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Thread: Pashtun / Pashtunwali / Pashtunistan (catch all)

  1. #21
    Former Member George L. Singleton's Avatar
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    Default Brief overview of Jedburg's link to KYBER - Voice of Pashtuns, June 2009

    I have "read over" Jedburg's recent posting of the link to KHYBER, THE VOICES OF PASHTUNS, JUNE, 2009.

    Summary comments: Exact same cast of names and personalties who have been among the frequent posters on GLOBAL HUJRA ONLINE a subdivision of KHYBER WATCH.

    My abbreviated partial reviews now are critical in nature, there are some good points made by some of these writers:

    1. M. Bilal Khan Yousafazai, article "Code of Pashtunwali", key point in his opening remarks is that this is an unwritten law and ideology, i.e., custom and practice open to widely differing interpretations. Conservative, oligarical...it in his view has developed into an "accepted constitution." It is under this unwritten constitution that Osama bin Laden is given protection under the guise of hospitality by those Pashtuns who are members of the Taliban. The Jirga system evolves from this "constitution" also. Jirgas are an old practice or custom, my remark (George)...the late King of Afghanistan in 2001-2002 returned briefly to Afghanistan to convene a Grand Jirga of the tribes of Afghanistan, most of whom are ethnic Pakhtuns numerically, to help the Allies restart a new government under Karzai.

    2. Dr. Nbi Misdaq, who currently works for the US Department of State, Foreign Language Institute in Arlington, VA, leads off the listed articles advocating in a softly worded fashion an attempt to sell the secession of Pakhtuns from both Pakistan and Afghanistan to create a new nation-state of Pakhtuwana.

    3. Mohammad Naeem, who is a young Canadian graduate student (told to me to be working on a Masters in Canada, but could as easily be a doctoral student there) is a regular posters on GLOBAL HUJRA ONLINE and has on occasion been verbally violent on line, cursing, etc., which that website has consistently overlooked at allowed (HUJRA). Here again is an activist damning the government of Pakistan, no matter who or which party is in power, and adocating secession.

    4. Jahznzel & Fatima Ahmed (she is a Masters degree student in Canada, where both reside) offer some more of the same general remarks.

    5. Samin Jan Kekah, one of the Islamic religiously focused Pahtun writers on this new site, talks about the Islamic angel Shaytaan as being the biggest scholar and most educated among the angels, among the chose of God, sort of describing this angel as the, my wording, "Patron Saint" of Pashtun separatism and secession to be a new stand alone ethnically based (racial) nation created out of Pakistan and Afghanistan. This writer is from Quetta and is a university student at Balochistan University.

    It needs to be understood that some of the Paskthun folks I am commenting on here represent a reverse racial superiority point of view, and have repeatedly told me in open forum of their disdain for "lesser" tribes and elites. Those who profess Islam are Sunnis, not Shiites, and they are not entirely friendly to Shiites as a matter of fact.

    You find mixed messages and differeing opinions among these and other writers on the new and existing sites. This site, to me, is an attemt to create a direct forum with the world which supercedes their existing sites but builds on it and is in tandum with it.

    You find here and there in these various writings mentioning of the Durand Line, the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. This is a major object and purpose of their writing, to eventually undo the 100+ year old border separating Pakistan and Afghanistan.

    Finally, the article about IDP (Internally displaced persons) by a free lance Pashtun journalist does provide some helpful statistical tables of where and how many IDPs are accommodated during the fighting.

    Quraysh Khattak is a Pashtun Journalist who worked with many prestigious newspapers including The News. He is a freelance writer and works as a Program Manager in an Islamabad-based NGO. He writes in part:
    Peshawar, Charsadda and Swabi.

    The Ministry of Community Development (former Social Welfare Department) has conducted off camp registration in various areas. According to their record 77516 families of 462528 persons was living in rented houses or with their relatives in 11 districts of the province. But after the peace deal most of the IDPs went back to their home towns.
    Quraysh Khattak is a Pashtun Journalist who worked with many prestigious newspapers including The News. He is a freelance writer and works as a Program Manager in an Islamabad-based NGO.

    IDP’s updates on 8-5-2009
    Aryana Insitute for Regional Research and Advocacy (AIRRA)
    The ongoing militancy in Swat and the operation against the militants in the area has resulted in insurmountable hardships for a huge population of the area. The Islamic militants have imposed their own version of Islamic rules and regulations. They have occupied the houses, property and other places of the common public. The Army has come to rescue situation. But after the lapse of two long years, one of the strongest military in the Muslim world has yet to show the results. Frustration and disappointments compelled the population of the area to move to safer places in other parts of NWFP.

