August 23, 2009

Surge Against the Resurgence of the Insurgency

Hatched by Sachi

Since Barack H. Obama took office, anti-war protesters, major media figures, and even conservatives seem to have forgotten that there are wars going on still in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thanks to General David Petraeus and his counterinsurgency strategy (COIN) in Iraq, the situation dramatically improved there during the tail end of the Bush adiministration. But in Afghanistan, the situation is not improving; it anything, it's deteriorating.

Our Marines are still there and fighting; we can always rely on them. But they cannot win this war alone; ultimately, Afghanistan must be won by the Afghans themselves. But in a place where terrorist and vengence killings and kidnappings by the Taliban continue to be "situation normal," getting Afghans to join the fight against so-called "jihad" is easier promised than delivered, as the Obamacle is finding out.

The New York Times notes that the Marines are not getting the help they need, either from local tribes or the Afghan national government:

Governor Massoud has no body of advisers to help run the area, no doctors to provide health care, no teachers, no professionals to do much of anything. About all he says he does have are police officers who steal and a small group of Afghan soldiers who say they are here for “vacation.”

It all raises serious questions about what the American mission is in southern Afghanistan -- to secure the area, or to administer it -- and about how long Afghans will tolerate foreign troops if they do not begin to see real benefits from their own government soon. American commanders say there is a narrow window to win over local people from the guerrillas.

Didn't we hear the same story in 2006, in Iraq? Americans are strong; the Marines can win every pitched battle. We have killed tens of thousands of Talibani, conquered most of the territory of Afghanistan, and occupied them with American and local security forces. But have we secured Afghanistan? Hardly. Instead, it threatens to again become what it used to be called: the graveyard of empires.

Why is it that we cannot win the hearts and minds of the Afghans? All right, when George W. Bush was in the White House, distrust was understandable, liberals might argue; Bush was that evil dictator, that big meaniee, who refused to negotiate or even talk with the "freedom fighters" who only had the best interests of their fellow Pashtuns at heart. Naturally Afghans didn't trust Bush -- everybody in the entire world hated him! But Barack Obama -- the One We Have Been Waiting For, the Obamessiah -- surely ought to be able to resolve this situation diplomatically with a few well-chosen words from his trusty teleprompter.

Yet the sad truth of the matter is that it doesn't matter who the president is; all that matters is our long term, consistant, relentless presence in the country... for a long time to come; probably as long as our military presence in the Philippines, fighting the Moro insurgency -- around 15 years -- as an earlier post discussed.

Afghans are afraid: Even if the Marines secure a region, the populace knows we'll eventually leave; we don't plan to live here permanently as colonial masters. And then what?

Counterinsurgency is much like building a road in the desert. We can shovel and smooth, lay tarmac, and build a superhighway; but if we do not constantly maintain it, if we even take a breather, the desert will reclaim its own and turn the fancy road back into sand dunes, as if we were never even there. Look what is happening in Iraq, since Barack H. Obama arrived and began his months-long victory lap. [Sergeant Garcia: How did we capture Zorro? Capitan Monastario: "We?" You had nothing to do with it, baboso! -- DaH]

Afghans will have to live in Afghanistan long after the Americans leave. They need to be convinced that siding with American troops to build a free Afghanistan is a courageous, honorable, and rational idea -- that cooperating with us does not mean signing their own death warrants. Unless we can guarantee the safety of the Afghan civilians, as we did in Iraq (while President Bush was still in charge), we cannot expect the Afghan tribes to cooperate anytime soon.

What Afghanistan needs is a COIN operation, like the one Gen. Petraeus executed to brilliant victory in Iraq; it would have to adapt to local and regional differences between Afghanistan and the Middle East, but the main goal would be the same: protecting the civilian population long enough for effective and honest civil institutions to arise naturally. But with Barack Obama in the White House, I am not as confident we'll succeed as I once was.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, August 23, 2009, at the time of 5:33 PM

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The following hissed in response by: Geoman

Just like the Iraqis, the Afghans get a vote in whether or not we succeed. So far they are voting for failure.

COIN might not work in Afghanistan. It is just a strategy, not a magic bullet. Maybe the country is too big, too remote, too underpopulated, too backward. I guess we'll see.

The above hissed in response by: Geoman [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 24, 2009 9:37 AM

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