a large standing force, with a wide spectrum of weapons systems on its enemy. When deployed an air force, navy and ground force can overcome its enemy forcing it to capitulate. In any standing army each unit has a different purpose contributing to an overall objective. Infantry can be light or heavy or mechanized all of this requires secure supply lines. A supply line is a large line of military supply vehicles, usually in convoy format. In any war, those fighting would need resupplies not just in military equipment but also food, water and medical supplies. Supply lines are chains connected together and all it takes is one weak link, for the whole chain to fall apart. A technological superior force has more vulnerable infrastructure which can be targeted with devastating results. This was something the Taliban successfully utilized against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. At the height of the fighting and the Taliban’s ability to strike supply lines, 60% of Soviet forces were protecting vulnerable supply lines.
Centre of gravity – Guerrilla war is extremely resistant to conventional military force because the massed systems that dominate mainstream operations cannot engage the guerrilla force. Even the mass annihilation or deportation of a population does not, in itself, guarantee the elimination of the guerilla force. So long as a single survivor knows the location of the weapons caches, the guerrilla movement can readily revive itself. Because guerrilla warfare is organized in a decentralized manner this makes it difficult to cripple such a force as it has no critical nodes within its structure. A conventional force on the other hand is organized into units linked by supply lines, making each layer critical in the overall force. This why the Soviet Union and the US conducted mass slaughter on whole towns in Afghanistan in the hope of eliminating the decentralized insurgent force. Due to this reality the counter-insurgency force has emerged as a direct result of this reality.
The advantage of the insurgent force over the invading army can be seen by taking the example of the Taliban in Afghanistan. The Taliban’s objective like all insurgents is to survive. A domestic guerrilla group almost always has more staying power than an occupier, which is projecting force over a greater distance and has the added burden of a domestic population less directly committed to a war in a foreign, far-off land. The insurgent lives in the country. He isn’t going anywhere, as he has nowhere to go. By contrast, the foreigner has a place to which he can return. This is the core weakness of the occupier and the strength of the guerrilla. The former can leave and in all likelihood, his nation will survive. The guerrilla can’t. And having alternatives undermines the foreigner’s will to fight regardless of the importance of the war to him. The strategy of the guerrilla is to make the option to withdraw more attractive. In order to do this, his strategic goal is simply to survive and fight on whatever level he can. His patience is built into who he is and what he is fighting for. If the Taliban can only survive as a cohesive and coherent entity until the US leaves Afghanistan, they will have a far less militarily capable opponent (Kabul) with whom to compete for dominance.
The Taliban undermined US military invincibility which is something that gave great confidence to countries such as China and Russia who are competing with the US. The Taliban also showed that with little military capability they were able to face-off against US military forces, unlike the gutless Muslim rulers who look the other way when the Ummah is being slaughtered. The Taliban in a period of 30 years humiliated two empires as the Muslim rulers continue with excuses that Washington and Moscow are too strong.
The Taliban have also shown that though firepower and resources are key tools in warfare it is how these are organised that can make the differences in winning wars. America’s precision weapons failed to defeat the Taliban who through smaller numbers and inferior weapons organised themselves in a manner that undermined advanced military platforms. The US was unable to defeat the Taliban, the future Khilafah will also be a completely different threat to what the US would ever have faced.
NEW BOOKLET – COMING SOON
DEFENDING THE HOMELAND AND BUILDING THE KHILAFAH’S DEFENCES
The ability of any nation to defend its borders from foreign threats is essential for its very existence. For a nation to be considered independent protecting its territorial integrity is essential otherwise its very existence comes into question. A nation that is able to secure its territorial integrity can then focus on internal development and prosperity, not having to worry about external interference. This situation is achieved through development of an industrial base that manufacturers military hardware. This then makes a nation capable of defending its borders and also makes it self-sufficient in this endeavour. This deterrent capability also gives a nation power projection capabilities, this then allows it to play a role in the world well beyond its region.
The events of the Arab spring have shown the Ummah is attempting to change the status quo and take her destiny into her own hands. Removing foreign interference and securing her borders will be essential to break free from the decades of western interference. This report is the fifth in a series looking at how the Khilafah would deal with critical areas of a new state. Industry, education, energy and foreign policy have been researched and analysed in previous publications. This booklet will analyse how nations in the modern era secure their borders, project power and create an image of strength. It will analyse the military strength of the world’s powers in order to encapsulate the factors the future Khilafah state need to consider. It will analyse the state of the defence-industrial base in the Muslim countries assessing where the strengths are and where development is needed. The booklet will also outline the policies the Khilafah will need to implement to defend the homeland and build its defences.