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Koran, Kalashnikov and Laptop – Discussion Guide

The questions below are meant to be used in a guided discussion on the book Koran Kalashnikov and Laptop by Antonio Giustozzi. A brief synopsis of the book is reprinted below from Amazon.

“Since the Allied invasion of Afghanistan in 2002, the Bush administration has celebrated the imminent demise of the Taliban, with claims of a “moral and psychological defeat” playing a prominent role in the presidential elections of 2004. Some commentators suggested that “reconstruction and development” had won over the Afghan population, despite widespread criticism of the meager distribution of aid and failed attempts at “nation building,” not to mention the infamous corruption of Kabul’s power-hoarding elites.

In March 2006, both Afghan and American officials continued to assert that “the Taliban are no longer able to fight large battles.” Unfortunately that theory would soon collapse beneath the weight of a series of particularly ferocious clashes, causing the mood in the American media to turn from one of optimism to one of defeatism and impending catastrophe. Suddenly faced with a very sophisticated and creative form of guerilla warfare, the West found itself at a loss to fight an insurgency that bore little resemblance to its former enemy.

In the first book ever to be published on the neo-Taliban, Antonio Giustozzi provocatively argues that the appearance of the neo-Taliban should in no way have been a surprise. Beginning in 2003, a growing body of evidence began to surface that cast doubt on the official interpretation of the conflict. With the West cutting corners to maintain peace within the country, which included tolerating Afghanistan’s burgeoning opium trade, the Taliban was able to regroup and grow in strength, weapons, and recruits. Giustozzi’s book poses a bold challenge to contemporary accounts of the invasion and its aftermath and is an important investigation into the rise and dangerous future of the neo-Taliban.”

Discussion Questions
  • Discuss the tactics and strategy utilized by the Taliban and how this evolved over time
    • Taliban recruitment and appeal to Pashtun tribal youth (p39,51)
    • Taliban relax enforcement of strict policy to be more appealing to local nationals (p72)
    • Taliban “rulebook” (p84)
    • Fourth generation warfare vs traditional Maoist insurgency (p98,234)
    • Taliban murder and intimidation campaigns against Afghan officials (p102)
  • Discuss some of the failures of ISAF strategy and policies and how they enabled the insurgency to grow from 2001-2007
    • In Helmand, the British cease fire negotiations with the Taliban (p51)
    • Development of a Special Forces centric campaign to a more conventional “clear and hold” strategy (p163)
    • Attempts to apply lessons from past successful COIN campaigns to Afghanistan (p215)
  • How have the Taliban utilized politics to further their goals
    • Role of Pakistan in negotiations between the Afghan Government and Taliban leaders
    • Taliban activity during election years (p114)
  • How does the Taliban culture of merit based promotion and decentralized command and control differ from that of traditional Islamic/Arabic militaries?
    • Local commanders are given intent by senior leaders and authority to carry out local activities on their own (p93)


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