Page 1 of 3 123 LastLast
Results 1 to 20 of 56

Thread: Afghanistan RFI

  1. #1
    Council Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Posts
    1,444

    Default Afghanistan RFI

    I've looked, but haven't been able to find an answer to this.

    What exactly is "government in a box"?

    I have only found vague descriptions in newspaper articles. My understanding is that it is an attempt to swiftly install some kind of community body through which information can be relayed and collective decisions made, but that is only an educated guess. Even if that guess is correct, I have absolutely no idea what the specifics are. What types of units are involved? What are their tasks/purposes? What are their MoP/MoE? Etc?

  2. #2
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    Florida
    Posts
    2,706

    Default

    Quite honestly it is an unfortunate play on words made by General McChrystal that he probably wishes he could take back.

    We have "Radio in a Box," a mini radio station that can go anywhere and set up quickly and begin broadcasting.

    What he meant by "Government in a Box" is that GIROA would identify leadership and a tashkil of authorized manning (ministers, officials, police, etc) to go into areas directly behind the "Clear" force where there previously was no true GIROA presence. Like these radio stations would come in as a package and be able to hit the ground running.

    Unfortunately the phrase implys something packaged up by the Coalition; and when also delivered by Coalitoin security forces, in Coalition aircraft, to a newly "liberated" populace that has been receiving governance of some sort from the Taliban for years, and little to none from GIROA; it does create perceptions of illegitimacy that are largely unfair and certainly unintended, but there all the same.
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

  3. #3
    Council Member marct's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Location
    Ottawa, Canada
    Posts
    3,682

    Default

    It also produces some interesting pictures...

    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

  4. #4
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    Florida
    Posts
    2,706

    Default

    I guess, sadly, most government is "in a box" in far too many ways.

    You just don't want it to be in a box built and delivered by some foreign intity. Goes to good Strategic Communications. 80% what you do; or more importantly, HOW you do things.
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

  5. #5
    Council Member marct's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Location
    Ottawa, Canada
    Posts
    3,682

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    I guess, sadly, most government is "in a box" in far too many ways.

    You just don't want it to be in a box built and delivered by some foreign intity. Goes to good Strategic Communications. 80% what you do; or more importantly, HOW you do things.
    LOL - too true!

    Actually, a pretty decent example of GiaB that (sort of) worked was the Roman expansion in the 1st century bce, or Alexander's planting of Greek cities. It's a hub and spoke model of governance that worked pretty well.
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

  6. #6
    Council Member Surferbeetle's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Posts
    1,111

    Default Newspaper coverage...

    Andrew J. Bacevich in the February 17, 2010 edition of the LA Times: 'Government in a box' in Marja

    The purpose of Operation Moshtarak (Dari for "together") is to clear the Taliban from the city and then to fix the place, winning the hearts and minds of the local population. Toward that end, said Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the commander of Western forces in Afghanistan, "We've got a government in a box, ready to roll in." As government arrives on the coattails of the Marines, it will ensure law and order, set up schools and clinics, repair roads, revitalize the irrigation system and cajole farmers into cultivating something other than opium poppies. The successful transformation of Marja will demonstrate the viability of McChrystal's plan to transform Afghanistan as a whole. At least that's the idea.

    The United States tried once before to transform Marja and its environs. An ambitious agricultural reform program sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development in the 1950s proved a total flop in terms of lasting changes.
    Sapere Aude

  7. #7
    Council Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Posts
    1,444

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    What he meant by "Government in a Box" is that GIROA would identify leadership and a tashkil of authorized manning (ministers, officials, police, etc) to go into areas directly behind the "Clear" force where there previously was no true GIROA presence. Like these radio stations would come in as a package and be able to hit the ground running.
    Is there any research/experience/etc that suggests this could work? Particularly in Pashtun areas, it's my understanding that vesting powers in a sovereign isn't a popular idea and the communities generally prefer to reach decisions and settle disputes through consensus, reparation, and mediation. As I understand it, resistance to attempts to install governance have historically been perceived as attempts by the central gov't to grab power in ways incompatible with the values of the community.

    Have attempts thus far suggested that this concept might now work? Or is this just a good idea that we're waiting to see how it goes?

