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Opinion: No wonder NATO can't curb insurgency

The diffused structure of Afghanistan's insurgency dates back to the 1980s. Only by grasping this fact will dismantling it be possible.

This infrastructure is still alive and well, complete with historical networks of loyalty, mapped-out routes of attack, and access to arms and financial resources that are often concentrated beyond the country’s borders. The recent eruption of violence in Baghlan and Kunduz are only two illustrative examples of the fact that this infrastructure still allows for an easy switch from a civilian life to that of a rebel — a pillar of instability.

It is reasonable, then, to assume, that as long as the infrastructure for rebellion remains intact, stability in Afghanistan will remain a distant dream.

Concentrating criticism on Karzai is not only fruitless but it also misses the point. The truth is that Afghan politics came of age in the ruthlessly competitive atmosphere of the 1980s jihad, when in the absence of a central command and coherent structure, personality power cults were allowed to thrive.

Petty rivalries emerged then that still overshadow the more solid political goals of loyalty to a single leader and support for the country’s interests as a whole. Karzai, his supporters and detractors, are all a product of the murky world of 1980s. Since then rebellion for rebellion’s sake has become second nature to many Afghan political players as well as fighters. The only leaders who command true loyalty among their fighters are those who lead rebellions, and not those in power.

It is the failure of the international community to grasp this fact, as well as the persistence of a diffused but efficient structure, that impedes progress in Afghanistan. The problem in Afghanistan is thus a structural one and one of mentality. To focus on Karzai alone is not only pointless, but as is becoming increasingly clear, it is also counter-productive.

Nushin Arbabzadah is a former BBC journalist and currently a visiting scholar at UCLA.