Why are partisan groups in Afghanistan called terrorists?


In the WWII the same people who were hiding in the mountains of Yugoslavia, Slovakia, Romania, Ukraine etc. were called terrorists by Nazis too. Today they are known as partisans and are respected in these countries.


A partisan is a member of an irregular military force formed to oppose control of an area by a foreign power or by an army of occupation by some kind of insurgent activity. The term can apply to the field element of resistance movements, an example of which are the civilians that opposed Nazi German rule in several countries during World War II.

My question is, why are these partisans in Afghanistan, Pakistan etc. called terrorists and not partisans?


Posted 2013-07-10T05:20:08.277

Reputation: 761

2Can you specify what group is being called terrorists? Are you referring to Al Qaeda? Or the Taliban? And by whom they are being called terrorists? The western media, the US government, or the Afghan government? – Andrew Grimm – 2013-07-10T12:00:40.537

Did you choose the "territory" tag because it was similar to "terrorism"? – Andrew Grimm – 2013-07-10T12:02:32.090

1This question would be much more answerable if you had some sources of claims that a group is a terrorist group that we could investigate. I most often hear about the Taliban supporting Al Qaeda rather than being a terrorist group it self. – SoylentGray – 2013-07-11T13:21:33.790

@Chad here are some groups: http://blog.sfgate.com/ybenjamin/2009/10/01/the-top-15-terrorist-groups-in-afghanistan-pakistan/

– Derfder – 2013-07-11T13:32:38.633

@Derfder - I am saying that it would improve the question if you edited some quotes from that into your question – SoylentGray – 2013-07-11T13:34:24.883

@Chad Ok, I will try later, now I don't have enough time for that. – Derfder – 2013-07-11T13:38:44.843

1@Derfder - Actually that document pretty well summarizes why each group is considered a terrorist organization. You probably need to explain what concerns you have with the explanations. – SoylentGray – 2013-07-11T13:42:18.893

1@Chad - Taliban didn't commit terrorist acts against US civilians (at least, not high profile famous ones that I'd have heard of - may be Daniel Pearl murder but that was too long ago to remember details). However, they DID commit terrorist acts against Afghani civilians (see cites in my answer) - while some liberals may not much care, I consider that just as much a terrorism act. – user4012 – 2013-07-11T16:00:01.677



They WERE called "freedom fighters" in the West through 1980s when they were fighting the USSR. Now they are called terrorists because they are fighting the US.

Your question reflects systematic bias in sources you use.

Also note that the word "partisan" has certain left-wing coloring so it is rarely used in the West outside of the context of the Eastern Front and Yugoslavia in WWII. Nevertheless, a close term "mujahedin" was used in the context, which roughly means "partisan".


Posted 2013-07-10T05:20:08.277

Reputation: 8 839

@Anixx They were terrorists and they are terrorists. Up vote for "Your question reflects systematic bias in sources you use" – user 1 – 2016-05-29T18:29:23.557

what sources do you mean? Wikipedia? My grandfather was a soldier for a "German satellite" army and then became a partisan in the WWII (opposing the German army and their supporters), he told me some stories when he was still alive. – Derfder – 2013-07-10T06:28:08.927

3@Derfder I mean your impression about the characterization of the Afghanistan fighters in the media reflects the systematic bias in the media sources you are watching. – Anixx – 2013-07-10T06:30:01.840

@Derfder - Had germany won your grandfather would have likely been labeled a traitor though they would not have argued with the modern defintion of terrorist to describe him either. – SoylentGray – 2013-07-10T17:02:26.710

@Chad Exactly! That's why I am a huge Remarque fan as soon as I read All Quiet on the Western Front when I was 10 years old. – Derfder – 2013-07-10T17:13:48.030

1@Derfder - The American "Patriots" in the 1770's were referred to as terrorists by the British. Though they are quite different in motive from Al Qaeda. – SoylentGray – 2013-07-10T17:18:14.437