    The controversial peace deal gave an opportunity to the militants to reorganize and regroup. They expanded their influence to District Buner,Shangla, Dir upper and Dir lower. They openly challenged the writ of the government and started militant activities in the areas. The liberals and opinion makers of the society welcomed the recent counter insurgency stance of the government, albeit with a caution. The people of the conflict zones are of the opinion that the supply lines, network and command and control structure of militants would need a ground assault on the part of the military but till now gun ship helicopters and jet aircrafts are used to target the militant hideouts.

    The newly launched military operation resulted in huge migration of masses to down districts of the province and other parts of the country. Displacement of almost one million has taken place till now. Majority of the people have shifted to district Mardan, Nowshera, Peshawar, Charsadda and Swabi.

    The Ministry of Community Development (former Social Welfare Department) has conducted off camp registration in various areas. According to their record 77516 families of 462528 persons was living in rented houses or with their relatives in 11 districts of the province. But after the peace deal most of the IDPs went back to their home towns. *George note: This refers to the on again, off again jirga and Government of Pakistan attempts to negotiate a settlement with the Taliban which we know then blew up and failed.
    Experience tells us on SWJ that any displacement of a few million folks will have tons of problems, as was the case with the earth quakes in the Kashmir zone of Pakistan a few years ago. People gripe, sometimes genuinely, but massive logistics and resettlement and support is a horrendous job never suitable fixed to everyone's satisfaction, witness our Katrina on going repairs and resettlements here in the US.

    End of "George's opinions" of the Pakhtuns, several of whom have dialogued with me since Nov. 2006 when I was invited to be a Member of KHYBER WATCH, sub set being GLOBAL HUJRA ONLINE. I was separately invited to be a contributor, free will, up to me to contribute, on PAKHTUN WOMEN website, being told by the founder of that site that women in general were treated too rudely and hostilly on GLOBAL HUJRA ONLINE and thus set up their own blog site, separately. Such negative cultural norms toward females is a part of the unwritten Pukhwatawana "constitution."
    Last edited by George L. Singleton; 07-23-2009 at 02:12 PM. Reason: correct typo

  2. #22
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    Default Pashtunwali

    I am new to the SWJ forum but an avid reader. I am beginning the research for small writing project I have created for myself on Afghanistan and COIN ops I have found research easy except for information on Pashtun tribes, peoples and most importantly Pashtunwali any one have any suggestions?

  3. #23
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Things to do first please

    WMThomson,

    Welcome to SWC.

    I am new to the SWJ forum but an avid reader. I am beginning the research for small writing project I have created for myself on Afghanistan and COIN ops I have found research easy except for information on Pashtun tribes, peoples and most importantly Pashtunwali any one have any suggestions?
    There are some first steps:

    1. Use the Advanced Search option: http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ead.php?t=6813
    2. A few lines of introduction always help others understand, with OPSEC and abonymity if req'd on 'Tell Us About You' thread: http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...t=1441&page=51 . Now done (mins later: http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...t=1441&page=51 Post 1018.

    I know there are some maps of the tribes and links to the Pashtun honour code, for example for maps: http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ead.php?t=6643 Post 7 and Pashtunwali: http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ead.php?t=4165

    There's a starter and hopefully helpful.

    davidbfpo
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 07-30-2009 at 01:16 PM. Reason: Gradual construction

  4. #24
    Council Member Abu Suleyman's Avatar
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    Default Pashtunwali

    I would start with Friedrik Barth, and work my way forward. I know that Barth is way outdated, and worked mostly in what is today Pakistan, and not afghanistan, but he had excellent insights into the lives, culture, and traditions of the Pashtuns (which he called by the old nomenclature of Pathans). More importantly, rather than just being an anthropologist, he was focused more on political and law questions, although they were almost all traditional.

    If you have access to a database that does reference searches, you can rest assured that almost every academic study of Pashtunwali will cite him.
    Last edited by Abu Suleyman; 07-30-2009 at 06:13 PM. Reason: Fix spelling and Add URL
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  5. #25
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    Default

    Christian Bleuer's site is an excellent place to start.

  6. #26
    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Default

    I would also recommend pretty much anything by Thomas Barfield. I had the chance to hear him talk and chat with him at NPS in March, and he has forgotten more about Afghanistan than most people have ever learned. Top notch scholar, and one of the few who has been working in the area for longer than 8 years .
    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/

  7. #27
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Default Is McChrystal Going To Loose.

