The first version of this article was written in 2017 as an asignment for a Masters-level university course. Its point was to argue that the Operation Enduring Freedom (2001-2014) in Afghanistan was a part of an intractable conflict, and the end goal of the assignment was to give a potential solution to the conflict itself. The assignment was later revised and updated, with some parts of it shortened and others expanded, and was edited for publication on this site.
The US-led Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan (OEF-A) which started on October 7th, 2001 and ended on December 28th, 2014. Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan (also called US War in Afghanistan) was designated as a part of the Global War on Terror which was borne out of the US resolve to fight against terrorism on a global level, under the administration of US president George W. Bush and after the terrorist attacks on 9/11 perpetrated by Al-Qaeda as instructed by Osama bin Laden. The 2001 war itself started with the American involvement, but eventually expanded with the UN Security Council approved NATO intervention under the name International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) which started on August 11th, 2003, and ended at the same time the United States intervention ended, on December 28th, 2014.
The end of those respective involvements did not imply the end of Afghanistan's trouble, nor the end of foreign involvement in the country. At the same time when OEF-A and the ISAF mission ended, the United States began Operation Freedom's Sentinel and NATO started with the Resolute Support mission, which were direct successors of both previous involvements in Afghanistan, but with non-combat and advisory capacity. Despite the layered involvements in the War in Afghanistan, I will concentrate mainly on the American involvement during the OEF-A from 2001 up to 2014, although it will be impossible to ignore the impact of the ISAF mission. In order to contextualise the war, I will provide a historical context.
I will also discuss the developments in Afghanistan after the end of the OEF-A, and the ISAF mission, and argue that the conflict in Afghanistan is an overarching concept which started in 1978 and never really finished although it consists of several 'chapters' which themselves could be viewed as separate wars or conflicts. I will use the concept of an intractable conflict to explain that, and in the end, make informed assumptions on how the conflict in Afghanistan could proceed, as well as offer possible solutions to it
1978 Saur Revolution
The last king of Afghanistan, Zahir Shah, was deposed in a bloodless coup by his cousin and brother in law Mohammad Daoud Khan in 1973. Daoud Khan then proclaimed himself president instead of Shah, set up a trade development program, struck a 2 billion dollar trade deal with Iran [Wahab, Youngerman 2010, p 134] and looked towards the Soviet Union for support [Westad 2005, p 300], and drew the ire of Islamists and Communists, the latter of which he previously cooperated with, but sidelined once he thought he had no further need for, and even started purges against in 1977 [Barfield 2010, p 215]. He also tried to undermine the parliament and all the representative institutions [Dorronsoro 2005, p 80] in order to empower himself.
As a result of such political outcomes, the Afghani left started to organize against Daoud, as well as the Islamist fractions. While Daoud managed to fight against the Islamists [Dorronsoro 2005, p 82] , the Afghani left, personalized in the communists from the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) led a coup on the night of April 27th, 1978 and deposed Daoud Khan, helped by the fact that Daoud had not managed to gather support amongst the Afghani elites and the people [Wahab, Youngerman 2010, p 137].
PDPA rule in Afghanistan up to the Soviet invasion
While the PDPA rule leading up to the Soviet invasion was quite short, I view it as immensely significant to the further future of Afghanistan, and as a watershed event. When viewing it with the privilege of hindsight, one can see how the factionalism endemic to communist parties as well as outright bad governance led to the erosion of state power and the rise of Islamist forces in the country.
The People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan was a communist party formed in 1965 by the merger of left wing study groups led by the Afghan students and inteligentsia. The two main factions inside the party have been Khalq (The Masses), led by Nur Mohammad Taraki and his associate Hafizullah Amin, and Parcham (The Banner) led by Babrak Karmal [Westad 2005, p 300-301]. The party rose in popularity amongst the Afghani left, and when Daoud cracked down on the leftists, Moscow saw that as a sign of weakening of relations between Daoud and the Soviet Union, and therefore offered help to leftists, via the KGB, in evading the crackdown [Westad 2005, p 302].
