This is just too good to pass up. Take a look. It is worth the read.
Make sure to get to the end, perhaps another aspect of COIN:
"Barack Obama wants to send 7,000 more American troops to this disaster zone. Does he have the slightest idea what is going on in Afghanistan? For if he did, he would send 7,000 doctors."
Friday, November 21, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
The War on Terror is over. Actually, it’s been over for about two years; it’s just that nobody in Washington has explicitly said it. This means that the Bush administration has shifted from its virtually all-encompassing definition of a terrorist and is now working with so-called local insurgents. As I said: The War on Terror is over, but what exactly is this new strategy that has taken its place?
This policy shift started around 2006 with the Sons of Iraq program led by General David Petraeus in the Anbar province of Iraq. The basic idea was that the U.S military would pay Sunni tribal leaders to fight local al-Qaeda cells. This meant that the U.S would mend its turbulent relationship with local leaders, many of whom had been previously dismissed as insurgents, to team up against a common enemy. This strategy is largely credited for the relative calm in Iraq.
General Petraeus was right: Only through factional diplomacy and empowering local leaders could the insurgency in Iraq be broken. And Petraeus’ recent promotion to central command (which puts him in charge of both Iraq and Afghanistan) should be proof that Washington has to some degree understood that it needs to work within these local power structures.
Today there are many who have argued that the lessons of Anbar can be applied to Afghanistan. Although some aspects may be applicable, Afghanistan is not Iraq.
Some, including President-elect Obama, have entertained the idea of a regional strategy for Afghanistan. As in Anbar, the U.S must understand that many of these previously demonized groups can be persuaded—it’s just about using the right leverage.
But first off, this means talking with the Taliban. Although there will always be terrorists who are irreconcilable, many who have been considered part of the Taliban insurgency can in fact be won over.
Naturally this regional strategy goes further than just talking to Afghan factions. Elements of the Pakistani Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) have been allied with the Taliban insurgency in an attempt to curb the growing Indian influence in Afghanistan. A stable Afghanistan will be largely dependent on addressing this ongoing proxy war between India and Pakistan.
Then there is China, Russia and Iran. China has invested hugely in Pakistan, which means that the government of Pakistan is bound to the business interests of the Chinese—not just the Americans. Russia has more on-the-ground intelligence agents in Afghanistan than the U.S. does, and Iran maintains its close ties with the tribes that make up the Afghan Northern Alliance.
A regional strategy means finding a common ground with these key players. At the same time, it also requires that the U.S acknowledge that a traditional counterinsurgency campaign will be counterproductive not just in Iraq and Afghanistan, but in all nationalist Muslim countries. This, however, does not mean defeat. Rather, the U.S should continue to step away from its War on Terror philosophy and move toward a regional strategy of principled diplomacy while keeping a light military footprint.
Afghanistan will be an unstable country for some time to come, but rallying regional forces by appealing to their own self-interest offers the best chance for bringing peace to a country that has not had it for so long.
Originally published in The Vista, a publication of the University of San Diego