    He will according to this Article from the new Military Review! he dose not have the right Strategy to win according to this article.

    http://usacac.army.mil/CAC2/Military...231_art004.pdf

    Is there any merit to this article?

    From Yadernye:
    I am curious to hear other opinions about the analysis of the Af/Pak insurgency published by Thomas H. Johnson and M. Chris Mason in the Nov/Dec edition of Military Review.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 01-13-2019 at 05:48 PM. Reason: Moderator at work

  8. #28
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    Slap:

    Johnson and Mason are not far off where my lines are crossing, but coming around it from the civilian side.

    So many folks in Iraq were preaching "Democracy" out of a very naive school book version. In Maryland alone, there are 23 counties and the city of Baltimore, and hundreds of individual "towns" and community associations with varying authority. Interwoven into that are hundreds of independent and interagency bodies with special authority, from local school boards to regional transit authorities. It is indeed a complex and locally engaged web of legitimate governing relationships that actually make the tribal, valley-by-valley thing look simplistic.

    Sure, OK, there is a supposedly strong national government, but aside from some often-contested "must do's" (the Consititution), most actions from the top down are driven by carrots and sticks of payola and buy-offs. Else the idea fails to stick.

    In Iraq, for a lot of immutable reasons, the power and rational of national ministries was inherent in the system---the DNA that operated in the background no matter what the US tried to do for reconstruction under a new "provincial" governance model.

    By contrast, Afghanistan is two inherently conflicting fields of public---urban vs. rural, and the rural is tribal/district/sub-district.

    Military and foreign service, on one year assignments, are not going to be able to grasp and engage these rural areas' leaders and formal and informal structures. Instead, any PRT cadre assigned to these areas (more like CORDS than PRTs) need to be something different than, for example, the PRTs deployed in Iraq.

    I never understood the mishmash of Subject Matter Experts assigned down to PRTs in Iraq. Instead, the handful of Senior SMEs, in my opinion, should have been circuit riders to better support less top-heavy, younger, and more aggressively deployed PRTs (more like on an EPRT model as far as flexibility and local reach).

    It would be far easier for me, for example, as a Senior Planning SME, to mini-train and coordinate programs and resources down to an engaged DRT System than to waste mine and their time and resources doing so for a few small villages.

    What I took away from Johnson and Mason, as an organizational matter, is that a cadre of minimally cross-trained, but highly supported, DRTs, probably military for some time to come, would provide the best penetration/connections to the Pashtun (and other) rural villages---all as the necessary backstop to prevent Taliban encirclement of those urbanites.

    Somewhere in the middle, you try to bridge gaps, whether by diplomacy or other means.

    Is that about right?

    Steve

  9. #29
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    Default Johnson and Mason article

    I'll leave aside the accuracy of their recollections of Vietnam. They point out the near-FUBAR state of the political effort in Astan. Their DRT concept seems a level too high. If Vietnam is any lesson, it is that security and political action must be solid at the village level. There are roughly 40,000 villages in Astan. That is the magnitude of the political action problem. No solution within our capabilities has been presented by anyone I've read.

  10. #30
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Default Actually I take a different lesson from 'Nam

    Quote Originally Posted by jmm99 View Post
    I'll leave aside the accuracy of their recollections of Vietnam. They point out the near-FUBAR state of the political effort in Astan. Their DRT concept seems a level too high. If Vietnam is any lesson, it is that security and political action must be solid at the village level. There are roughly 40,000 villages in Astan. That is the magnitude of the political action problem. No solution within our capabilities has been presented by anyone I've read.
    The lesson I take is that when a couple of outside actors waging a much larger competition use the populace of some smaller state to wage their contest in a form of pawn warfare don't be so blinded by your own ends that you are oblivious to those of the populace involved.

    We propped up a series of three different ass-hats in Nam because we didn't want the Soviets to go "+1" in the global pawn warfare game that defined much of the Cold War; while the Soviets backed the side seeking freedom from the widely hated scourge of Western Colonialism.

    Today there are a large number of populaces across the Middle East also seeking to get out from under the remnants of Western Colonialism and the governments imposed by the West during the Cold War to assure "friendly" relations and the flow of oil...