However, after the Saur Revolution, Alexandr Puzanov, the Soviet ambassador in Kabul, managed to 'read' through the lines and assess the situation in the PDPA quite accurately: it was plagued by internal factionalism with Khalq, the leading faction in the PDPA being too orthodox in its Marxist ideology and its implementation which led to severe infightings among the members of Khalq and Parcham, which advocated for a more nuanced and less orthodox political approach [Westad 2005, p 302]. The most worrying aspect of the political approach led by Khalq was the insistence on land reform, secularization and a whole series of cultural reforms which built up resentment in the rural parts of Afghanistan, which incidentally made up 85% of the country. The Islamist led rebellion against the communist rule, percieved by corrupt and going against traditional values erupted in 1978 [Westad 2005, p 305-308].
Moscow started to side with Parcham when Khalq initiated purges against Parcham members in 1978, and faced with the reality of an unsustainability of a Khalq-led PDPA, the implosion of communist policies in Afghanistan and the, by then, fullblown Islamic resistance against the regime, decided to intervene. On December 27th, 1979 Soviet forces entered Afghanistan, deposed Hafizullah Amin and propped up Babrak Karmal, the exiled Parcham leader as the new head of government [Westad 2005, p 328].
Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, 1979- 1989
While the opposition to the Soviet occupation contained some leftist elements [Dorronsoro 2005, p 212], the overwhelming majority of the opposition was Islamist. Two of the most prominent groups, and the ones most relevant to the further future of Afghanistan were Jamiat-e-Islami led by Burhanuddin Rabbani, and Hezb-e-Islami led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.
Rabbani founded Jamiat-e-Islami in 1972 from previous informal Islamist organizations. Hekmatyar was a member of that organization [Barfield 2010, p 213], and later left and founded Hezb-e-Islami somewhere between 1973 and 1976 [Wahab, Youngerman 2010, p 178], [Haqqani 2010, 173]. Both organizations were a part of what was later named the „Peshawar Seven“, or more officially, „Islamic Unity of Afghanistan Mujahideen“, an umbrella organization of Islamists fighting against Soviet occupation. Although their discourse was firmly rooted in the concept of Jihad, Olivier Roy identifies the Mujahideen version of Jihad in the 80's as a specific form of the concept, reduced to a concrete goal of fighting the Soviet forces [Roy 1994, p 157].
A slightly different version of the concept of Jihad was held by Osama bin Laden who believed in a world-wide Jihad [Barfield 2010, p 267]. Although his activities during the war in Afghanistan were not nearly as extensive as the ones of the Mujahideen, he managed to build up his organization there by helping around 30 000 non-Afghans to participate in the war, and come by some useful contacts for the future, such as the ones in ISI.
The Mujahideen Sunni groups [Barfield 2010, p 236], especially Hekmatyar, were backed up by Pakistan, more exactly by the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence agency, as well as the United States, with money and weapons. Hekmatyar gained Pakistani support far before the war itself began, possibly as early as 1973, with the ISI drawn to him by his militancy, and their need to influence internal Afghani affairs (Pakistan financed various insurgencies in Afghanistan in order to weaken the state) [Haqqani 2010, 173]. Pakistan later recognized the Peshawar Seven [Wahab, Youngerman 2010, p 175], and allowed Hekmatyar to station Hezb-e-Islami training camps in Pakistan [Wahab, Youngerman 2010, p 178].
The United States were involved in supporting the Mujahideen in a similar way, although with different motives. While Pakistan was motivated in one hand by the large shared Pashtun population with Afghanistan which it had to keep in check, and in the other hand scared by the perceived Soviet search for a warm water port, thinking that after Afghanistan, Pakistan could be the next Soviet target, the United States, according to Robert Gates the then-deputy director of the CIA, wanted to reduce Soviet influence in the region and in the third world in general, as well as to demonstrate to Pakistan that they are invested in the future of the region [Haqqani 2010, p 178-179] Their financial support (combined with the financial support from Saudi Arabia) reached one billion dollars annually in the mid 1980's [Barfield 2010, p 236]. In addition, the United States supplied the Mujahideen with weapons [Wahab, Youngerman 2010, p 164] [Dorronsoro 2005, p 208] [Barfield 2010, p 238].
Finally, pressured by the growing resistance and the unsustainability of the occupation, the Soviets withdrew in February 1989, a little over 9 years after the war began.
The civil wars of Afghanistan, and the Taliban rule
The Afghan government managed to hold its ground at least to a degree until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 when the Soviet aid was significantly reduced [Barfield 2010, p 248].
