Farkhad Tolipov, Ph.D. (Political Science), associate professor, Department of Political Science at the National University of Uzbekistan (Tashkent, Uzbekistan)

Strategic Friction in Afghanistan

Anyone engaged in strategic analysis should bear in mind that according to the Prussian military thinker Karl von Clausewitz, everything in war is very simple, but the simplest thing is difficult. The difficulties accumulate and end by producing a kind of friction that is inconceivable unless one has experienced war. Friction is impossible to forecast, yet it could appear at any moment and should consequently be reckoned with.

Friction makes it much harder to execute a strategic plan and fulfill tactical tasks; it may even make the planned aims unattainable. I shall use this term in my analysis of the peacekeeping operation and rehabilitation in Afghanistan.

The world community has found itself in a quandary: the military-strategic, political, social, economic, and psychological situation in Afghanistan has reached its limit. Today the United States is engaged in the Enduring Freedom military operation in this country while NATO in engaged in the ISAF peacekeeping operation. The former operation is spearheaded against the Taliban and other terrorist groups while the latter aspires to stabilize the military-political situation in the country; maintain security, and encourage the rehabilitation efforts in the provinces.

The operation began on 7 October, shortly after the 9/11 tragedy, and has been going on for more than seven years now. Only some of the initial aims have been attained; moreover, in the last two to three years the situation has been going from bad to worse. Friction is coming to the fore to become one of the central factors: from time to time the Talibs carry out armed assaults; the local armed units refuse to obey central power while drug production and trafficking have reached unprecedented proportions. According to certain sources, in 2006 over 4 thousand Afghans (most of them civilians) lost their lives in armed skirmishes. This is almost three times higher than the previous year. The number of suicide terrorist acts, practically unknown in Afghanistan prior to 2002, increased from 21 to 118.

In 2007 terrorists became much more active than before: every month there were about 566 terrorist actsthe figure for 2006 was 425. In 2007, 1,500 of the more than 8 thousand victims of terrorist acts were civilians. The number of foreign contingent servicemen killed in the last two years is the highest since the U.S.-led counterterrorist coalition invaded the country and pushed the Taliban out of Kabul. In 2006, 191 coalition servicemen died in action in Afghanistan; in 2007 the figure increased to 237.

Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, admitted that the country is sliding into a quagmire of

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