Wednesday 25 May 2022 | 22:18 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 25 May 2022 | 22:18 | SYDNEY

Weaving Afghanistan back together

1 July 2011 09:05

Much is made in counterinsurgency theory of the importance of 'separating the insurgent from the population' as a means to deny them sources of refuge and reinforcement. But when viewed from the perspective of reintegration, this idea is inadequate, because it presents insurgent and population as two distinct and unchangeable groupings.

At first, 'reintegration' seems a vague concept and not central to Australia's mission in Afghanistan: yet it's arguably the expression of success in a counterinsurgency, because reintegration describes the extent to which a society weaves itself back together. According to ISAF's senior adviser on reintegration, things sound increasingly promising in Afghanistan from the tentative early steps made last year (an ADF colleague in Kabul recently made similar points in this TV interview).

To support reintegration properly, the Coalition's approach must accommodate behavioural transition, and allow individuals that were once insurgents to return to society. Turning the above maxim on its head, we need to focus on separating the insurgent from the insurgency. The only chance for an insurgent to reintegrate is to be offered an alternative that allows them to separate from the motivations, ideology and behaviour of the insurgency. If condemned forever as irredeemable, insurgency supporters are prone to become desperate and resigned to a fate of fighting until death or victory.

This is the context of my paper on Afghan reintegration, the product of six months of field work, just published by the Asia-Pacific Civil-Military Centre of Excellence.

Photo by Flickr user Canada in Afghanistan.