After the PDPA government fell, the Mujahideen entered Kabul and established the Islamic State of Afghanistan, led by Burhanuddin Rabbani [Dorronsoro 2005, p 237]. However, in the distribution of roles in the future state amongst the Mujahideen, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar thought that him being offered the position of Prime Minister was not to his liking, and launched a years long attack on Kabul which claimed between 40 000 [Dorronsoro 2005, p 239] and 50 000 [Wahab, Youngerman 2010, p 209] lives.
The Mujahideen infighting continued while a new force was rising in Afghanistan and the neigbouring Pakistan. Under the rule of Zia ul Haq, Pakistani Deobandi madrasas took in a large number of Afghan refugee boys [Barfield 2010, p 255], offering free education and a place to stay [Wahab, Youngerman 2010, p 211]. Those young men coalesced around the leadership of a Pashtun Mullah called Mohammed Omar, dedicated to the return of Afghanistan to its „pure“ Salafi version, and were financed by Pakistan[Schaffer, 2006, p 267]. They entered Afghanistan from the south, and in a short time swept the country, eventually occupying a large part of it (except the North-East part of the country held by the Northern Alliance led by Rabbani and former defence minister Ahmad Shah Massoud). By September 1996, Afghanistan turned from the Islamic State of Afghanistan into the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, led by the Taliban, which lasted until December 2001.
Operation Enduring Freedom-Afghanistan
Ten days after the terrorist attacks performed on September 11, 2001, by Al Qaeda, US president George W. Bush made a speech in the US Congress in which he addressed the Taliban with a statement in which he demanded the closure of terrorist camps and the non-negotiable surrender of Osama bin Laden.
By late September, the CIA already had operatives in Afghanistan, coordinating with the Northern Alliance [Neville, Boujero, 2008, p 6], and by October 7, the airstrikes against Taliban targets began. The Taliban tried to negotiate the US demands: they ignored the calls to shut down Al Qaeda bases, demanded that US bombings of the country stop, and demanded proof that Osama bin Laden was involved in the 9/11 attacks before extraditing him to a third country. Bush rejected the terms and carried on with his plans.
Although the invasion and the subsequent war started as an American operation, the United Nations Security Council authorized a security mission to take place in Afghanistan. It was named the International Security Assistance Force, and it was established on December 20, 2001. Over the years of operation, it included 28 NATO and 14 non-NATO countries. NATO itself assumed control of ISAF in August 2003 [Berdal 2016, p 163]. The overall number of troops which rotated throughout the war is not known, but the size of deployed forces went up to 130 000 personell at times.
From the start of the ISAF mission, the US generally continued to do primarilly offensive missions, with other ISAF personell engaging in security, support and training missions, although US personell participated in training missions, and other ISAF contributors participated in offensive missions.
The war in Afghanistan soon turned into what has been described as a "geopolitical black hole“ [Ali Shah 2008, p 57] After a fierce offensive by the US and other ISAF forces, the Taliban withdrew, only to return in an offensive of their own in 2003 [Gall 2014, 70]. After they lost their territory, they fell back into towns and villages and in 2003 they started emerging again and waged a guerilla warfare campaign against the international force, uniting with Hezb-e-Islami and Al Qaeda, from which they learned new guerilla tactics.
The next few years were marked by a relative silence until 2006, when over the course of few years, the Taliban made a return in a series of large Summer offensives, with the one in 2006 being particularly violent. NATO involvement which after 2003 became larger than before, mainly because of the need of the United States to commit troops to their war in Iraq, was met with growing insurgency [Berdal 2016, p 165]. A series of NATO convoys were attacked in 2008 on their way from Pakistan in an apparent attempt by the Taliban to disrupt supply lines.
With the arrival of Barack Obama at the position of the president of the United States, talks started of leaving Afghanistan one day. The path towards leaving Afghanistan started by adding more troops to the country [Berdal 2016, p 165], in what was called the „surge“ in order to overwhelm the enemy. The number of US troops rose up to around 100 000, and in 2009, a classified report leaked in which General Stanley McChrystal stated that a succesful operation in Afghanistan would require 500 000 troops over 5 years. Officially and publicly, McChrystal asked for 40 000 troops and was granted 30 000. [Jha 2010, p 7] That had to do- the United States were by 2012 fully committed to leaving Afghanistan as soon as they could given the fact that the war has been long perceived as a heavy burden on the country, and given the fact that Osama bin Laden had been extrajudicially assassinated by US special forces in 2011 in Pakistan.
