The accidental guerrilla

by | Mar 26, 2009


David Kilcullen on the central concept of his eponymous book:

Interviewer: When did the concept of the “accidental guerrilla syndrome” really start to click?

Kilcullen: It was field observation over ten years or so, but the name came to me one afternoon near the Khyber Pass… My local escort commander pointed out to me that he and his guys were the real foreigners on the Frontier, whereas the al-Qaeda guys had been embedded there for a generation. He said no outsider could tell the locals apart from the terrorists except by accident. And when outsiders intervene to deal with the global terrorists hiding out in areas like the FATA, it turns out people get upset, and the local community coalesces around rejecting outside interference, and closes ranks to support the terrorists….

This has happened in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, the Horn of Africa, Thailand, Indonesia, Europe – basically everywhere I’ve worked since 9/11, I have observed some variation on this pattern. I call the local fighters “accidental guerrillas,” because they end up fighting on behalf of extremists, not because they hate the west but because we just turned up in their valley with a Brigade, looking for AQ. And I calculate 90 to 95 percent of the people we’ve been fighting since 9/11 are accidentals, not radicals.”

Via Kotare.

Author

  • Alex Evans

    Alex Evans is founder of the Collective Psychology Project, which explores how we can use psychology to reduce political tribalism and polarisation, a senior fellow at New York University, and author of The Myth Gap: What Happens When Evidence and Arguments Aren’t Enough? (Penguin, 2017). He is a former Campaign Director of the 50 million member global citizen’s movement Avaaz, special adviser to two UK Cabinet Ministers, climate expert in the UN Secretary-General’s office, and was Research Director for the Business Commission on Sustainable Development. He was part of Ethiopia’s delegation to the Paris climate summit and has consulted for Oxfam, WWF UK, the UK Cabinet Office and US State Department. Alex lives with his wife and two children in Yorkshire.


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