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Why the War in Afghanistan is Not Over...

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  • Why the War in Afghanistan is Not Over...

    One of the authors of this piece, Dr. Nagl, is, in my opinion, one of the most knowledgeable men on the planet when it comes to COIN....

    Source: Los Angeles Times
    Author(s): Richard Fontaine, John Nagl
    Original Post: Counterintuitive Counterinsurgency
    Type: Op-Ed
    Date: 10/12/2009



    As the Obama administration debates whether to stick with the counterinsurgency strategy for Afghanistan, opponents point to that nation's flawed presidential election as a reason why this approach cannot work. Counterinsurgency is premised, they argue, on the presence of a legitimate national government that can win allegiance from local populations. Given credible allegations of rampant abuse in Afghanistan's August election, President Hamid Karzai's newly illegitimate government cannot play this role. As a result, the United States has little choice but to change strategies.

    This argument is badly flawed. Electoral fraud will render our task in Afghanistan more difficult, but it does not make counterinsurgency impossible. On the contrary, a counterinsurgency approach -- and not a narrowly tailored mission focused solely on killing or capturing enemies -- remains the best path to success in Afghanistan.

    To understand why, consider the analogous case of Iraq over the last three years. In January 2007, the "surge" of combat forces began as part of a new counterinsurgency strategy that emphasized clearing areas of fighters, holding that territory and building the infrastructure and institutions that had been so badly lacking -- just as Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal has proposed for Afghanistan.

    At the time, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's Shiite-led government was widely viewed as weak and sectarian. An overwhelming number of Sunni Arabs -- who formed the center of gravity of the insurgency -- rejected its legitimacy and had boycotted the December 2005 elections that brought it to power. The Maliki government had done little to allay these feelings; on the contrary, elements of its security forces participated in sectarian violence against Sunnis through 2006. As Sunnis became further alienated from the central government, the cycle of violence began to spiral out of control.

    Army Gen. David H. Petraeus' counterinsurgency strategy aimed to arrest this process by using American troops to protect the population -- predicting, correctly, that until basic security was restored in key neighborhoods and communities, extremists on both sides of the sectarian divide would continue to inflame the situation. With U.S. forces clearing and holding territory and demonstrating to the Sunnis that they had a reasonable alternative to Al Qaeda and its sectarian warfare, the extremists were sidelined. Security began to improve, and the political space necessary for reconciliation began to open.

    Prospects for such an outcome in Afghanistan actually look better now than they did in Iraq in early 2007. To begin with, unlike Iraq -- where success hinged on persuading a critical mass of the Sunni Arab community to accept the bitter reality of a Shiite-led government -- no deep existential issue drives Afghans (primarily Pashtuns) into the arms of the insurgents.

    In fact, according to polls and other evidence, the overwhelming majority of Afghans, including Pashtuns, remain hostile to the Taliban's ideological agenda and unenthusiastic about a return to the medievalism that was inflicted on the country when it was last in power. The inroads the Taliban has made mainly reflect the failures and abuses of the Afghan government at the local level, not transcendent grievances about ethnic or sectarian divides.

    For this reason, the national government in Afghanistan almost certainly retains greater legitimacy among the people than did the Iraqi government before things began to turn for the better there.

    Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates recently touched on this point. Despite the presidential election, he said, "the key is whether the Afghans believe that their government has legitimacy. And everything that I've seen in the intelligence and elsewhere indicates that remains the case."

    This is not to say that a stolen presidential election is meaningless. But our main goal should be helping the Afghan government work at the local level -- providing the marginal but tangible improvements in security, governance and prosperity that ordinary Afghans say they want, and stopping the corruption and abuses they personally contend with and resent.

    Ironically, the greatest effect of Afghanistan's botched election may be felt outside the country -- reinforcing doubts in the United States and Europe about whether a corrupt Afghan government really deserves our help. But this misses the point. We are in Afghanistan because its takeover by the Taliban would be catastrophic for American national interests. The Taliban seeks to achieve that goal by exploiting any gaps it can find between the government and the people. Our task is to see clearly the causes for these gaps and take the steps necessary to close them.

    This is precisely what McChrystal spent upward of 60 pages explaining in his recent assessment. The counterinsurgency strategy he describes -- difficult and costly though it may be -- remains the best possible path to preventing the return of Afghanistan to a Taliban-dominated terrorist sanctuary.
    "Against the machinations of your enemies you can take defense, but against the stupidity of fools, the very gods themselves fight in vain" ~ Johann C.F. Von Schiller


    "Man once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without rudder, is the sport of every wind. With such persons, gullibility, which they call faith, takes the helm from the hand of reason, and the mind becomes a wreck."
    --Thomas Jefferson

  • #2
    It seems to me the reason most people do not want to send more troops there is the same reason those same people did not want to send more troops to Iraq. The fear of more US casualties.