However, the problem of the ANA and the ANP being trained to an unsatisfactory level persisted. Declassified data from 2014 states that the US overestimated the abilities of the ANA, which was shrinking in number due to desertions while the ANP was, according to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, corrupt, with officers unable to guarantee if their subordinates are even coming to work.
Despite the setbacks, the United States and ISAF forces decided to scale back their operations in Afghanistan. So, on December 28, 2014, Operation Enduring Freedom ended in Afghanistan, along with the ISAF mission. They were replaced by Operation Freedom's Sentinel and the Resolute Support mission, which took the back seat in the war against the Taliban, continuing to mainly train and support the ANA and ANP, while those two organization carry the bulk of fighting.
Operation Enduring Freedom as a chapter in an intractable conflict and how to resolve it
Defining intractable conflicts
Edward Azar was one of the forefathers of the theory of a protracted social conflict, who identified the first step in the outbreak of such a conflict as when communities are deprived of their basic needs on the basis of the communal identity, with the conflict in a complex chain of events such as the legacy of colonialism, further historical context and the society being built by several blocks of communities which come into conflict with each other [Azar 1990, p 12], with the last step being the failure of an authority to adress the conflict [Azar 1990, p 5]. Even more important is what Azar writes on the results of such a conflict which are a deterioration of the sense of security, the strenghtening of the psychological state caused by the conflict, the falling apart of institutional power and increased dependency on outside help [Azar 1990, p 16].
Vallacher, Coleman, Nowak and Bui-Wrzinowska define an intractable conflict as a conflict „that has become entrenched in cognitive, affective, and social-structural mechanisms“[Wallacher, Coleman, Nowak, Bui-Wrzinovska 2010, p 262]. Coleman, Deutch and Marcus further define that which makes an intractable conflict what it is, as the persistence of the conflict, its destructiveness and resistance to resolution, often associated with cycles of high and low intensity [Deutch, Coleman, Marcus 2006, p 534].
As much as 40% of intrastate conflicts have laster for 40 years or more, with 10% of intrastate conflicts lasting 25 years or more, and although the events of 9/11 have been linked to sociopolitical conditions which festered in zones related to intractable conflicts [Wallacher, Coleman, Nowak, Bui-Wrzinovska 2010, p 263], I have not found the conflict in Afghanistan to be defined as an intractable conflict in that literature. However, it is worth noting other sources such as the Beyond Intractability website, which offers articles dealing with the intractability of the conflict in Afghanistan. Other news publications which define the conflict in Afghanistan as intractable in certain articles include The Independent and The Atlantic.
The Afghanistan conflict as an intractable conflict
Considering the available data, I am of the opinion that the conflict in Afghanistan, starting with the Mujahideen resistance against the PDPA government is more than a suitable candidate for getting a definition of an intractable conflict. Let us view the facts. Although there had been a coup in Afghanistan in 1973, the conflict had not yet started then, for the coup was a peaceful one. First seeds of the conflict started in 1978, when the Islamist factions in Afghanistan rose up against the PDPA land and cultural reforms, and peaked with the 1979 events in Herat. The continuing gains of the Islamist factions led to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan which lasted 9 years. After the Soviet military withdrew, the conflict changed from a resistance to occupation into a civil war of the Islamists against the PDPA government which fell in 1992. One civil war turned into another when the Islamists took power and began infighting, after which the Taliban joined the fray. The Taliban established their own state after toppling the Mujahideen regime, but that did not spell the end of hostilities because Rabbani and Massoud still held the North-East part of the country, continuing the fight until the US and later NATO intervened. Their war continued for 14 years, with the Afghan state leading the fight against the till growing Taliban insurgency from 2015, with the international coalition helping them. This war still rages on. Afghanistan has not seen peace in 39 years (a number significantly greater that the 10 and 20 year benchmarks offered by scholars of intractable conflict), with all the wars seemlessly blending one into other.