  8. #8
    Council Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Maryland
    Posts
    827

    Default Any experience?

    Schmedlap: Yes and No.

    Plenty of experiences doing it poorly and doing it OK.

    Question is: Any successful experience comparable to Afghanistan? No.

    Even where Afghans (with foreign backing) tried it, it blew up.

    Local consensus structures used to work, but these are increasingly the "remnant" population of a very long, difficult period of massive social dislocation and strife.

    How do you put the egg back together once many of the best fled, or have trickled out later. Leadership by the best and brightest (who leave) is now leadership of the worst class of virulent "survivors" in many places.

    Can one re-nurture stability across the conflict and intergenerational divides?

    My guess is that the only "breeding ground" for a next generation of forward looking consensus builders might be in more stable urban areas, but, like in the past, How are these folks going to relate to rural and Pashtun communities?

    My guess is that effective "government in a box" is an explicitly "provisional" government that intentionally goes in to first, stabilize, and only then turn-over. All this stuff about schools and road paving is not necessary in a "provisional" stabilization mission---that's the carrot that comes from progress toward self-governance, not the unsustainable veneer of interim governance.

    What happens when these folks have to come up with the taxes and commitment to support systems dropped on their head? A tax revolt? Prop 32? What are all these projects about? Just stabilize.

    Jed and I added a bit to the Marjah thread. Same thing.

    Steve

  9. #9
    Council Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Posts
    1,444

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve the Planner View Post
    All this stuff about schools and road paving is not necessary in a "provisional" stabilization mission---that's the carrot that comes from progress toward self-governance, not the unsustainable veneer of interim governance.
    But what if they already have self-governance in place? And the central gov't comes along and says, "no, you need to govern yourselves in this different way." I wonder if we're assuming that governance can only occur by way of a state and not by way of customary practices. If so, I think we're wrong.

  10. #10
    Council Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Maryland
    Posts
    827

    Default

    I assume that, due to human condition, if there are just two people in the world, there is a governance structure of some kind.

    Assuming you are going to do a Marjah, to drive out a governance you don;t like, or are feeding on the people, something has to be put in place quickly and effectively to "stabilize," not to create and develop. Goal is to stabilize immediately once you drive out the old system---after stabilization, you worry about governance.

    Otherwise, you are just pushing big instability around.

    25,000 Marjans fled (probably the better and smarter). What's left, about 2500 desperately protecting their assets, homes or activities (good or bad)---and not the "best and brightest."

    Building a self-governance system around these folks (especially in an Afghan cultural context) is just setting up a new power block as an obstacle for the real folks when they try to come back. Only a "provisional government" can stabilize to get all the folks back, before you start dealing with self-governance.

    Making permanent governments from fragments of remnant populations is a very dumb and bad idea with no history of success.

    Steve

  11. #11
    Council Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Posts
    1,444

    Default

    I agree with much of that, but it seems there is another way not considered.

    If an area is little more than subsistence farmers or has very limited trade, then what kind of governance do you really need for, say, a few months, until the others start returning? You probably need some kind of dispute resolution mechanism. But do you need to immediately stand up any kind of functionality other than that?

    Regarding dispute resolution, it seems that one could simply arrange for the parties to avoid each other until a jirga can be adjourned (upon the return of the individuals who would sit in on it) or until an acceptable mediator can be brought in. Those tasked with ensuring separation of the parties in the meantime can be paid. Do you really need to import central gov't representatives for this?

    Even if a purpose for central gov't reps is rationalized, aren't those reps going to be perceived as agents of a regime that is incompatible with the values of the locals and, thus, not well received anyway?

    And, again, why do you need to "build" a self-governance system? I wonder if we've made a careful assessment of the resiliency of the customary practices that have so often filled the gaps in Afghanistan and whether we've explored the possibility of reviving a literate, educated Hanafi ulema as an alternative to the Taliban nutbars.

