Organizations at War in Afghanistan and Beyond

Organizations at War in Afghanistan and Beyond

Abdulkader H. Sinno
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 352
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    Organizations at War in Afghanistan and Beyond
    Book Description:

    While popular accounts of warfare, particularly of nontraditional conflicts such as guerrilla wars and insurgencies, favor the roles of leaders or ideology, social-scientific analyses of these wars focus on aggregate categories such as ethnic groups, religious affiliations, socioeconomic classes, or civilizations. Challenging these constructions, Abdulkader H. Sinno closely examines the fortunes of the various factions in Afghanistan, including the mujahideen and the Taliban, that have been fighting each other and foreign armies since the 1979 Soviet invasion.

    Focusing on the organization of the combatants, Sinno offers a new understanding of the course and outcome of such conflicts. Employing a wide range of sources, including his own fieldwork in Afghanistan and statistical data on conflicts across the region, Sinno contends that in Afghanistan, the groups that have outperformed and outlasted their opponents have done so because of their successful organization. Each organization's ability to mobilize effectively, execute strategy, coordinate efforts, manage disunity, and process information depends on how well its structure matches its ability to keep its rivals at bay. Centralized organizations, Sinno finds, are generally more effective than noncentralized ones, but noncentralized ones are more resilient absent a safe haven.

    Sinno's organizational theory explains otherwise puzzling behavior found in group conflicts: the longevity of unpopular regimes, the demise of popular movements, and efforts of those who share a common cause to undermine their ideological or ethnic kin. The author argues that the organizational theory applies not only to Afghanistan-where he doubts the effectiveness of American state-building efforts-but also to other ethnic, revolutionary, independence, and secessionist conflicts in North Africa, the Middle East, and beyond.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-5930-6
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Maps and Figures
    (pp. ix-ix)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. x-x)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Note on Transliteration
    (pp. xiii-xiii)
  7. Maps
    (pp. xiv-xvi)
  8. Chapter 1 Organizing to Win
    (pp. 1-20)

    After we had exchanged the requisite formalities over tea in his camp on the southern edge of Kabul’s outer defense perimeter, the Afghan field commander told me that two of his bravest mujahideen were martyred because he did not have a pickup truck to take them to a Peshawar hospital. They had succumbed to their battle wounds. He asked me to tell his party’s bureaucrats across the border that he needed such a vehicle desperately. I double-checked with my interpreter that he was indeed making this request. I wasn’t puzzled because the request appeared unreasonable but because he was asking...

  9. Part One: An Organizational Theory of Group Conflict

    • Chapter 2 Organization and the Outcome of Conflicts
      (pp. 23-45)

      Sustained action by either the state (or occupying power) and its challengers generally requires an organizational framework. Organization allows for coordination among participants, the maintenance of discipline, the minimization of free riding, the efficient mobilization and distribution of resources, the preservation and generation of necessary learning, and the purposeful use of sophisticated strategies to undermine rivals. The way such processes are executed by an organization and its rivals strongly affects their odds of success. In this chapter I discuss the meaning of organization and structure, describe how political organizations develop, how they can be structured, the possible outcomes of conflict,...

    • Chapter 3 Advantages and Limitations of Structures
      (pp. 46-86)

      How do the structures of the state (or occupier) and the organizations challenging its control affect their interaction? Organizational structure is intimately intertwined with the ability to formulate, implement, and counter strategies; to coordinate among participants; to mobilize resources; to enforce control and discipline; to allow for either resilience or flexibility; to assist in attracting outside aid; to develop intraorganizational cohesion and competition; and, finally, to generate and preserve knowledge. The way organizations perform those eight basic processes affects their odds of outlasting their rivals. Different structural components and dimensions restrict or affect all of them in ways that can...

    • Chapter 4 The Gist of the Organizational Theory
      (pp. 87-98)

      The organizational theory of group conflict assumes that societal groups, civilizations, religions, and nations do not engage in conflict or strategic interaction—organizations do. Its underlying principle is that the distribution of power within organizations (what we call structure) engaged in conflict creates incentives that motivate the individual behavior of organizational members in ways that affect each organization’s ability to outlast its rivals and to win the conflict.

      How each generic organizational structure performs the eight essential organizational processes with and without a safe haven, based on the discussion from chapter 3, is summarized in figure 4.1.The plus and minus...

  10. Part Two: Explaining the Outcomes of Afghan Conflicts

    • Chapter 5 The Soviet Withdrawal from Afghanistan
      (pp. 101-118)

      The Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan was generally viewed as a devastating blow to Soviet foreign policy. Some observers of the course of events in Afghanistan marveled at the capacity of poorly equipped and trained rural Afghans to trounce the Soviet military, and some even credited the unruly tribesmen with striking the blow that ultimately led to the demise of the Soviet Union.¹ In addition to signaling Soviet weakness to enemies, allies, satellites, and republics, the Soviet withdrawal allowed some Afghans to support Islamic and ethnically oriented groups under the Soviet yoke; demonstrated how weak, unmotivated, and badly organized the Red...

    • Chapter 6 Resilience through Division, 1979–1989
      (pp. 119-172)

      How did the Afghan resistance manage to be so resilient that it made the Soviet occupation of the country too costly and bereft of strategic advantages to maintain? The structure of the resistance locked it up in a confrontational strategy, and the patronage ties and the multiplicity of mujahideen parties also bestowed critical operational advantages under adversity and absent a safe haven. The multiplicity of locally specialized field commanders made it more difficult for the Soviets to co-opt them, and it allowed the mujahideen to effectively mobilize much of the rural population, to maintain local internal cohesion and discipline, to...

    • Chapter 7 The Cost of the Failure to Restructure, 1989–1994
      (pp. 173-221)

      The Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan gave the mujahideen the potential to take the strategic initiative by providing them with a safe haven in large areas of the countryside. On its own, the Kabul regime was reduced to defending the larger cities and most provincial capitals. Most of its border posts and lesser garrisons were either evacuated or captured by the resistance. Mujahideen parties were finally able to supply their commanders without fear of aerial bombing or ambushes by highly mobile Soviet paratroopers. Large campaigns like the eight massive assaults the Soviets conducted in Panjshir were a thing of the past....

    • Chapter 8 The Rise of the Taliban, 1994–2001
      (pp. 222-253)

      The relative winners of the 1989–94 phase of the Afghan conflict did not savor their survival for long. Just when it seemed that they had achieved some sort of balance of power and that lines of conflict had become more clearly drawn, a new organization emerged to dramatically reshape the dynamics of the conflict. The Taliban grew from a small group of idealistic religious students with some military training into a sprawling organization that dominated more than nine-tenths of Afghanistan in less than five years.¹ They swept away all the warlords—petty and mighty alike, with the single exception...

    • Chapter 9 Afghan Conflicts under U.S. Occupation, 2001–
      (pp. 254-278)

      The September 2001 suicide attacks on the United States ushered in the direct involvement of the United States in Afghan conflicts. Osama bin Laden did not claim responsibility for the 9/11 attacks until well after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, probably in an attempt to protect his hosts and to diffuse U.S. energy in the pursuit of unknown attackers. There was little doubt, however, that al-Qaida was behind the attacks, and the United States invaded Afghanistan in October and November 2001 to defeat the organization and its Taliban hosts. The invasion was executed along an innovative model (later dubbed the...

  11. Part Three: And Beyond . . .

    • Chapter 10 The Organizational Theory beyond Afghanistan
      (pp. 281-304)

      Will the organizational theory’s predictions hold beyond Afghanistan? My findings are not unique to Afghanistan, nor even to the Muslim world.

      I test the ability of the organizational theory of group conflict and others to postdict the survival of organizations involved in conflicts and the outcomes of the conflicts in which they participated on an original ad hoc data set. The conflicts in the data set consist of all revolutionary, resistance, separatist, civil, and ethnic confrontations that I believe satisfy the following criteria:

      All such conflicts from two broad regions: North Africa, the Middle East, the northern tier of the...

  12. Glossary of Terms
    (pp. 305-308)
  13. Participants in Post-1978 Afghan Conflicts
    (pp. 309-316)
  14. References
    (pp. 317-329)
  15. Index
    (pp. 330-336)