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Thread: The Roads to Nowhere

  1. #1
    Council Member Featherock's Avatar
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    Default The Roads to Nowhere

    Registan.net posted some interesting and brief analysis on 14 Aug 08 about how paved roads in Afghanistan have actually encouraged more insurgent attacks rather than discouraged them, contrary to what Kilkullen argued recently.

    Here's a snippet:

    Rooting Out Evil, or I Thought Roads Increased Security?
    "The fundamental, systemic, and deliberate misallocation of Afghanistan’s reconstruction continues to kill Americans, to say nothing of the many more Afghans who suffer from our lack of care. While we were busy invading Iraq, al Qaeda and the Taliban were busy setting up shop in Pakistan, where they now enjoy almost total freedom thanks to a broken government only now righting itself. Even the few American achievements, such as re-paving the Kabul—Kandahar highway, have now come to represent just how badly the West has failed to do anything positive for Afghanistan."
    Last edited by Jedburgh; 08-16-2008 at 02:41 AM. Reason: Added link and DOI.

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    Not to get too nitpicky, but I think it is more accurate to say that the paved road became a higher value target. The frequency of attacks seems to be a symptom of the overall deteriorated situation. I think the attacks would have increased with or without a paved road. It just provides a logical target. I think that was the author's "analysis" though I admit to having a tough time extracting the argument from the sarcasm and provocative opinion that it is mired in.

  3. #3
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Roads are like most other inanimate objects; they have

    benefits and detriments and sensible application of those strengths and weaknesses is key. Afghanistan suffers from the fact that a number of policy makers from a number of well intentioned (and some not so well...) nations are doing something they have not done before and thus are feeling their way and making some -- or a lot of -- mistakes along the way. That was and is to be expected and tolerated.

    Add to that problem the fact that there are a fairly large number of those nations who espouse different approaches and have different international and domestic priorities and you have all the makings of ill applied policies and arguments over nits. We see that daily...

    That's a long way of saying that Kilcullen and Foust are both correct in their assertions. Which will end up being correct in the end result is dependent upon the policies, use and ancillary efforts applied to those inanimate objects over the next few years. Obviously, the opposition(s) get(s) a vote as well.

    In Afghanistan for many centuries, the 'winner' in conflicts has been he with the most will. I suspect that will not change, so how does this turn out?

    Too early to tell.

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    Council Member Featherock's Avatar
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    hey all -- i should've mentioned that there's more and better discussion on the subject deeper in the Registan site. Apparently the author of the blog has pursued this topic for a while, and it's worth reading through the older posts as well. I think the author provides a link in the body of today's posting back to some of that analysis.

    I find it interesting because it sort of short circuits COIN orthodoxy.

  5. #5
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default COIN is not - or should never be - orthodox.

    Every COIN situation is different and orthodoxy leads to failure. Most people involved in the actual practice know that or learn it real quick.

    Warfare, like anything else, is subject to fads. So, I guess you mean it short circuits the current fads and bloviation, much of which is aimed simply at pointing people in a direction they have not traveled before. For the military or government practitioner that has the benefit of providing a reasonable base of acquired knowledge on which to base sensible and METT-TC derived solutions -- most of which will not follow the 'orthodoxy' and will transcend the fad and bloviation factors. In any specific combat situation, the METT-TC factors overrule all else; he who succumbs to norms and orthodox solutions will get quickly clobbered.

    For the casual observer and armchair punter, OTOH, it's fodder for a lot of nebulous argument. That is a benefit because fads and orthodoxy should always be challenged. As Foust does.

    Read much of the stuff there, like those roads, some pluses, some minuses...

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    Council Member Cavguy's Avatar
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    Not really buying the analysis.

    New road opens. May cause good things. Insurgents attack road to deny good things from happening. The real flaw is the failure of the counterinsurgent to anticipate this?

    I don't think it's an argument against road building, it's an argument on the IO effect of building roads you can't secure and work against your narrative.

    I also think the sarcasm at the blog detracts from some real analysis.

    Perhaps the real lesson is to focus building in more secure areas, and hold it as a carrot to populations in less secure areas if they play ball. Few wish to be left behind in economic effetcs.
    "A Sherman can give you a very nice... edge."- Oddball, Kelly's Heroes
    Who is Cavguy?

