Americans have a few, glaring misconceptions about Afghanistan's Taliban fighters that Foreign Policy contributor Gretchen Peters would like to clarify. While media portrayals of the Taliban have painted them as a sort of monolithic, fanatical, organized religious army that can be found "hiding out in caves and reliant upon donations from ideological supporters to finance their operations," the truth is that they tend to act like inner city street gangs. Like, for example, the notorious "Bloods and the Crips, or the Latin American network Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13."
The U.S. military, for its part, has been embedding Marines with local law enforcement agencies like the LAPD to continually adapt to a threat that can easily be camouflaged in the civilian populace.
Here's how the Taliban resemble street gangs in general:
...Cliques in the same gang family often fight amongst themselves -- sometimes over who has the right to conduct business in a particular neighborhood, and often in "beefs" that are really about respect or the lack of it. There are similar patterns of infighting in Afghanistan between factions of the Taliban that are ostensibly allied. As with gang members in the United States, many if not most of the Taliban foot soldiers are locals in the communities where they're based.
And U.S. gangs in particular:
The Taliban narrative echoes the gang narrative in African-American communities: U.S. forces invaded Afghanistan and other parts of the Islamic world as part of a conspiracy to destroy the religion; Afghan women are being turned into sex slaves at U.S. bases; CIA agents are smuggling heroin to fund U.S. military operations; and Washington uses the drug trade and al Qaeda as an excuse to incarcerate thousands of young Muslim men around the globe.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.