Furthermore, the original causes of the conflict stemming from the 1970's are long forgotten and irrelevant. Even the explanations given by the United States as to why they entered Afghanistan are relevant no more. Terrorism in Afghanistan no longer endangers the United States directly: Al Qaeda has since been neutralized in the central-Asian region, and has turned itself towards the Middle East, festering in Iraq (mainly as a result of the US invasion of that country in 2003), Yemen and Syria (where it has gone through a series of incarnations including Jabhat Al-Nusra and Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham), before being substituted by the 'Islamic State' (until its territorial crumbling) as the prime exporter of terrorism (in that regard it could be said that the Global War on Terror has been a failure. It has produced far more terror and terrorism than it has eliminated); the 'Islamic State' now does hold territory in Afghanistan, but it is small and insignificant compared to other actors in the country; the Taliban are not a terrorist threat to the West, their terrorism affects mainly Afghanistan itself, as well as Pakistan; Osama bin Laden has been killed.
The conflict in Afghanistan indeed is persistent, is highly destructive and has proven itself to be quite resistant to resolution, both during its whole 38 year duration, as well as in the era after the international operations. To conclude, the conflict in Afghanistan, shows all the symptoms of being an intractable conflict, and the part of the conflict which is the main topic of this essay, the one from 2001 to 2014, fits into that definition.
Path(s) towards a solution
The Taliban have in 2016 held more territory in Afghanistan since 2001, regaining large parts of the country since the US combat troops withdrew [Forest, Denaburg, Gambhir 2016, p 1]. The most recent BBC study, published in January 2018 concludes that „The Taliban are openly active in 70 percent of Afghanistan’s districts, fully controlling 4 percent of the country and demonstrating an open physical presence in another 66 percent“.
They have proven themselves to be extremely resilient, first defeating the Mujahideen, and then fighting against the international coalition. They have used the local geography, topography and climate to their advantage, waging a series of successful guerilla campaigns, and reverting losses inflicted upon them. They have adapted to the modern era: while once inflicting severe prohibitions on all things considered to be „Western“, they today have their own website and news portal in English, touted as being the „Voice of Islam“, thus extending their reach and propaganda.
The continuing failures of ANA and ANP have shown that an Afghani military victory over the Taliban is a practical impossibility. Afghan security forces have shown that they are chronically unable to counter the Taliban on their own due to poor training and endemic corruption.
The United States seems to have started a new chapter in their Afghanistan saga with the election of Donald Trump as President, but the exact nature of that chapter is not yet clear. The US State Department appears to be in a state of constant chaos for over a year now, with US foreign policy severely suffering due to the constant infighting between Trump, Pentagon and intelligence agencies such as FBI and CIA. While the only decisive line in the US regional policy seems to be their opposition to Iran, their policy in Afghanistan seems to be ramping up their aggressivness, while at the same time not willing to fully commit to a considerably stronger military presence. Trump's administration has indeed strenghtened their military presence in Afghanistan, adding a total of around 8 000 military personell to the country, totaling to a number of 16 000, still a far cry from the 100 000 deployed troops during the surge (130 000 when all NATO forces are included). Another US show of power in Afghanistan was the April 2017 strike which used the „Mother of all Bombs“, and which was directed at an 'Islamic State' camp. However, such an action hardly had any influence on the fight against the Taliban. Further problems surfaced when the crass rhetoric from Trump resulted in the alieantion of pakistan, a crucial player in the Afghanistan conflict.
The cycle of violence continued in 2018 when the Taliban and IS mounted several attacks in Afghanistan during January which killed a total of over 150 people and injured hundreds. It is clear that the conflict is in a stage of stalemate, with the Taliban commanding considerable influence in the country, while the Afghan security forces unable to counter them effectively, while the US is not willing to commit the personell needed for a significant result. The experiences from Operation Enduring Freedom are surely demoralizing, given that they have shown that all attempts at a military offensive result in a later successful counter-offensive and the Taliban regaining the lost territory.
That leaves a political solution as the only viable option. The Afghani government has already shown to be open to political deals with former enemies: in 2016 it penned a deal with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Such a deal could theoretically be done with the Taliban, and indeed, there had been reports over the last years when the Afghani government sat down for talks with the Taliban. First in 2013, in talks brokered by Pakistan which fell apart, then in 2015 in Pakistan and most recently in 2016 in Doha, Qatar, where the Taliban have had an office since 2013, allegedly attended by a US official.