  12. #12
    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Latitude 17 5' 11N, Longitude 120 54' 24E, altitude 1499m. Right where I want to be.
    Posts
    3,137

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Schmedlap View Post
    Even if a purpose for central gov't reps is rationalized, aren't those reps going to be perceived as agents of a regime that is incompatible with the values of the locals and, thus, not well received anyway?
    I get the feeling we've set ourselves up for a whole lot of problems like this with the initial decision to work through a centralized, top-down government structure. I've also felt for a long time that our initial decisions regarding government structure and the pace at which governments needed to be established in both Iraq and Afghanistan were driven less by a desire to establish legitimacy in the eyes of the host country populace than by a desire to establish legitimacy in the eyes of Americans. Given the questions raised about the legitimacy of both wars that desire is perhaps understandable, but the decisions can still haunt us for a long time.

  13. #13
    Council Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Maryland
    Posts
    827

    Default

    Now you are starting to sound like Mohammed, the Peace Maker.

    My point about "provisional" governance is that it is not a new permanent power broker from outside---just a freeze and hold. Once you bring back the central gov, you run substantial rsik of recreating what brought the Taliban in in the first place.

    Plus, a "provisional" gov focuses attn on transition ---tie breaking, coming to resolutions, rather than power shifting to a permanent gov in which few have confidence. None of these folks voted for whatever is arriving in our helo, be they Afghan or otherwise.

    Problem with "gov in a box" might sound great to some who don't live there, but, if they do, it is like Dorothy dropping from the sky---hope they don;t think you are the wicked witch!!! More often, it seems to fall on somebody's dad or brother.

  14. #14
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    Florida
    Posts
    2,706

    Default

    Guys, understand that General McChrystal must work within the left and right limits set by the Constitution of Afghanistan. Perhaps that is the true box at work here, and when I read through it a couple months ago to better understand some seemingly crazy decisions in regards to governance, I knew we were in trouble. Fear of Militias, I imagine, by both Karzai and the West, drove a document that disconnects the local populace from governance in many ways.

    Marjah was not an official District, as such there was no authorizatoin for "governance" to Marjah. So, easy decision, make it a District and gain a Tashkil for governance. But once a region is an official District, the governance is then selected from Kabul and delivered to your doorstep (or not, too often it simply stays in Kabul); owing its complete loyalty and job security back up to those who appointed them (appointments that typically come with payments that must be made).

    I'm not sure how one truly overcomes this without fixing the Constitution.

    Historically there were local shuras of local elders recognized locally for their positions. There was also a position called the "Khan" who was also selected locally, but recognized by the King offically as well. That blend of local legitimacy and centralized officialness that is sadly missing from today's "box ingredients." McChrystal would be as wrong for trying to fix the current system as Karzai is for keeping it in place.

    The goal for Hamkari is two-fold: To achieve representative governance and opportunity. This must be done within the confines of the Constitution; and in the face of many powerful men, not all "Taliban", who have no desire for such equity.
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

  15. #15
    Council Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Posts
    1,444

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    This must be done within the confines of the Constitution...
    Hypothetical: it is not done within the confines of the Constitution.

    Question: Who has standing to lodge a complaint? Against whom? And, if you know the answer to the first question, who actually would lodge the complaint? And then - I don't know how Afghan Constitutional law compares to US Con Law - isn't there a problem with the complaint not having any means of obtaining relief? If I'm Bacha the goat herder and I hire me a long-bearded lawyer to file suit against the GIRoA for not adhering to the Constitution, what exactly am I seeking to obtain from the court? A court order requiring the GIRoA to do something that it is incapable of doing? An injunction to force ISAF to stop doing something? If it's the latter, then perhaps the problem is not so much the Constitution, but the absurd idea of making GEN McChrystal subordinate to Karzai?

    In any case, I'm a bit surprised that we're boxed in by the Constitution. Constitutions need to be interpreted and I'm not aware of much case history clarifying the nuances of the Afghan Constitution. I think one could very easily argue that Constitutions can be both written and unwritten (US versus UK) and that other written general principles can guide interpretation (think France, for example - or, for Afghanistan, there is Sharia, which the Constitution is apparently not supposed to violate) or even unwritten general principles can guide the interpretation (Afghanistan's fairly well developed customary law). One can argue that certain provisions do not have effect until implemented. I'm guessing there's a lot of arguments that haven't been explored here - or am I just completely ignorant?

