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Precedent suggests Afghanistan Taliban could win: report

A new study says the Afghanistan Taliban enjoy a slew of advantages that historically correlate with insurgent success, such as Pakistani sanctuary and a weak government in Kabul.

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A US Army soldier stands near a disabled armored vehicle during an operation in Maiwand District, Kandahar, Afghanistan on Tuesday.

Tim Wimborne/Reuters

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While current US counterinsurgency doctrine in Afghanistan broadly conforms with historical best practices, the Taliban enjoy a slew of advantages that historically correlate with insurgent success, according to a new study of 89 past and ongoing insurgencies worldwide.

Factors that favor the Taliban include receiving sanctuary and support in another country, learning to be more discriminating in targeting their attacks, and fighting a government that's both weak and reliant on direct external support.

The historical trends suggest that the Achilles heel for the Taliban would be the loss of their Pakistani sanctuary, while the principal American vulnerability lies in Hamid Karzai's anocracy, or weak, pseudodemocracy. The study, says the author, cannot be predictive, but can help the US address or exploit these vulnerabilities.

"A lot of the things being done in the current [US military] plan are along the lines of successful things we've seen in the study," says Ben Connable, lead author of "How Insurgencies End," published by RAND Corp. in Washington. "The key is if the US recognizes it is working with an anocracy and recognizes the limits of that kind of government, you can work on solutions to that problem."

Anocracies rarely win

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