    Once again, I believe we have picked the wrong side, and that is a hard hand to play. This is why I strongly recommned that we co-opt the majority of the AQ message and ussurp them as the champions of the populaces of the Middle East in their quest for better governance. Such a move would sweep AQ's feet out from under them and bring the U.S. into line with our national principles.

    But one'll never see this with their nose pressed against Afghanistan; or with their brain obsessed with rhetoric of the ideology AQ employs. Afghanistan is just one of many states in play, and ideologies are like socks, you need them, but you can change them too. Step back and the picture gets clearer.
    Robert C. Jones
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    "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)

  11. #31
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    Default Hi Bob,

    My comment re: lesson learned in Vietnam applied to the tactical level - and a very basic level, that of the villages and their hamlets.

    Your comment pertains to the strategic level, which is fine since that is what you do for a living. Your comment goes beyond one nation (Astan) and looks to the region (basically Indian Ocean littorals and continental land masses, from say Egypt to Indonesia to include most of the Muslim World).

    Going back 40-50 years, we (US) were looking at containment of two Communist powers (SovComs and ChiComs) in the region of Southeast Asia. The result there was a "win" from our standpoint - Indochina became Communist; but the remainder remained non-Communist - though not a US proxy (ASEAN, etc.). The key was Indonesia which found its third way, not without a great deal of bloodshed.

    Whether that "model" has any application to the Muslim World is another question. Your "friends" in the Kingdom certainly employ much of AQ's message - in truth, AQ has co-opted much of the Kingdom's message and added enhancements to it. Unless I've misunderstood much of what you have written, the Kingdom does not fall within your definition of "good governance".

    What would this Muslim World "Third Way" message look like ? You know me, I like concrete examples.

    Regards

    Mike

  12. #32
    Registered User Yadernye's Avatar
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    Arrow Assessment of Pashtun insurgency

    I am curious to hear other opinions about the analysis of the Af/Pak insurgency published by Thomas H. Johnson and M. Chris Mason in the Nov/Dec edition of Military Review:

    The point they made that leaped out at me was this:

    Insurrections are hardly new phenomena in Afghanistan.10 Previous Afghan leaders have had varying degrees of success in subduing rural religious insurrection. The degree of that success depended on how much of the population viewed the regime as legitimate and how much it stayed out of the daily lives of the people. And Afghan history demonstrates conclusively that legitimacy of governance comes exclusively from two immutable sources: dynastic (monarchies and tribal patriarchies) and religious, or sometimes both.11 These equate to the traditional and religious sources cited by noted sociologist Max Weber.12

    Unfortunately, the Karzai government owes its only claim to legitimacy to Weber’s third source, the legal one (e.g., western-style elections and the rule of law). This has no historical precedent as a basis for legitimizing Afghan rule at all, however, and the notion that the West can apply it to Afghan society like a coat of paint is simply wishful thinking. In essence, the Karzai government is illegitimate because it is elected.13

    ...This problem of illegitimacy is especially acute at the village level of rural Pashtun society, where dynastic and religious authority has been unquestioned for over a thousand years.14 The widespread perception among Afghans that the Karzai government is illegitimate—because it lacks any traditional or religious legitimacy—predates Karzai’s August disgrace by five years.
    This explains a lot, in my opinion, and does not bode well. What I would like to know is how accurate his analysis is. Anthropology and sociology are not my specialties. Johnson is Director of the Program for Culture & Conflict Studies at the Naval Postgraduate School and did not pull this assessment out of thin air. There is a page on NPS linking to a long line of his publications that show the evolution of his analysis of the Pashtun insurgency, which is the most sophisticated that I have yet seen. I specifically recommend "No Sign until the Burst of Fire: Understanding the Pakistan - Afghanistan Frontier" and "The Taliban Insurgency and an Analysis of Shabnamah (Night Letters)."

    Cheers,

    Yadernye

  13. #33
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Military Review article has been touched upon

    Yadernye,

    The Military Review article appeared a few days ago on the current thread on the Afghan campaign: http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...t=7128&page=27 With comments at Posts 530-540.

    It was a short discussion, have a peek. If there is a lot you want to contribute you can go to that thread; if the discussion "takes off" a new thread can be created to keep the focus on the article's view of the Pashtun insurgency. Updated: earlier posts on other thread copied here.

    Welcome aboard.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 11-14-2009 at 10:09 PM. Reason: Updated
    davidbfpo

  14. #34
    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default

    Yaderyne,

    Welcome Aboard, and thanks for the link. I enjoyed the article. Here's my take based off my current thoughts on small wars.