The prospect of peace talks with the Taliban seems to be unpalatable to many (perhaps rightfully), but has been discussed amongst policy makers and analysts as a step forward. The signals from the chaotic Trump administrations have been mixed- Trump himself claimed that he plans not to pursue talks with the Taliban at the moment but he has left the possibility open: „We don’t want to talk with the Taliban. There may be a time but it’s going to be in a long time.“ However, a US diplomat has testified that the US still has a plan to bring the Taliban to the negotiation table through applying military pressure confirming that peace talks are still considered to be, even in the US policy plans, the only viable long-term option for resolving the conflict in the country.
The peace talks during the past decade have not shown to be successful. Indeed, the interests of several parties are at stake: the government of Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United States, as well as the Taliban. Indeed, a part of the problem may be the origins of modern Afghanistan itself, as a legacy of the British colonial project, with the hastily drawn Durand line, its border with Pakistan which envelops so many various ethnic groups. Ben Hopkins offers his own view on the country and its problems: „Much of the subsequent history of Afghanistan centres on the repeated failure to construct a stable and lasting ideological edifice upon which to build a modern Weberian state. The Afghans have never squared the circle of the competing normative orders of tribe, Islam and royalism shaping their socio-political universe. At times, elements of the Afghan political community have been able to erect elements of a state on one or a mixture of these normative orders, extracting acceptance from other groups through force.“
US military involvement in the Afghanistan wars has ended up as the country's longest military conflict to date. Their immense military presence in the country in the past brought little to no results, and the scars of that war, along with the occupation of Iraq are still fresh in the American collective consciousness, resulting in a population which would likely refuse a repetition of a war of such scale in the region. The US is therefore limited to military half-measures and reliance on an extremely unreliable local security force, resulting in a resurgence of Taliban activity. The only solution seems to be bringing the Taliban to the table in order to come to a political conclusion- an act which itself may have extremely negative political optics at home, a fact which the ratings-obsessed Trump is surely aware of (some may even say that is the only thing he is aware of). However, given that the people of Afghanistan are most likely to be completely uninterested in the domestic ratings of a sitting American president, such a variable should not be of relevancy although sadly, it is. It is yet to be seen how long will the agony of Afghanistan be prolonged in the name of saving the faces of US politicians.
Shaista Wahab, Barry Youngerman, A Brief History of Afghanistan, Facts on File, 2010
Odd Arne Westad, The Global Cold War, Cambridge University Press, 2005
Thomas Barfield, Afghanistan: A Cultural and Political History, Princeton University Press, 2010
Gilles Dorronsoro, Revolution Unending: Afghanistan, 1979- Present, Hurst and Company, 2005
Ben Hopkins, The Makings of Modern Afghanistan, Palgrave Macmillan, 2008
Carlotta Gall, The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan 2001-2014, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014
Leigh Neville, Ramiro Bujeiro, Special Operation Forces in Afghanistan, Osprey, 2008
Brenda Schaffer, The Limits of Culture: Islam and Foreign Policy, MIT Press, 2006
Husain Haqqani, Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military, Carnegie Endownment, 2010
Morton Deutsch, Peter T. Coleman, Eric C. Marcus, The Handbook of Conflict Resolution: Theory and Practice, Josey Bass, 2006
Edward Azar, The Management of Protracted Social Conflict: Theory & Cases, Aldershot, Dartmouth, 1990
Mats Berdal, A Mission too Far: Afghanistan and NATO, 2001-2014, in War, Strategy and History, ed. Daniel Marston, Tamara Leahy, ANU Press, 2016
Syed Muhammad Ali Shah, Post-Taliban Afghanista: A Reappraisal, Pakistan Horizon, Vol. 61, No. 4 (October 2008), pp. 57-85
Prem Shankar Jha, Afghanistan: Perfect Paralysis, The World Today, Vol. 66, No. 1 (January 2010), pp. 7-9
Caitlin Forrest, Rob Denaburg, Harleen Gambhir, Afghanistan: A Partial Threat Analysis, Institute for the Study of War, 2016
Robin Wallacher, Peter T. Coleman, Andrzej Nowak, Lan Bui-Wrsozinska, Rethinking Intractable Conflict, American Psychologist, May-June 2010
 A protracted conflict and an intractable conflict are two terms which are used interchangeably by researchers. Other terms also used are enduring rivalry and deeply rooted conflict.