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The Illusion of Control: Subversion in Vietnam and Afghanistan

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The Taliban have followed a strategy of subversion: In phases, they propagandize, recruit, eliminate, and consolidate. It is a modified Maoist guerilla strategy akin to Viet Minh and Viet Cong strategies. Contrary to assertions by a counterinsurgency analyst, David Kilcullen, the Taliban build and consolidate “parallel hierarchies” –the hallmark of a Maoist “displacement strategy.” The Taliban have a developed a functioning polycentric governance system; Kabul has been rendered irrelevant in areas it claims to control (with foreign assistance). This paper addresses military claims of territorial control from Vietnam and Afghanistan. It analyzes patterns of subversion in Vietnam and Afghanistan; and explicates forms and functions of the Taliban’s parallel hierarchies. It concludes that territorial “control” by U.S. forces in many areas of Afghanistan is illusory.

This talk is part of the Violence and Conflict Graduate Workshop, Faculty of History series.

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