    1. Similarities of differing insurgencies. The description provided by the authors was the strongest point of the article. The simple answer that they did not highlight was that both groups were conducting a version of Mao's Protracted War. IMO, it's THE playbook for a people's rebellion, social movement, or gang warfare. In each case, you take Mao broadly and apply it for METT-TC (Mission, Enemy, Time, Troops, Terrain, Civilians) in a given situation.

    2. The Sine Qua Non of Counterinsurgency: Legitimacy. I disagree with this assertion, and IMO, it is something that we get fundamentally wrong when trying to understand small wars. Instead, the sine qua non of small wars is control. Legitimacy is merely a subset. For instance, does a farmer out in the boondocks care if Karzai is legitimate? No. He cares about his farm and his family. In terms of control, he wants to know who to go to IOT get fair settlements when he has disagreements with his neighbor.

    Mike

  15. #35
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Default Mike, another perspective on "legitimacy" and "control"

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeF View Post
    Yaderyne,

    Welcome Aboard, and thanks for the link. I enjoyed the article. Here's my take based off my current thoughts on small wars.

    1. Similarities of differing insurgencies. The description provided by the authors was the strongest point of the article. The simple answer that they did not highlight was that both groups were conducting a version of Mao's Protracted War. IMO, it's THE playbook for a people's rebellion, social movement, or gang warfare. In each case, you take Mao broadly and apply it for METT-TC (Mission, Enemy, Time, Troops, Terrain, Civilians) in a given situation.

    2. The Sine Qua Non of Counterinsurgency: Legitimacy. I disagree with this assertion, and IMO, it is something that we get fundamentally wrong when trying to understand small wars. Instead, the sine qua non of small wars is control. Legitimacy is merely a subset. For instance, does a farmer out in the boondocks care if Karzai is legitimate? No. He cares about his farm and his family. In terms of control, he wants to know who to go to IOT get fair settlements when he has disagreements with his neighbor.

    Mike
    I think it is probably more useful to consider any and all governments as "legitimate." I realize that flies in the face of traditional logic, but traditional logic also creates tremendous obstacles to effectively dealing with governments who's legitimacy WE disapprove of; and also causes us to overlook problems with the nature of the legitimacy of a government that WE do approve of. Bottom line on legitimacy is that what is important is that the populace served by any particular government recognizes its source of legitimacy.

    The U.S. gets into a lot of trouble in meddling efforts to manipulate who gets into, gets removed from, or sustain in government over the populaces of others. We value OUR approval of such governments over how well the populaces of those same states approve. This is what, in my opinion, causes a manipulating outside state to become the target of a nationalist insurgency movement when the people act out to attempt to get a government whose legitimacy they recognize.

    So, we ask the wrong question. We ask: "Is this government legitimate by our standards." What we should ask is "Does the relevant populace recognize the legitimacy of this government."

    Next, "Control." The majority position that comes up over and over is that a measure of effective governance is its ability to control the populace. This is a slippery slope. Most people don't want to be "controlled," so much as they want the government to control the things that enable them to pursue their lives in relative peace and security. A fine nuance, but the government needs to exert reasonable (as defined by the populace) control over the environment the populace lives within, not over the populace themselves.
    Last edited by Bob's World; 11-14-2009 at 06:20 PM.
    Robert C. Jones
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    "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)

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    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    I think it is probably more useful to consider any and all governments as "legitimate." I realize that flies in the face of traditional logic, but traditional logic also creates tremendous obstacles to effectively dealing with governments who's legitimacy WE disapprove of; and also causes us to overlook problems with the nature of the legitimacy of a government that WE do approve of. Bottom line on legitimacy is that what is important is that the populace served by any particular government recognizes its source of legitimacy.
    Does this include 'shadow' governments (i.e. ISI in Iraq, Taliban in AfPak)?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    Next, "Control." The majority position that comes up over and over is that a measure of effective governance is its ability to control the populace. This is a slippery slope. Most people don't want to be "controlled," so much as they want the government to control the things that enable them to pursue their lives in relative peace and security. A fine nuance, but the government needs to exert reasonable (as defined by the populace) control over the environment the populace lives within, not over the populace themselves.
    Agreed, but my definition of 'control' has adapted over the last year. Today, it's more towards a 'social contract' defined by laws and LE rather than physical control. For instance, I believe that I can leave my apartment, go to the store, and conduct my business in a safe environment. I trust that the police are patrolling the streets, and our judicial system will take action when someone violates the laws. I feel secure. That's why events like Ft Hood, Colombine, and Va Tech scare folks. They attempt to unravel the social contract and present it as an illusion of control. So, in this sense, control is more of a feeling of security not manipulation by the gov't.