    If they stopped and thought about it though, more troops are likely to result in less casualties.

    I believe it is not unlike police work in this regard. For example, if you have 6 - 10 bad guys engaging in murder and mayhem on a street corner, are you more likely to suffer police casualties sending six officers to the scene or sixteen?

    My guess is that the former scenario is riskier than the latter scenario.
    Jubilant Patriotic Republican

    America gave Obama the benefit of the doubt when they elected him. Obama is now giving America the doubt of the benefit of his governance......Change you can bereave in!..JPR

    Comment


    • #3
      America is not concerned with casualties. Individual families feel the cost in lives.

      America at large simply sees cost.

      People are far more concerned with the price in gas, the interest on their credit, and who's winning Dancing with the stars, than they are with US Casualties in the war.

      America is not at war, the Military is.

      M-11
      “All men dream...... But not equally..
      Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find it is vanity;
      but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men,
      for they act their dreams with open eyes to make it possible.....”

      TE Lawrence

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by M-11 View Post
        America is not concerned with casualties. Individual families feel the cost in lives.

        America at large simply sees cost.

        People are far more concerned with the price in gas, the interest on their credit, and who's winning Dancing with the stars, than they are with US Casualties in the war.

        America is not at war, the Military is.

        M-11
        +100.

        It's amazing how quickly the American people forget what's going on around them.
        \

        Comment


        • #5
          Given credible allegations of rampant abuse in Afghanistan's August election,
          Look at ours, we had ACORN abusing ours and we're getting along.

          Comment


          • #6
            The war there isn't over because the knuckleheads
            who did this and those like them are still out there.
            sigpic
            Our houses are protected by the good Lord and a gun.
            And you might meet 'em both if you show up here not welcome son.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by KapsFB View Post
              The war there isn't over because the knuckleheads
              who did this and those like them are still out there.
              Exactly!!! Agree all the way...remember what Bush and everyone not just him said about this campaign? We need to show great "resolve" and never stop until the world is free of those who support and enguage in terrorist acts such as this.

              America's resolve has not only melted away, the libs are apologizing.!!
              "Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world. The MARINES don't have that problem." ....Ronald Reagan

              Comment


              • #8
                Sadly we're not going to win either of these wars. The enemy has resolve...we have people whining about Guantanamo Bay. The war is lost, but once again not by the brave men and women who served. Americans lost these wars in their own living rooms.
                I make my living on Irish welfare.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by dadyswat View Post
                  Look at ours, we had ACORN abusing ours and we're getting along.
                  Black panther party voting intimidation as well

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Hate to be the one who says this out loud, but we need attacked again - HARD.

                    Then, suddenly, everyone will see the light.
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                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by ten08
                      Where is there?
                      Most of the Equatorial land regions of the Earth (plus Russia and China).

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I'd wager that if a terrorist act took place on American soil, Obama would just simply blame Bush for not winning the war.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Where is there?
                          Have your security manager fax me a copy of your clearance and shoot me your SIPR account E-Mail and I'll tell you right where they are.

                          Otherwise, don't worry about it. We know what we are doing...

                          M-11
                          “All men dream...... But not equally..
                          Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find it is vanity;
                          but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men,
                          for they act their dreams with open eyes to make it possible.....”

                          TE Lawrence

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by 1042 Trooper View Post
                            Hate to be the one who says this out loud, but we need attacked again - HARD.

                            Then, suddenly, everyone will see the light.
                            I agree with Outshined, very taboo thing to say but it will bring the country together and and realize there IS terrorism out there that can touch us still. But I'm assuming the common folk isn't going to do much other than buy more little plastic flags to hang from their cars...

                            Maybe they'll support this war for a little while again but then the libs will do their thing again..




                            Futurelaw

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Futurelaw89 View Post
                              I agree with Outshined, very taboo thing to say but it will bring the country together and and realize there IS terrorism out there that can touch us still. But I'm assuming the common folk isn't going to do much other than buy more little plastic flags to hang from their cars...

                              Maybe they'll support this war for a little while again but then the libs will do their thing again..




                              Futurelaw
                              The way they handled 9/11 was being patriotic for give or take 12 months.

                              Imagine if we had another attack.. if it's bigger than 9/11 maybe 18 months, if it's smaller, around 6 months.

                              Our citizens have a short attention span, they might agree with you, but only before they find people to blame, such as the President in Office, the military, or it's a conspiracy.

                              It wont matter how many attacks... it seems we keep going back to our simpleminded selves.

                              Comment

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