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THE CULTURE AND CONFLICT REVIEW Click for an RSS Feed for the Latest Articles

Issue: Vol. 2, # 4 - Special Edition

The Culture & Conflict Review is an online peer-review journal produced by the Program for Culture & Conflict Studies, bringing you analysis of current events, policy, operations, and human terrain in South and Central Asia as well as other regions of the world. Premised on the belief that the United States must understand the culture and human terrain of other nations and peoples, we offer commentary and analysis on issues of current interest to policy makers, military commanders, academics, and the general public. We are particularly interested in issues addressing culture, anthropology, regional and identity politics, and the contemporary role of U.S. forces in areas of conflict. New issues of The Culture & Conflict Review are published on a quarterly basis.


Welcome to The Culture & Conflict Review

I am pleased to announce that the Program for Culture and Conflict Studies is now joined by a research fellow presently residing in and reporting from Kandahar City, Afghanistan. Our new fellow will be offering reports, analyses and news items from Kandahar on a fairly regular basis.  All of these products – at least over the near term – will be presented under the penname of “Conrad Jennings.” After considerable thought we decided that it would be best considering the dire and extremely volatile situation in Kandahar that our new fellow would not publish under his name.  We wanted to err towards caution and not have his work with us represent an impediment to interact with the people and collect information for analysis.

Kandahar City, the capital of Kandahar Province and Afghanistan’ second largest city is critical for evaluating the situation in Afghanistan for a number of reasons.   First, since founded by Ahmad Shah Durrani in 1761, Kandahar has served as an important spiritual center partly because it is the home for over two centuries of the powerful icon of the legendary cloak of the Prophet Mohammed.  This garment which is securely housed in an ornate blue-tiled shrine has tremendous importance for many Afghans and represents one of Islam’s most symbolic treasures.  The importance of the cloak was epitomized in 1996 when Mullah Mohammed Omar Akhund removed the sacred garment from its shrine and displayed it to a large crowd in Kandahar. This stunt catapulted Mullah Omar to a level of mystical power and resulted in his being locally proclaimed Amir-ul Momineen (the Leader of the Faithful).

Second, Kandahar served as the seat of government for the short-lived Taliban regime (1996-2001) and has been the focus of significant Taliban insurgent activity in the last few years. The Taliban movement in its most recent incarnation (Talibs have been a fixture in and around Kandahar over a 100 years) was born in Kandahar province in 1994. The importance of the city to the Taliban was clearly recognized when Mullah Omar decided against relocating the Taliban capital to Kabul after it was captured in September 1996.

Third, the insurgency in the south has recently been extremely pronounced among the Canadians who are in charge of the counterinsurgency efforts in Kandahar appealing for international assistance in their battles with the Taliban.  Historically, controlling Afghanistan has required command of both Kabul and Kandahar.   Invaders have traditionally tried to conquer Afghanistan by taking Kandahar and making the trek to Kabul or vice versa.

The paper that follows is a broad yet comprehensive statement by Conrad on the situation in Kandahar and the challenges it presents to NATO/ISAF. The recommendations and observations presented in the paper are based on the audacious first-hand experiences Conrad has acquired living in Kandahar among the local populace. It should also be noted the paper is derived from a speech originally given by Conrad on the deteriorating security situation currently plaguing Kandahar province.

We are also pleased to offer a first-hand perspective of the role of Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Eastern Afghanisan.  ENS Bebber provides a nuanced look at PRTs and their "model" of success in counterinsurgency operations.  He explains, from personal experience, that the model proved to be "illusory".  Bebber then provides clear recommendations on how we can better the PRT model and turn them into real agents of development in Afghanistan.

Enjoy the journal!

Thomas H. Johnson



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