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The Weapon Supplies of Afghan Insurgents

By Taylor Marvin

Unexploded ordinance waiting to be destroyed in Afghanistan. Photo by Catie Hague.

Unexploded ordinance waiting to be destroyed in Afghanistan. Photo by Catie Hague.

I’m currently reading Afghanistan, Graveyard of Empires: A New History of the Borderlands by David Isby. The book makes a perceptive point about the armaments of the Taliban:

“The availability of funding and access to world weapons markets makes the absence of certain types of weapons among the insurgent forces significant. The insurgents have used no anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) and few surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), even though these weapons were both used in the later stages of the 1978-92 conflict. This suggests that there has been a decision by someone to limit insurgent access to these weapons.”

The security establishment in Pakistan? It’s hard to think of anyone else with the influence to exercise this kind of authority over the Afghan insurgent movement. It’s easy to guess at the Pakistani intelligence officers’ motives: they want an insurgency powerful enough to ensure the emergence of an Afghan state with a foreign policy subservient to Pakistan, but militarily weak enough so that militant Islamists can’t seriously challenge Pakistani forces in Pakistan.

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