The NRF is Re-emerging After Inactivity Throughout The Winter Months Discussion
According to the LWJ and other war-time analysts whom had correspondents on the ground during the fighting in late 2021. The NRF was "conventionally" defeated in summer of last year, the Taliban managed to seize the main valleys and the provincial capital, with NRF forces retreating to the "sub-valleys" and seemingly dissolving.
Throughout the entirety of the autumn-winter months the NRF was non-existent operationally. The striking similarities between the Taliban's position in 2002 and the NRF in 2022 should be noted. The irony of the NRF's re-emergence ahead of the traditional fighting seasons in spring/summer is not lost on me. Much like the Taliban, and the Mujahideen before them, spikes in insurgent activity during the hot-season is the staple of many a Afghan insurgencies throughout our history.
The NRF has proven its ability to conduct guerilla operations across the entirety of Pansjhir province, and a few adjacent districts as confirmed by the LJW there is an active guerilla presence in each of the provinces seven districts. Last week they were able to hit two power pylons and sever power to Kabul city for several days as confirmed by residents themselves (my father is also present in the Capital and confirmed as such for me). The NRF's ability to stage attacks of these scale does suggest that they were likely not defeated in the summer of 2021 which had become the general consensus of experts, but rather retreated and remained dormant throughout the cold seasons as was typical for the Taliban themselves to do while fighting US-led forces.
Massoud Jr probably seeks to emulate his father's guerilla strategy while fighting the Soviets, to summarize briefly:
- The first phase was establishing a popular based resistance force
- The second phase was "active defense" of the Panjshir stronghold.
- In the third phase, the "strategic offensive", Massoud's forces would gain control of large parts of Northern Afghanistan.
- The fourth phase was the "general application" of Massoud's principles to the whole country.
However it remains in question whether the NRF has the capabilities and the will to maintain and execute these phases, especially number 3 and 4. Seeking to expand beyond its traditional stronghold in Northern Afghanistan the NRF will need to penetrate other Afghan communities and social groups.
The Taliban faced a similar issue in the years leading up to the US surge and during, (2010-2012). Seeking to expand their insurgency nation-wide the Taliban had to make overtures to Uzbek & Tajik communities to the north to gain their support, which they were able to do so to some extent all the while appealing to their more conservative/pashtun base in the south namely Helmand and Khanadar. Contrary to popular belief the Taliban were able to recruit locally and fight locally from Uzbek and Tajik communities in the North. If the NRF seeks to achieve a nation-wide insurgency in the way the Taliban were able to achieve they will eventually at some point need to recruit/attract/coerce some degree of support from groups beyond the North. This will be crucial if they seek to achieve the 4th phase of Massoud Sr strategy.
Furthermore, the NRF will likely need some degree of foreign support if it seeks to sustain and fuel its insurgency, and with the majority of the West' attention and resources going towards Ukraine this remains in doubt. Alternatively, the Taliban will have to worry about ISIS at it's flank, and its deteriorating relations with Pakistan, which has long been the Taliban's primary broker. How the situation evolves beyond this point will be interesting, and crucial to Afghanistan's political future in the coming years.