Insurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan
Insurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan
Political stability in most of the Middle East countries, especially in the Arab world, has been an evergreen subject since time immemorial. Most governments have been facing various political intolerance, which is coupled with both civilian and terror insurgencies. However, the main threat emerged as jihadist groups whose main aim was to control the government to perpetuate their propaganda (Cambanis et al., 2019). As a result, there has been a series of attacks in these countries following a deadly war between these terrorist groups and the government forces. These wars have led to increased civilian casualties, especially when terrorists tend to attack innocent civilians to make statements and weaken the governments. Some of the most affected countries are Iraq and Afghanistan. These countries have continued to face challenges that have weakened them to the extent of collapsing. Deadly terrorist organizations such as Islamic State and Al-Qaeda have found for a long time used Iraq as their haven (Cambanis et al., 2019). At the same time, the Taliban group continues to dominate in Afghanistan, making the countries almost inhabitable. This paper discusses the causes of insurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan that have made the countries politically unstable and on the verge of humanitarian crises.
Insurgency in Iraq
In 2003, the US-led coalition troops occupied Iraq and ousted Saddam Hussein’s regime for committing various atrocities against the civilians, which saw Saddam Hussein being executed after being found guilty. The ouster of Saddam Hussein marked a new beginning in Iraq. The coalition forces led by the US military formed a new government that would operate under the rule of law and protects human rights. However, not all the Iraqis were happy about the invasion. As a result, several militia groups emerged that opposed the US presence in Iraq and its support for the Iraqi government. The insurgent group vowed to wage war against the government and foreign forces with the view of liberating the Iraqis and maintaining their independence. However, there was more to the insurgent groups than protecting Iraqi sovereignty. Most of these groups conducted radicalization among the civilians by preaching jihad. Their aim became waging terror attacks on both the civilians and military forces. This saw the growth of terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda and Islamic State increase attacks on the people, causing mass civilian casualties.
According to analysts, there is often a close association between insurgent groups and terrorism. Most insurgent groups easily turn into terrorist groups if radical leaders manage them. Those insurgent groups often tend to restrain and control the civilians to attract civilian support in their quest for change in the government (Weinstein, 2006). In contrast, other groups tend to use the civilians by attacking them to communicate their demands and initiate negotiations with the government. In the case of Iraq, some groups worked with the locals while others used the locals. The offensive nature of most of the insurgent groups who used the civilians made the civilians rise against them and started collaborating with the government and foreign forces to fight the jihadists. For instance, when the war in Ramadi, Anbara was intense between the insurgent group of Al-Qaeda in Iraq and the US forces, the locals formed a movement, Sahawa Al-Anbara, that collaborated with the US forces to drive away Al-Qaeda. Despite the political aspect of the insurgency, the major part of the war was a result of religion, where the factions of Islam clashed due to ideological differences. In 2006, a civil war up-surged after Al-Qaeda in Iraq, a Sunni organization destroyed Al-Askari shrine of Shia Islam (Shiffman, 2020). This led to the Shia militia groups’ retaliatory attacks on Sunni civilians and subsequent counter-attacks on Shia civilians by the Sunni militia groups.
Ideological differences and religious extremism can also be traced to the formation of another deadly organization, the Islamic State (ISIS), which was a major player in the Iraqi insurgency. The formation of a Shia government in Iraq gave the Sunni militia the argument to rise against the government and create a hostile environment for the government to operate. This gave ISIS the advantage to organize and recruit civilians supporting Sunni Islam to join its forces and fight the government to oust it (Malkasian, 2017). In 2013, ISIS emerged as a leading threat to the Iraqi government and the rest of the world. They wanted to fill the void left by Al-Qaeda in Iraq, which had been rendered weak at that time. The Iraqi government played a significant role in causing the chaos after it tried to arrest the Vice president, the highest-ranking Sunni government official. This move angered Sunni tribes, causing mass demonstrations against the government. The ensuing chaos and instability created a conducive environment for the Islamic State to organize itself and launch attacks on the government (Malkasian, 2017). ISIS waged war on the Iraqi government for a long time until its defeat in 2017. However, ISIL has continued to fight the government forces up to the present time through terrorism.
