October 27, 2009

Some non-essential reading for a change

This post was disappointing. Leaving aside the sheer impossibility at this point of the U.S. demanding and getting the mass firing of "Karzai cronies", this part is just obtuse:

"We need to turn these villages into anti-insurgent strong points... We should approach the villagers and ask what they most need. It could be a well, an irrigation project, an access road or something else. The bottom line is that the project(s) should be a local call, not something that we assume that they need. The deal in providing the project should be that the village population will form a popular force unit to protect itself and the project(s). We can arm them and pay for the militiamen's time, but they need to do the defending themselves. If we use mobile air assault forces to back up these popular forces, we can deny the Taliban the quick, relatively bloodless victories that they have achieved so often in the past."

Look, we've been there a while now. It's safe to say we've tried that. Over and over again, all over the place. Now there are arguments why it hasn't often worked, sure: undermanning/underresourcing being an obvious one. But any insightful piece about Afghanistan needs to start by acknowledging that this approach has been tried many times before, and so far seems rarely successful.

Here's the most-likely enemy COA in 2008-09 in the above scenario.

One: make an offer to the local security force leader. "Give us your ammo and some of your weapons, or we kill you. Tell the Westerners you shot it off fighting us." If that works, you're done. Go back to the well every few months when you need to rearm.

Two: if it doesn't, overrun and kill everyone in the security post at night. Or gun down the leader in the bazaar; either's good. Regardless, it's safe to assume any air or ground assets deployed in reaction will not get there before you're long gone. Wait until the post's personnel or the leader are replaced, and go back to step one.

Three: in the rare cases where the Coalition (or sometimes the ANA) has a standing 24/7 presence in the village, wait until they do something inept that makes the pro-government Afghans look like Quislings. It's often only a matter of time: next rotation, what have you. Or they have to go away to another task and leave the locals in charge. Then go to step one.

Give us new ideas for how to beat that method, and you've got a post worth reading. COMISAFs "better troops and more of them" is at least an attempt in this regard.

Posted by BruceR at 01:59 PM