Author Topic: Kilcullen: AFG "still winnable, but only just"  (Read 1057 times)

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Kilcullen: AFG "still winnable, but only just"
« on: November 15, 2008, 07:35:44 »
Highlights from a longer piece from the New Yorker (.pdf attached if link doesn't work), shared with the usual disclaimer....
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.... violence is way up, Taliban influence has spread at the local level, and popular confidence in the government and the international community is waning fast. It’s still winnable, but only just, and to turn this thing around will take an extremely major effort starting with local-level governance, political strategy, giving the Afghan people a well-founded feeling of security, and dealing with the active sanctuary in Pakistan ....

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.... There has been an emphasis on fighting the Taliban, which has led us into operations (both air and ground-based) that do a lot of damage but do not make people feel safer. Similarly, we have a lot of troops in rural areas—small outposts —positioned there because it’s easier to bring firepower to bear on the enemy out in these areas. Meanwhile, the population in major towns and villages is vulnerable because we are off elsewhere chasing the enemy main-force guerrillas, allowing terrorist and insurgent cells based in the populated areas to intimidate people where they live ....

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....  The first thing we have to do is to “triage” the environment: figure out the smallest number of Afghan population centers that accounts for the greatest percentage of the population. Once we understand that lay-down (e.g., in the South, it’s two towns that account for eighty per cent of the population, but the east is more rural, so it’s a different calculation there), then we tailor a security plan for each major cluster of population, and for the key communications—roads, essentially—that link them together. Then we will have an idea of the extra troops we need, if any. But we can start right away with the troops we have .... there are assets beyond (or, at a pinch, instead of) combat troops that would make a huge difference, without “breaking the bank” for combat troops elsewhere. These include construction engineers, aid and development personnel, aid project money, intelligence analysts, helicopters, trainers and advisers, mentors for local mayors and district officials, surveillance assets and so on—so it’s not necessarily a straight zero-sum between having combat troops pull out of Iraq so we can send them to Afghanistan ....

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.... Rather than talking about negotiations (which implies offering an undefeated Taliban a seat at the table, and is totally not in the cards) I would prefer the term “community engagement.” The local communities (tribes, districts, villages) in some parts of Afghanistan have been alienated by poor governance and feel disenfranchised through the lack of district elections. This creates a vacuum, especially in terms of rule of law, dispute resolution, and mediation at the village level, that the Taliban have filled. Rather than negotiate directly with the Taliban, a program to reconcile with local
communities who are tacitly supporting the Taliban by default (because of lack of an alternative) would bear more fruit ....

Quote
.... Rather than talking about negotiations (which implies offering an undefeated Taliban a seat at the table, and is totally not in the cards) I would prefer the term “community engagement.” The local communities (tribes, districts, villages) in some parts of Afghanistan have been alienated by poor governance and feel disenfranchised through the lack of district elections. This creates a vacuum, especially in terms of rule of law, dispute resolution, and mediation at the village level, that the Taliban have filled. Rather than negotiate directly with the Taliban, a program to reconcile with local
communities who are tacitly supporting the Taliban by default (because of lack of an alternative) would bear more fruit.
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