Afghanistan has recently fallen back into the hands of the Taliban, who rapidly retook the country after US troops and other foreign military announced plans to leave the country. The 20-year war that saw the invasion of US and coalition troops in Afghanistan after 9/11 ended in a tragic way that saw the top leaders of the Afghani government flee the country and soldiers surrender the insurgence of the Taliban. The US had been intending to establish a democratic, politically stable government that would aim at respecting human rights and creating a peaceful environment for the citizens of Afghanistan.
The insurgency in Afghanistan can be traced back to 2001 when the United States invaded the country after 9/11. This was an operation aimed at cracking down Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden who was responsible for America’s deadliest. It was believed that the Taliban leadership in Afghanistan was harboring Al-Qaeda and creating a haven for them to conduct their operations that caused mass civilian casualties. After its defeat, the Taliban retreated to neighboring Pakistan. They regrouped and started attacking the Afghanistan government forces and the US-led coalition forces to secure the freedom of Afghanistan from whom they termed invaders. The war, which became America’s longest-serving war, can be analyzed from political and religious views.
Afghanistan has been a war-torn country even before the invasion of the US in 2001. The country has been at war with the Soviet Union for trying to westernize its civilization. The then Mujahedeen fighters who later formed the Taliban group resisted the Soviet Union with the help of the United States. They believed that Afghanistan was an Islamic country and should be ruled under Islamic laws. After the Soviet Union had left the country, internal conflict emerged among the tribal leaders fighting for control over the country. These tantrums allowed the Taliban to rise to power where they would institute the Sharia laws. With the help of the Pakistanis, the Taliban was able to capture Kabul and establish a government.
However, the Taliban’s leadership was an opportunity for terrorist groups such as AL-Qaeda to thrive and expand their empire. The US invasion’s objective was to eliminate the Taliban and other terror groups and establish a government that would prevent the return of the terrorist groups in Afghanistan. As a result, after overthrowing the Taliban regime, the US formed an Interim government led by Hamid Karzai. In exile, the Taliban leaders made several attempts for a peaceful resolution that would see them being included as part of the government. However, the US did not consider such invitations because they were confident that they had defeated the Taliban. It was no longer a threat, which did not give them the leverage to sit on the negotiation table.
The failure to negotiate with the Taliban gave them a reason to regroup and started offensive attacks against the government and the US-led coalition forces. With the support of the locals in the countryside, the Taliban increasingly became popular and continued to recruit new fighters into the group. The US forces had relied heavily on the locals to give them intelligence about the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. However, the locals misled the US forces on their side, giving the Taliban intelligence advantage in the countryside. Another mistake by the US was the failure to form a solid Afghan Military that would defend the country from such an insurgency. In other words, the US had underestimated the Taliban’s ability to regroup, thus giving room to many loopholes. This has seen the Taliban grow slowly into a strong organization that kept the US soldiers in Afghanistan busy for more than 16 years until President Ghani’s recent victory.
In conclusion, the insurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan are similar because they involve resistance to US invasion in both countries. The existence of terrorism, lack of stable governments to prevent terror activities, and violation of human rights have been the primary cause of US invasions in these countries. Religion extremism has also been a significant reason for continued resistance by the insurgent groups. This is through radicalization and the spread of jihadist propaganda by terrorist groups to recruit members into their forces for a continued fight.
Cambanis, T., Esfandiary, D., Ghaddar, S., Hanna, M., Lund, A., & Mansour, R. (2019). Hybrid actors. Century Foundation Press.
Malkasian, C. (2017). Illusions of victory: The Anbar awakening and the rise of the Islamic State. Oxford University Press.
Shiffman, G. (2020). Economics of Violence. Retrieved 27 October 2021, from http://www.cambridge.org/9781107092464.
Weinstein, J. M. (2006). Inside rebellion: The politics of insurgent violence. Cambridge University Press.