Monday, October 26, 2009

Afghansitan on CBC

Sort of a quick post.

I've just flipped through and caught part of "Obama's War" on the Passionate Eye. It's a journal piece and all the big wigs and small players are being interviewed: Richard Holbrook, Gen. Stanley McCrystal, a US Marine ISAF staff officer, US Marine company commander. There's footage of firefights between US Marines and the Taliban, and of Marines talking to local villagers through a translator.


- Marines are demanding to know why villagers are not using their market and instead going elsewhere. The Marines have camped near the village/market to "connect more with the locals". Locals move out because they don't want to be near the guys with guns. Marines are frustrated and tell the locals they aren't being cooperative and if they aren't cooperative, they'll think they're Taliban. Footage marines surrounding Afghans and telling them to lift up their shirts.

- Counterinsurgency braintrust (Nagl, McCrystal, Kilkullen et al) talking about how much the Afghans need governance, and a chance a good life, and Dairy Queen. Mention stuff about valuing locals, and the military need to eradicate corruption. Nagl seems the brightlight, stating needs 600 000 more NATO troops.

- talk about how much Pakistan may or may not share goals with the US. How the US fighting the Taleban, whom Pakistan intelligence supports, thus fighting Pakistan. Weird. Talk about "most complicated war ever fought."


- Marines miss the point. They are put in the position of lecturing locals about what they ought to be doing such demanding they use the bazaar near the Marines and conform to Marine demands regarding their deportment/behaviour around them (keep your hands where we can see them!). At the same time the Marines are telling them how much they're friends of the locals, shaking hands, etc. This is dysfunctional and abusive, like a relationship where one partner threatens and hugs at the same time. No wonder the Afghans fuck off when the Marines show up. More abstract, the locals become the fulcrum of conflict between NATO and the Taliban, pulled one way or the other. Threatened by both groups, it is no wonder they're ducking out. A friend and combat veteran of that conflict once told me, "all the villages want is to be left alone by everyone" and this footage confirms it. Which brings us to the COIN braintrust.

- The braintrust, like their political masters, keeps babbling about what is needed to win. How many troops - 40K, 600K? What sort of strategy? Talk to the locals more, less use of air strikes? Pressure Pakistan? They treat it like a puzzle, or scientific problem. Gee Bob, all we need to do is get the formula right and we'll have hte ultimate, guaranteed to win, COIN strategy, tactics, and doctrine. It becomes a theoretical exercise based on the assumption that the Afghans need the West for whatever reason and that we cannot leave. None seem to be looking for ways to leave the locals alone. None talk about finding ways to leave them alone. Give them a market without a Marine rifle company bivved nearby. Take half the war away, and half the shooting stops. So the Taliban move in. Do the locals get to go to their own market and sell their wares when that crowd shows up, vs the Marines? If there is only side left, are there still firefights in the villages and fields? The generals and politicians talk about how many troops are needed over there to occupy enough of the country to keep it secure, but no-one asks how many Taleban can be mobilised to do the same. Sure, the data says the Taleban are active in a great many provinces, but are their enough of them to hold the ground and keep down non-Pashtun resistance? Are there enough of them now that Pakistan is another front in their fight? Would, if the Taleban are a growing movement expanding in nuclear and developed Pakistan, they have enough to do their thing in Afghanistan and Pakistan? From what I understand, much motivation for Taliban recruits besides the press-gang, is the fact all those Western troops are kicking around. Take away the West, does the Taleban weaken? NATO needs the Taleban and the Taleban needs NATO...

Anway, enough for tonight.

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