  16. #16
    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Latitude 17 5' 11N, Longitude 120 54' 24E, altitude 1499m. Right where I want to be.
    Posts
    3,137

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    Historically there were local shuras of local elders recognized locally for their positions. There was also a position called the "Khan" who was also selected locally, but recognized by the King offically as well. That blend of local legitimacy and centralized officialness that is sadly missing from today's "box ingredients."
    Possibly slightly off topic... but the reign of Mohammed Zahir Shah is often cited as evidence that centralized Government can work in Afghanistan. I've long wondered how centralized that Government really was, in terms of practical day to day control over local affairs. If anyone knows of any good material describing the actual (as opposed to structural/theoretical) relationship between central and local governments in the Zahir Shah period, I'd be interested in looking. Of course I realize that the period in question was extended and saw considerable evolution and change, but it remains an interesting question, even if there's no short simple answer.

  17. #17
    Council Member Chris jM's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    New Zealand
    Posts
    176

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    Marjah was not an official District, as such there was no authorizatoin for "governance" to Marjah. So, easy decision, make it a District and gain a Tashkil for governance. But once a region is an official District, the governance is then selected from Kabul and delivered to your doorstep (or not, too often it simply stays in Kabul); owing its complete loyalty and job security back up to those who appointed them (appointments that typically come with payments that must be made).
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but Afghanistan political appointments work in the following way:

    Presidential elections appoint the President and his ruling government.

    The President appoints District Governors.

    District Governors appoint District Sub-Governors.

    Locals vote in separate elections to appoint their Shura representatives, who then report direct to the DSG.

    And parallel to this would be the Mullah/ Malauwi network, who would somehow be connected through their own hierarchy to Kabul or to extremist elements in Pakistan, depending upon their affiliations?

    Further tying the regions to Kabul would be the ANP chain of command, whom have representation in each Governor's office but actually report to a centralised regional HQ that in turn is linked to Kabul, unless I am mistaken.

    I'm trying to picture ithe elements of Afghani government to better understand what Steve and Bob are talking about, especially with Bob's reference to the historical position of a 'Khan'.
    '...the gods of war are capricious, and boldness often brings better results than reason would predict.'
    Donald Kagan

  18. #18
    Council Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Posts
    1,444

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    If anyone knows of any good material describing the actual (as opposed to structural/theoretical) relationship between central and local governments in the Zahir Shah period, I'd be interested in looking.
    http://easterncampaign.wordpress.com...buy-this-book/

  19. #19
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    Florida
    Posts
    2,706

    Default

    Guys, I'm no expert on Afghanistan, just sharing my perspective, so it may be a bit off on a few points;

    But for Dayuhan, I suspect is was a fairly decentralized form of centralized governance under the king. Local Shuras were empowered, and connected up to Kabul through this missing link of the Khan. I doubt there was ever much demand for centralized services, nor that much was provided.

    For Schmedlap, I would cautions strongly about over-riding local systems in order to ensure outcomes we desire. I believe that it is just such control-based foreign policy that planted the roots of the AQ movement and terrorist attacks against the west. We need just the opposite I think. We need to adopt the realizaiton that the less we control, the better we service our national interests. But that is a totally "new" (as in not how anyone currently alive and in politics in DC has done it) way of thinking, so we need to figure it out. We built a lot of influence in this region behind the scenes when it was "controlled" by European powers, and built a lot of good will in doing so. Problem is that that we took over the "controls" over the course of the past 80 years or so, and now seem to have a hard time evolving.

    For ChrisjM what you laid out is essentially how I understand it to work as well.
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

  20. #20
    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Latitude 17 5' 11N, Longitude 120 54' 24E, altitude 1499m. Right where I want to be.
    Posts
    3,137

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    For Schmedlap, I would cautions strongly about over-riding local systems in order to ensure outcomes we desire.
    Our over-riding local systems to ensure outcomes we desire is only half the problem, and likely the more manageable half. The other half is the likelihood that the government in Kabul will use the system we helped design, and may even use our armed force, to over-ride local systems to impose an outcome they desire, which is likely to mean achieving control over smuggling, opium production, and other profitable sidelines. When that happens we share the blame and have little control over the outcome.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    I believe that it is just such control-based foreign policy that planted the roots of the AQ movement and terrorist attacks against the west.
    I was under the impression that the AQ movement had its roots in opposition to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, rather than in a reaction to US control of anything...

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •