IN THE WARLORDS' SHADOW; 6 of 6: Special Operations Forces, the Afghans, and Their Fight Against the Taliban; by Daniel R Green.

Dec 07, 03:12 AM


(Photo: Afridi picket near Jumrood, Khyber & Rotass in distance.

Photograph of a group of Afridis taken by John Burke in 1878. Burke accompanied the Peshawar Valley Field Force, one of three British Anglo-Indian army columns deployed in the Second Afghan War (1878-80), despite being rejected for the role of official photographer. He financed his trip by advance sales of his photographs 'illustrating the advance from Attock to Jellalabad'. Coming to India as apothecary with the Royal Engineers, Burke turned professional photographer, in partnership at first with William Baker. Travelling widely in India, they were the main rivals to the better-known Bourne and Shepherd. Burke's two-year Afghan expedition produced an important visual document of the region where strategies of the Great Game were played out.

With the spread of Russia's sphere of influence in Central Asia, British foreign policy in the 19th century was motivated by fears of their Indian Empire being vulnerable to Russian moves southwards. The Anglo-Russian rivalry in Asia, termed the Great Game, precipitated the Second Afghan War. The British were trying to establish a permanent mission at Kabul which the Amir Sher Ali, trying to keep a balance between the Russians and British, would not permit. The arrival of a Russian diplomatic mission in Kabul in 1878 increased British suspicions of Russian influence and ultimately led to them invading Afghanistan.

The Afridis were a powerful, independent Pashtun tribe inhabiting the Peshawar border of the North West Frontier Province, who defended their mountainous strongholds with tenacity and courage, impressing the British who took them on as troops. They had a reputation for being first rate soldiers and particularly good skirmishers. The Afridi soldiers are pictured with their jezails, long and heavy Afghan muskets, with which they were excellent sharpshooters.

Date 1878

Source The British Library - Online Gallery

Author John Burke (1843-1900)


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Public domain 

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IN THE WARLORDS' SHADOW; 6 of 6: Special Operations Forces, the Afghans, and Their Fight Against the Taliban; by Daniel R Green.

In 2010, U.S. special operations forces (SOF) in Afghanistan began a new and innovative program to fight the Taliban insurgency using the movement's structure and strategy against it. The Village Stability Operations/Afghan Local Police initiative consisted of U.S. Army Special Forces and U.S. Navy SEAL teams embedding with villagers to fight the Taliban holistically. By enlisting Afghans in their own defense, organizing the local populace, and addressing their grievances with the Afghan government, SOF was able to defeat the Taliban’s military as well as its political arm. Combining the traditions of U.S. Army Special Forces with the lessons learned in the broader SOF community from years of counterinsurgency work in Iraq and Afghanistan, this new approach fundamentally changed the terms of the conflict with the Taliban. However, little has been written about this initiative outside of the special operations community until now.

In this first-hand account of how the Village Stability Operations program functioned, Daniel R. Green provides a long-term perspective on how SOF stabilized the southern Afghan province of Uruzgan, the site of the Pashtun uprising against the Taliban in 2001 led by Hamid Karzai, future president of Afghanistan. In the Warlords’ Shadow offers a comprehensive overview of how SOF adapted to the unique demands of the local insurgency and is a rare, inside look at how special operations confronted the Taliban by fighting a “better war” and in so doing fundamentally changed the course of t...