July 13, 2010

Today's essential Afghan counterpoint: Inkspots vs Tim Lynch

Two respected Afghan bloggers, talking past each other. MK at the Inkspots, arguing for focussing on improving local justice systems instead of services:

Despite knowing this, and nearly a decade into the effort, we still struggle to set up even the simplest credible dispute resolution mechanisms. I don't mean an elaborate and fully developed national justice system: I mean local adjudicative bodies that have local legitimacy that need to be backed by our (or where, possible, GIRoA) firepower to enforce their decisions and protect them from being assassinated.

This isn't to suggest that military control of territory and population, building effective local security forces, or tackling corruption aren't just as important (or more, depending phase of operations in a given area). But it seems that as we've come to realize that development assistance is of limited utility in winning Afghans over to our side, we're a bit stymied as to what 'effective governance' means in concrete terms. Seems like solving local land disputes would be an excellent place to start.

In the other corner, Tim Lynch on staying away from dispute resolution and focussing on services instead:

The local people have every right to upset about the performance of the government in Kabul. But they have no interest in seeing any kind of central government which is strong enough to meddle in their affairs. An example, Afghans will go to great lengths to avoid having their problems brought into the legal system. Regardless of the crime be it murder or little boys stealing apples from a neighbor the Afghans know how to handle it and feel personally disgraced when the authorities step in to apply the rule of law. Their family business them becomes public and their problems known to people outside their clan which brings disgrace upon the sons of the family. They are going to bitch about the central government no matter who is in charge and how effective it becomes. The best we can do is concentrate on making regional government functional at basic things like irrigation, sanitation, health care delivery and other municipal services.

Posted by BruceR at 08:39 AM

Today's essential Afghan reading: Condra, et al.

An already much-commented on paper on the effect of civilian casualties on the Afghan insurgency:

The evidence shows that the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq are quite different in how civilian casualties affect the ability of insurgents to produce violence. In Afghanistan, we find strong evidence of a revenge effect. In Iraq, we find no such effect. This highlights two important differences in these insurgencies. The insurgency in Afghanistan is rural and centralized while that in Iraq was urban and featured a decentralized command. We suspect that the greater population density in Iraq made insurgent activity easier to observe and, combined with higher counterinsurgent force levels, increased insurgentsí reliance on the general populationsí reluctance to cooperate with counterinsurgents. In Afghanistan, the more dispersed population and lower counterinsurgent force levels mean the supply of insurgents is much more likely to be the binding constraint. The centralized structure of the Afghan insurgency also bears directly on their ability to engage in more sophisticated information operations. If an insurgent organization is to capitalize on the activities of the counterinsurgent, it requires a coordinated response targeted to key areas without any other sources of information. This is only possible in a consolidated, non-competitive insurgency.

Posted by BruceR at 08:27 AM