July 06, 2010

Today's essential Afghan reading: Tim Lynch

More of this please:

There is much more American military activity around Jalalabad including flying columns of the varsity Afghan SF with their American advisers who use Toyota trucks just like their Afghan colleges. These small, fast, powerful formations are by far the most effective joint US/Afghan effort of the war and the only example of real embedded (as opposed to co-located) training currently being done with the Afghans.

Look, it's real simple: you don't need to "arm the tribes." You don't need to train the Afghans to fight our way, either. You just need to train those willing to fight for the central government enough to be able to explain what they need from us, and then train a (much smaller) number of our soldiers to fight alongside them, in a manner that doesn't get in their way, bringing all of our nifty technological enablers along to ensure a victory. And that's a lot simpler challenge... if only because more of ours can read the manual, be it 3-24 or Seven Pillars. It worked in 2001, and it can work again. We really seem to be overthinking this thing.

Posted by BruceR at 08:41 AM

Today's essential Afghan reading: Bernard Finel

A must-read for would-be nation builders:

The other issue I wanted to mention is that successful models of state-building include self-sustaining dynamics. Our current plans for Afghanistan do not. Instead, every expansion of central authority increases the demands on the Afghan state. A state-building through largess approach becomes progressively more difficult as you reach out to areas where development and state control are weaker. This is precisely the opposite of successful processes which, once begun, often provide the resources needed for further consolidation.

This is exactly right. In growing the security forces so large, and attempting to extend the central government's reach, we have created a state so entirely dependent on cash transfers from foreign countries to continue that it is clearly unsustainable, even to its strongest supporters among its own people. The Afghan GDP will never, ever rise to the point where it can pay the army we've created for them at the wage levels we've set. Because it is clear the good times cannot last, it is only rational for the key players to be focussed on shorter-term profit-taking.

A year ago, I was writing that the foreign-funded increase in teacher's pay was a good thing... because Afghan teachers were horribly underpaid compared to even junior soldiers. So we ante'd up and increased their pay, too, just as we'd increased that of the police before. When army recruitment starts to flag, we'll undoubtedly raise that salary again. But at some point, this must collapse, and Afghans have to know it. It's led to gold-rush economics, and frontier justice.

Posted by BruceR at 08:08 AM