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    Council Member reed11b's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    Every COIN situation is different and orthodoxy leads to failure. Most people involved in the actual practice know that or learn it real quick.
    Reminds of the referance on another post to the simalarties of insurgency rules and Calvin-ball rules
    Reed

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    Every COIN situation is different and orthodoxy leads to failure. Most people involved in the actual practice know that or learn it real quick.

    Warfare, like anything else, is subject to fads. So, I guess you mean it short circuits the current fads and bloviation, much of which is aimed simply at pointing people in a direction they have not traveled before. For the military or government practitioner that has the benefit of providing a reasonable base of acquired knowledge on which to base sensible and METT-TC derived solutions -- most of which will not follow the 'orthodoxy' and will transcend the fad and bloviation factors. In any specific combat situation, the METT-TC factors overrule all else; he who succumbs to norms and orthodox solutions will get quickly clobbered.

    For the casual observer and armchair punter, OTOH, it's fodder for a lot of nebulous argument. That is a benefit because fads and orthodoxy should always be challenged. As Foust does.

    Read much of the stuff there, like those roads, some pluses, some minuses...
    While in no way disagreeing with Ken, I'll merely ad the following,

    a.) Yes military science, technology and thought are subject to fads. They should not be. As Colin Gray says, "context is everything." How you address those contexts is an area of known and generally well understood fundamentals. EG: - Ken is a METT-TC man. I'm a Core Functions squirrel, though I see huge merit in METT-TC. etc etc... All pretty obvious.

    b.) Unfortunately fads are reputation enhancers and career enhancers more often than is commonly supposed. In my opinion, most military transformation (as opposed to evolution) does more harm than good. That is not to say there should never be an active and balanced attempt to improve our lot.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Well said, Wilf.

    Totally agree with all that. Particularly this:
    "Unfortunately fads are reputation enhancers and career enhancers more often than is commonly supposed.
    To which I'd add "to the constant detriment of units, people and most importantly, the missions."

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    Default Stabilizing effect of building roads

    Andrew Wilder suggests that there is not apparent stabilizing effect of road building being conducted by PRTs. James Fearon argues that in terms if a counterinsurgency campaign better roads increase the counterinsurgents ability to exert government control.

    http://www.foreignpolicy.com/article..._love?page=0,0

    Wilder makes a few interesting points such as how the road building fuels corruption while not addressing basic governance issues or security needs.

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    Kilcullen makes clear in his book that roadbuilding per se is not a panacea. He used the example of roadbuilding in Kunar as a way of tying in local communities with the local government through equitable distribution of labor contracts and building positive relationships between the government and village authorities. Generally speaking I'm a big Foust fan, but I think he's attacking a strawman here.

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    Seems to me you need to isolate roads from other factors to establish cause and effect. It also seems to me that's just about impossible to do in practice. Therefore, in most cases, one can't know if an increase or decrease in local stability is directly attributable to road or some other factor.
    Supporting "time-limited, scope limited military actions" for 20 years.

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default There is no security on the road - close to Kabul

    I knew there was an old thread on road-building, but it took time to locate.

    Taken from within a BBC News report 'Taliban's Ghorband valley stronghold two hours from Kabul', which has many points on COIN and Afghanistan, there was this, slightly edited:
    In the local market, we meet some taxi drivers, who commute daily from Ghorband.

    We are happy and thankful to the foreigners for asphalting the 100km Ghorband-Kabul road...The valley can now supply the entire city of Kabul with apricots, apples and almonds. But we do this risking our lives every day...There is no security on the road. Armed robbers stop us, beat us and snatch our money and goods. Local police are harrassing people. They demand money and food.
    Looks like building this road has not helped, construction without security and so close to Kabul too.

    Link:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-19080234
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Default Breakup Of A Man And Woman Family

    As I beat my dead horse againCultures certainly matter and what is true in the West may not work at all in other places. But based on my experience it is the breakup of a traditional Man and Woman marriage-family structure. I know it is not popular or politically correct but whenever you violate the purpose of a system (and a family is a system) you are asking for trouble. In contrast when you do things to strengthen or reinforce a system the results will tend to be more along the lines of what you expected.

    I think I told this story on another thread. When I was a kid and went to church on Sunday it was a good bet that I or my friends would be next to some of the richest people and some of the poorest people and it did not matter to anyone nor would you be treated any different, Yes Republicans and Democrats actually went to and sat beside each other in the same church and........often had Sunday dinner together afterwords It isn't like that anymoreWe have lost a great deal of what made this country great,I just hope we can get it back.

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