@Chad Al Qaeda is only 20-25 yo. There were and are many older partisan groups in Afghanistan. Btw. created by Saudi Arabia, Iran and their friends to fight the comunist party of Afghanistan (they tried to change the system from King to Socialist republic, but it fails ;) – Derfder – 2013-07-10T17:24:09.490

1@Derfder - The US had a lot to do with making them too. They taught them to be terrorists, then were surprised when we got bit. – SoylentGray – 2013-07-10T17:40:53.420

@Chad citation for British calling the American "Patriots" terrorists? – Andrew Grimm – 2013-07-11T00:52:24.603

2Any citations about definitions of terrorists and the actions of the Taliban and other partisan groups? this is not a good answer. – Publius – 2013-07-11T00:55:12.440

@AndrewGrimm - If you look up articles written in britan about the insurection in the colonies it shouldnt be hard to find. – SoylentGray – 2013-07-11T03:35:46.030


@Chad https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/burden-of-proof

– Andrew Grimm – 2013-07-11T03:37:35.163

@Chad - the US trained Taliban to target and kill civilians? SRSLY? – user4012 – 2013-07-11T08:27:13.450

3@DVK - We (US Special Forces) trained them to use unconventional tactics including targeting those who are cooperating with their russian enemies. Those would be civilians who are doing nothing other than obeying those in charge. The idea was to keep the locals from cooperating with the russians. So yes we taught them to be terrorists. – SoylentGray – 2013-07-11T13:14:57.220

@AndrewGrimm - And if that claim was in an answer I would agree with you this is just side discussion in comments. Which probably should not be allowed but hey "When in Rome" – SoylentGray – 2013-07-11T13:16:04.037

1@Chad - cite please for "including targeting those civilians who are cooperating with their russian enemies" – user4012 – 2013-07-11T15:49:02.793

I did not say civilians I said anyone who is cooperating with their russian enemies. As for cite request again see comment above... – SoylentGray – 2013-07-12T18:59:57.637


They are called "terrorists" because they engage in what is commongly understood to be acts of terrorism. While there are many competing definitions, the most commongly agreed on involves:

  • Use of violence
  • To achieve political goals
  • Perpetrated deliberatly on non-combatants (note the intent and the target).

E.g., Wiki states:

Since 1994, the United Nations General Assembly has repeatedly condemned terrorist acts using the following political description of terrorism:

"Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes are in any circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or any other nature that may be invoked to justify them."


A definition proposed by Carsten Bockstette at the George C. Marshall Center for European Security Studies, underlines the psychological and tactical aspects of terrorism:

Terrorism is defined as political violence in an asymmetrical conflict that is designed to induce terror and psychic fear (sometimes indiscriminate) through the violent victimization and destruction of noncombatant targets (sometimes iconic symbols). Such acts are meant to send a message from an illicit clandestine organization. The purpose of terrorism is to exploit the media in order to achieve maximum attainable publicity as an amplifying force multiplier in order to influence the targeted audience(s) in order to reach short- and midterm political goals and/or desired long-term end states."

Therefore, the partisan groups in Afghanistan who target and kill civilians (and only those groups) are commongly called terrorists.

Before you start screaming and ranting about "American biases", they are actually VERY consistent in the application of that definition:

  • Northern Alliance groups, who to the best of my knowledge restricted their intentional warfare to combatants (first, Soviets, later, Taliban), were never referred to as "terrorist".

