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CCS Research Update
CCS Editor, 7/15/2008

CCS has updated the website with new tribal maps, tribal genealogies, provincial overviews, updates of political leadership, and much more.  Click on the links below to see our latest additions:


  • March - 2008 ISA Annual Convention: Bridging Multiple Divides, San Francisco, CA., “Taliban Narratives and Implications for the Counterinsurgency”
  • April - Canadian/US Engagement in Afghanistan: an Analysis of the “Whole of Government” Approach, hosted by the George Mason University in Arlington, VA, “Afghanistan: Present Dilemmas and Future Contingencies”
  • April - Rule of Law and Governance as Stabilization Tools, hosted by the National Defense University in Washington, DC., “Post-conflict Governance in Afghanistan”
  • May - Possible Future for Afghanistan Conference, hosted by the Meridian International Center in Washington, DC
  • May - Afghanistan End-Game Workshop, hosted by the Centra Technology in McLean, VA


  • Thomas H. Johnson and M. Chris Mason, “No Sign until the Burst of Fire: Understanding the Pakistan-Afghanistan Frontier,” International Security, Vol, 32, No. 4, Spring 2008.

ABSTRACT: The Pakistan-Afghanistan border area has become the most dangerous frontier on earth, and the most challenging for the United States’ national security interests. Critically, the portion of the border region which is now home to extremist groups like the Taliban and al Qaida coincides almost exactly with the area overwhelmingly dominated by the Pashtun tribes. The implications of this salient fact – that most of Pakistan’s and Afghanistan’s violent religious extremism, and with it much of the United States' counterterrorism challenge, are contained within a single ethno linguistic group – have unfortunately not been fully grasped by a governmental policy community that has long downplayed cultural dynamics. The threat to long-term US security interests in this area is neither an economic problem, nor a religious problem, nor a generic “tribal” problem. It is a unique cultural problem. In both southern Afghanistan and the tribal areas of Pakistan, rather than seeking to “extend the reach of the central government,” which simply foments insurgency among a proto-insurgent people, the U.S. and the international community should be doing everything in their means to empower the tribal elders and restore balance to a tribal/cultural system that has been disintegrating since the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979.

  • Thomas H. Johnson and Alec E. Metz, “Afghanistan: the Challenges Ahead,” FrontLine Defence, Mar/Apr 2008, p.12-14.
  • Thomas H. Johnson and Richard English, “Rethinking Afghanistan: the echoes of Ulster and the IRA,” Policy Options, June 2008, p. 14-22. 

The US and NATO sit precariously perched on the precipice of failure in Afghanistan. As suggested by Lieutenant-General David Richards, former commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, "We need to realize we could actually fail here." Such a failure could irreparably damage NATO’s credibility and create a regional crisis throughout central and south Asia. In this article, Thomas H. Johnson and Richard English suggest that the lessons drawn from British experience in Northern Ireland might be constructively applied to the situation in Afghanistan — offering a way for NATO to edge back from the brink of failure and regional catastrophe.

  • Shahid Afsar, Chris Samples, and Thomas Wood, “The Taliban: An organizational analysis,” Military Review, May-June 2008, p. 58-73.

EXCERPT: "The Taliban organization is a network of franchises, an arrangement that fits well with tribal traditions. A small militant group begins calling itself 'the local Taliban.' It gains some form of recognition from the central Taliban hierarchy in return for its support and cooperation. The new cell supports Taliban grand strategy, but retains local freedom of action. This modus operandi preserves tribal loyalties and territorial boundaries. A typical Taliban village cell has between 10 and 50 part-time fighters and a smattering of ideologically motivated persons and mercenaries from other areas.
"The cell runs its own intelligence collection, logistics, and population-control activities with coordination and support from other cells. [...] Essentially performing most tasks independently, the cell has a reciprocal relationship with other Taliban cells for physical and intelligence support; sequential interdependence for passage of information and couriers, equipment, and sometimes finances; and pooled interdependence with the higher hierarchy for media operations, IED-making, technical intelligence collection, specialized training, and additional financial support."


ABSTRACT: The Taliban organization has undergone a major transformation since its ouster from power in Afghanistan and continues to wage an effective defensive insurgency or “war of the flea.” The study uses results of a survey of knowledgeable participants in the Afghan-Pakistan arena, conducted by the authors, to analyze the current situation and prospects for success. The thesis explains the Taliban's survival and growth in the face of significant odds by analyzing the organizations' strengths, weaknesses, and how it adapts in response to Coalition Forces' counterinsurgency efforts. The Taliban are deeply rooted in the cultural, religious, and ethnic linkages of the Pashtun population. The thesis emphasizes that a conventional counterinsurgency strategy using large-scale military operations and a fundamentally alien system of governance out of harmony with local traditions cannot penetrate the Pashtun tribal, religious, and cultural web in which the Taliban operate. The thesis concludes with recommendations for designing and implementing a broader Coalition strategy to target identified Taliban critical linkages.

ABSTRACT: This thesis is a comparative study of conflict and opium in the Golden Crescent and Golden Triangle, focusing in particular on Afghanistan-Pakistan and Burma. It takes a state building approach to analyze the formation and composition of opiate-funded “proto-states” in the two regions, with case studies on the Taliban and the United WaState Party. Historic, political, ethnic and cultural factors are explored in relation to each region and proto-state case. The basic argument is that opium and opiate trade provided capital for the formation of basic state-like entities that conduct all the basic state-building activities as defined in the literature. What are often called “insurgent groups” are actually armies of proto-states. What are often called “insurgencies” are actually conflicts between infant states in areas that never contained nation-states. This paradigm suggests an alternate method to study these two areas: a method that emphasizes history and anthropology to understand the basic motivations and attributes of the proto-state actors.

ABSTRACT: Operational commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan have identified a socio-cultural capabilities gap. Historically, when faced with a non-Western adversary, knowledge of the adversary’s asymmetric socio-cultural values has been a key component in achieving conflict resolution. As such, a number of organizations within the U.S. government and civilian sector have undertaken initiatives to quantify what has been termed human terrain. Multiple theories, concepts, and models reside within the confines of social sciences that describe human activities, interactions, and behavior. One organization in particular has developed methods to quantify human terrain. The organization has been able to responsively fuse a wide array of different sciences, technology, and information systems to provide cohesive products to operational commanders. Utilizing a systems approach, the organization was examined to identify methods and techniques that describe and enumerate geo-spatial, socio-cultural relationships and interactions. The identification of unique system variables is the key element in replicating the organization’s capabilities. By reproducing these critical variables other U.S. Government and non-government organizations can leverage the examined organization’s methodology and produce similar results for analyzing and quantifying complex, human-centric problems regardless of the actual geographical location of interest.

ABSTRACT: This thesis examines the impact of collateral damage on the Taliban insurgency. It reveals the relationship between death of innocent civilians and the tribal concept of badal (revenge). Research also analyzes Taliban propaganda leaflets to illustrate the compromise of popular support caused by collateral damage stemming from the Coalition’s tactics. Research probes into the historical Anglo-Afghan wars and the 1979 Soviet invasion to draw parallels to the current insurgency. In doing so, it highlights the rising role of religion and FATA, Pakistan. FATA is analyzed to show the effects of intrusions by outside actors as well as historical and recent events that have shaped the populace and structure of these tribal regions. Lastly, the research concludes by offering non-kinetic solutions to curbing the Taliban insurgency. The solutions focus on FATA and offer socio-economic and political remedies to hinder with the Taliban recruitment efforts and cross-border incursions. Thesis recognizes FATA and reduction in collateral damage as pivotal factors to fostering stability in the region.