I am a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. When talking about the people opposing us, I have always referred to them as the "enemy." Now, as I get a little older, and a little more aware (specifically, as I became a determinist), I have lost any hostility I feel towards them, and I feel that calling them the "enemy" demonizes them in a way I no longer wish to do. So, I was hoping there was some neutral term applied to enemy combatants, even if it's historical or in another language. I think opponent comes close, but it's not quite there. I was hoping there was a word like "interlocutor" meant for combatants of war.
I have checked the OED (paywall, I think, I get it through my library), and the words I think that come closest are two obsolete words "contrary" and "adverse." (obviously those words are still in use today, just not in the noun sense of a contrary or adverse being someone who opposes you). Does anyone else have any better matches?
One note, some may suggest I call them by the name they go by, such as the Taliban. The problem is that the Taliban is one of dozens of different groups of fighters and we rarely knew who belonged to which. So, I was hoping for a neutral term I could apply to all of them.