  • Taliban, who engaged in systematic acts of intentional violence against civilians, are terrorists, no matter what their military/political objectives are. Brief Wiki perusal quickly leads to easy examples:

    According to a 55-page report by the United Nations, the Taliban, while trying to consolidate control over northern and western Afghanistan, committed systematic massacres against civilians.[35][36] UN officials stated that there had been "15 massacres" between 1996 and 2001.[35][36] They also said, that "[t]hese have been highly systematic and they all lead back to the [Taliban] Ministry of Defense or to Mullah Omar himself".[35][36] Al Qaeda's so-called 055 Brigade was also responsible for mass-killings of Afghan civilians.[18] The report by the United Nations quotes eyewitnesses in many villages describing Arab fighters "carrying long knives used for slitting throats and skinning people".[35][36]


[35] Newsday (October 2001). "Taliban massacres outlined for UN". Chicago Tribune.
[36] Newsday (2001). "Confidential UN report details mass killings of civilian villagers". newsday.org. Retrieved October 12, 2001.


Posted 2013-07-10T05:20:08.277

Reputation: 84 347

@user4012 Nope. The "area-bombing" preconized by Arthur "Bomber" Harris and others had the explicit aiming of breaking down the morale of the enemy and causing havoc in its economy and industry by killing its civilian population. – Rekesoft – 2018-06-25T10:41:46.930

1@Rekesoft - correct. And in modern times, the former would be considered state-sponsored terrorism if done outside war. It's an interesting separate question whether the definition of terrorism extends to armed conflict, I can see argumens for both ways. – user4012 – 2018-06-25T12:36:21.597

1People also call the Houthis terrorist for attacking a Saudi military ship. – gerrit – 2017-02-06T14:26:32.077

1@gerrit - When you have KSA type of f-u money, people will call anyone you don't like anything you want :( – user4012 – 2017-02-06T14:40:18.510

Some people define terrorism as only being done by non-governmental bodies. (Whether the Taliban is governmental or non-governmental is a bit hard to define...) Also, the quotation you've provided doesn't indicate that the Taliban is regarded as a terrorist organization. – Andrew Grimm – 2013-07-11T09:05:35.430

@AndrewGrimm - Taliban is currently (and previously, during Massoud's rule) definitely non-governmental. Wait, you want me to prove that people call Taliban "terrorist"? I can see needing to prove they can be justified as being called that (which I did). – user4012 – 2013-07-11T09:21:48.373

@AndrewGrimm - if you're actually serious, here: http://www.nctc.gov/site/groups/taliban.html

– user4012 – 2013-07-11T09:23:36.927

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan managed to achieve diplomatic recognition by three UN members: Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and at its peak managed to control the vast majority of Afghanistan.

– Andrew Grimm – 2013-07-11T10:13:42.713

@AndrewGrimm - Official government since 2001 was Karzai. – user4012 – 2013-07-11T10:25:47.383


So what was the fire bombing of Dresden? Its only terrorism if you lose.

– SoylentGray – 2013-07-11T13:18:35.483

The other thing that causes problems with the label is that Wikileaks has been labeled a terrorist organization and to my knowledge it has never committed or supported any terroristic activities beyond publishing classified documents that were redacted to protect individuals. – SoylentGray – 2013-07-11T13:25:35.977

@Chad - the goal of fire bombing of Dresden was (AFAIK - I'm not an expert on Western side of WW2) destruction of military industry, NOT murdering random civilians to cause terror. Note the intent. If the intent can be proven to be just randomly killing civilians to cause terror, under some modern definitions (those that don't exclude state actors) it would be either terrorism, or war crime. – user4012 – 2013-07-11T15:51:07.480

@Chad - "Wikileaks has been labeled a terrorist organization" - cite please? Also, note that I specifically spoke about "most commongly accepted" definition. Everyone and their grandmother can make up their own "terrorist" definition and call anyone else and THEIR grandmother "terrorist" using that. The question is, how many people agree to the definition. The one I'm using, pretty much everyone normal agrees with. – user4012 – 2013-07-11T15:54:18.947

1Would the holocaust be considered terrorism by this definition? – Andrew Grimm – 2013-07-12T10:14:16.727

2@AndrewGrimm - No. It was not done to terrorize a larger group of people to do something. It's couterproductive to expand a definition of one bad thing to include all other bad things. – user4012 – 2013-07-12T13:00:30.320