May 01, 2009

Indigenous forces as fire-breaks

I agree with Abu M: this is an important article.

One thing I think we're just beginning to realize in the Afghanistan context is that lightly-armed or developing indigenous forces are comparatively ineffective in areas where insurgents are already well-established. They bring nothing to the fight that well-trained, well-equipped Western-type forces do not, and provide their own logistical burdens that hamper their heavier counterparts far more than they help.

Indigenous forces can potentially be much more valuable in the areas where insurgents are looking to expand, but have not yet gotten a firm foothold. By moving in to those areas in an intelligent way, they become the firebreak that prevents further insurgent operational success. Western forces can then focus on operating to disrupt in the "red zones" outside the inkblot more effectively.

You can lean too far the other way, too. The other failing that I've now experienced with indigenous forces is their unwise application of the otherwise theoretically sound "the people are the key terrain" concept resulting in them opting to over-garrison city cores and key buildings, rather than focussing their weaponry and training advantages on that on-the-fence population in the built-up areas on the approaches. Indigenous forces built on an army model, like the ANA can do little of value to stabilize a city that is worthy of the costs of basing them there: I would suggest that once you reach a certain level of urbanization, police acting in support of a judicial system, no matter how ineffective, are going to be a much better investment of effort than actual army units, at least in terms of a permanent stabilization solution.

In the Pakistan context, and talking purely theoretically for a moment, I would suggest this means bolstering the Punjab police in the geographical space that still remains between the big urban centres and occupied territories like Swat, with army quick reaction capabilities and defensibility improvements, to make them a tougher nut to crack. This far, and no further, etc.

Posted by BruceR at 01:24 PM

Nir Rosen on Iraq: it's over

"It would be naive to say that Iraq’s future is certain, or even likely, to be a peaceful one, but the war between Sunnis and Shiites is now over."

A worthwhile read from the consistently most essential of the Iraq reporters.

Posted by BruceR at 12:46 PM

Great news for Phil Carter

Very happy to hear this:

"The Obama administration has chosen a lawyer and Iraq War veteran who has denounced U.S. detention policy to direct detainee affairs at the Department of Defense.

"Until starting at the Pentagon this week, Phillip E. Carter, 33, was an associate at New York's Park Avenue law firm McKenna Long & Aldridge. He specialized in government contracting and national security regulation.

"A former Army captain, he also blogged on national security issues at a Washington Post website, Intel Dump.

"In 2005-06, he served in Iraq with the Army's 101st Airborne Division as an advisor to the Iraqi police."

Posted by BruceR at 12:34 PM

I don't think that word means what you think it means

Longer Byron York:

"I wrote that citing Obama's "sky-high ratings among African-Americans make some of his positions appear a bit more popular overall than they actually are." I thought the word "overall" conveyed the idea that there was a difference between the total job-approval number and the complexities of opinion of Obama on various issues. Maybe "across-the-board" would have been better than "overall," but I doubt that would have kept a left-wing activist..." yadda yadda yadda.

Shorter Byron York:

The word "overall" apparently doesn't mean what I thought it did. I blame other, smarter people.

Update: Similar sketchiness, here.

Posted by BruceR at 11:54 AM