Taliban Paper Pushers?…According to Atlantic Monthly

Posted: June 2, 2015 in Uncategorized


In a MSNBC interview Monday with Atlantic editor Steve Clemons, he stated that the five Taliban detainees that were traded for US Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl last year were not field commanders and consequently just not that important.  Mr. Clemons went on to further downgrade their importance by calling them “paper pushers”in the Taliban organization. Yes….paper pushers. In a country with a literacy rate of just under 30% a paper pusher analogy is a little weak Steve.

The fact that these individuals under the Taliban government were a Minster of Interior, Deputy Minister of Defense, Deputy Minister of Intelligence, Governor of Herat province and Governor of Balkh and Lagman provinces.

You’re right Mr. Clemons, obviously mid-level managers who simply were trying to feed their families and got caught up in some ugly stuff in 2001.

I wonder if the same logic could be applied to the US? That guy, what’s-his-name, Ashton something in the Pentagon, he’s not in the field so how important could he be?

In reality, Steve Clemons’ interview is a sad commentary on how political spin is done, even if only powered by the rotation of the earth. The five (5) former detainees who are very much still current Taliban operatives have a global understanding of how to conduct terrorist operations in the field and will use this once they arrive back in Afghanistan.

Having spent seven (7) years in in Afghanistan, this author is under no misunderstanding that these men are dangerous for their operational experience. The have the strategic understanding that is translated to tactical operations.

In his interview he stated they will no doubt be part of a future Afghan government and these five would no doubt play a part in that future government. Mr. Clemons might be ready to concede the Afghan people to Taliban rule again but perhaps if he spent less time within the Beltway and more in the areas he comments upon he might come away with a more measured perspective.

  1. Mike D says:

    Professor, my question stems from this comment, ” The five (5) former detainees who are very much still current Taliban operatives have a global understanding of how to conduct terrorist operations in the field…”

    Is the Taliban really conducting global terrorist operations? Obviously, the group is very much active in Pakistan and Afghanistan (as well as escaping over the Iranian border), but does that specific organization have any global ambitions, besides the obvious rhetoric of a global Islamic caliphate? I have always seen them as an organization fitting the 18th century etymological root of terrorism, la terreur. Are they not a government, albeit not our Westphalian model, violently contending for control of a designated territory?


    • milansturgis says:

      Thank you for your comments. I wrote that the Taliban have a “global understanding” not global reach. Global understanding implies knowledge of what tactics have been employed in other areas that are transferable to Afghanistan. Perhaps viewing them as a 18th model might be overly romantic…remember they gave safe haven to OBL when he was forced to leave Sudan. Thereafter thousands of Arab fighters.


      • Mike D says:

        Well said and definitely thought provoking. I was referring to the brutal tactics employed by the Jacobins and Girondins when I compared the two.

        I just found your site and look forward to reading!


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