Monday 16 Jul 2018 | 12:57 | SYDNEY
Monday 16 Jul 2018 | 12:57 | SYDNEY

But the Taliban don't play rugby...


Rodger Shanahan


12 February 2010 10:33

I'm sorry to be so critical lately of others' posts, but if I disagree with a post on the blog about which I think I know something, I feel the need to speak out (hence my silence on economics, climate change, Asia etc). And so it is with Nick Floyd's post about the motivations driving your average Afghan to join the security forces.

For all the sadness of any soldier's death, the truth is that soldiers join armies for a range of reasons: the pay, a sense of adventure, hopes of learning transferable skills, as well as notions of patriotism. But to say that Afghans joining the security forces and government are doing so in order to revolutionise their society is to ascribe a motivation that does not necessarily exist.

The military desertion rate (9% by some accounts) and high turnover as a consequence of volunteers failing to re-enlist indicate that many are not such committed 'freedom fighters' as the author of the letter featured in Nick's post would have us believe. The endemic corruption in the police force is a further blow to the supposed selflessness of all Afghans in government service.

Absolutes rarely exist in this world, and while there are brave and committed Afghan soldiers, the author's view that all Afghan soldiers have one thing in common — 'to unite in the cause of building their country' — would not appear to be supported by the evidence. The same is true of trying to view the Taliban as a homogeneous group. 

In fact, such idealistic views are exactly the wrong way to view combatants in an insurgency, because it shields one from understanding the real motivations of both friend and foe. And as the coalition strategy in Afghanistan rests on the ability to raise effective Afghan security forces, a pragmatic approach to capability development is essential.

As for the letter writer's claims that Argentinian Che Guevara '...was the Caribbean equivalent of the Taliban', I don't know where to start. Atheist Che vs uber religious Mullah Omar; universalist Che vs avowedly local Taliban; attitudes to women's rights etc.

But in my view what makes this comparison particularly wide of the mark is the Taliban's complete ignorance of rugby, of which Che was a particularly passionate player.

Photo by Flickr user talkradionews, used under a Creative Commons license.