The Taliban are the ones to beware of, surely?

The Taliban seem to be carrying it al before them in Afghanistan at present. The government and the army of that country seem to offer no real opposition and the rest of the world is doing nothing. How can they lose? They will be in charge of the whole country before long and they don’t seem to care what the rest of the world thinks as long as that world keeps out of it.

Why should the Taliban bother about history?

You ignore history at your peril. The British have often failed to learn the lessons of history, but they are not the only ones. We all need to learn from our mistakes, personal and collective.

What lesson is most relevant to the Taliban?

I think the most important lesson is ‘don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched’, in other words ‘It’s not over until it’s over’. Success, especially rapid success, breeds complacency. Defeat can follow close after victory if you are not prepared for it.

  • The Vikings took over one Anglo-Saxon kingdom after another until Alfred turned the tide, thus becoming ‘The Great’.
  • In Scotland the honour fell to Kenneth MacAlpine.
  • Tipoo Sultan seemed to be conquering India until he encountered a small British force. See the pattern?
  • Napoleon’s armies swept over Europe in a few years from 1806 to 1808, defeating Prussia, Russia, Austria and Spain. They were defeated by the Portugese, who were helped by the British who had not won on land for a generation.
  • Rommel had led the Germans to a series of victories all over Europe and beyond until he encountered the Eighth Army led by Claude Auchinleck.

See a pattern?

Could the Taliban learn anything from the British?

In the so-called English Civil War, the Royalists soon developed a contempt for the parliamentary forces (Which were not led by gentlemen) and especially mocked The New Model Army designed by Oliver Cromwell, which has been the model for the British Army right up to the present. (By the way, you might enjoy reading Blood and Secrets a novel set in that war.  See my post on that. But  never mind fiction, let us return to facts).

The Taliban are a new phenomenon. Is old history relevant?

How about some 21st century history? Remember when ISIS – or ISIL or whatever name you choose to give them – took over large parts of Iraq and Syria? So many people thought ISIS would set up a permanent Caliphate in the region, possibly incorporating most of Iraq, the rest becoming part of Iran. Where are they now?

What could go wrong for the Taliban now?

A good general could appear. Some Afghans could unite and show determination. Someone could try using different tactics from the ones that keep failing.  The Taliban could rely too much on the same so-far-successful tactics. Their leaders could become divided. It usually happens when victory seems closest.

Why am I advising the Taliban?

I am not! I am pointing out these things to encourage others who may be pessimistic. I wish I could say these things to the people of Afghanistan, so badly let down by their allies. Of course, I could be wrong. History shows that there are few certainties, least of all in war.