    Mike

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    Default The Crucial Difference

    The Johnson-Mason article compares Astan to Vnam; finds similar indigenous governance problems in both; bashes the so-called Big Army "Concept"; etc., etc.; but comes up with a proposed solution, starting here (pp. 6-7):

    The Critical Difference

    There is, however, one critical positive difference between Afghanistan and Vietnam—one which might salvage the war if decision makers grasp it. As we have argued, the central task is establishing legitimacy of governance to deny political control to the Taliban. In Afghanistan, as in South Vietnam, at the national level, this is simply impossible in the time available. It is beyond our power to change an entire society. However, in Afghanistan, this critical legitimacy does not have to be national; it can be local. Governance in the rural areas of Afghanistan has historically been decentralized and tribal, and stability has come from a complex, interlocking web of tribal networks.23 If Western leaders can think outside the box created by the Treaty of Westphalia and embrace non-Western forms of legitimacy, they could possibly reverse the descending trajectory of the war. Instead of focusing energy and resources on building a sand castle at the water’s edge, as we did repeatedly in Saigon after each new coup, we have argued for years that we should focus on rebuilding the traditional local legitimacy of governance in the existing networks of tribal leaders.24 A culturally adept policy would seek to reestablish stability in rural Afghanistan by putting it back the way it was before the Soviets invaded in 1979. This means re-empowering the village elders as contrasted with the current policy of trying to further marginalize them with local elections (and thus more local illegitimacy). Recent research has demonstrated conclusively that the Community Development Councils set up by the United Nations and the U.S. Agency for International Development in parallel to the tribal system increase instability and conflict, rather than reducing it.25 Reestablishing local legitimacy of governance is, in fact, the one remaining chance to pull something resembling our security goals in Afghanistan out of the fatally flawed Bonn Process and the yawning jaws of defeat. The tragedy of Vietnam was that there were no political solutions. The tragedy of Afghanistan is that there is a political solution, but we keep ignoring it in favor of trying to force them to be like us.
    Implementation of this "crucial difference" would be via some 200 District Reconstruction Teams (DRTs), whose base areas would like something like so (p.12):

    At the district level, there must be a very obvious Afghan face on the mission. The international element of security, some 70 or 80 American men and women, should be discreetly at the center of concentric rings of security, with police “security” in the outer ring outside the FOB, and the Afghan National Army in the middle ring inside the FOB providing the visible security. The locals will know the Americans are there, able to call in fire support for the Afghan army (and the local base) if necessary, but serving as the hidden “big stick” of the local forces while they, the local forces, have the confidence to conduct security operations in support of the local tribal leaders.
    Curious that the article dumps on the Big Army "Concept", but retains the FOB focus point. In any event, the proposal is far different from the Marine CAPs pilot program, and its much bigger brother the Vietnamese Pacifcation program (of which, CORDS was only a part) - where both operated on the village-hamlet level sans FOBs.

    Beyond summarizing what seems the meat of the proposal, I'll pass on a military evaluation. I would be interested in what Phil Ritterhof thinks of the proposal as compared to the Marine CAPs and associated Vnam programs.

    As to the political situation in Astan, I've stated elsewhere that it is near-FUBAR (so the OP comment that it "does not bode well" is if anything charitable). Politically, I'd rate Astan lower on the scale than 1967-1972 Vietnam.

    Best to all

    Mike
    Last edited by jmm99; 11-14-2009 at 09:00 PM.

  18. #38
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    In most wars (all wars?) one side has to win for the other to lose. One would imagine that if the US and its allies are about to lose, somebody must be about to win. Who would that be? It can be more than one group. But it must be SOMEONE. I would like to submit that the US can still "win" in afghanistan because the taliban are NOT the Vietnamese communists. Left to themselves, a purely Afghan Taliban could indeed win an insurgency (though not necessarily all of Afghanistan). But they are not all alone. Just like the US and its allies are capable of mucking up local afghan forces that COULD have held most of Afghanistan with some help from their friends, the taliban have become ever more enmeshed with groups of jihadis that are so insane, they can snatch defeat from the jaws of any victory. I have to run, but I will expand on this idea soon inshallah. ....it aint over till the fat lady sings.

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    Thanks for the welcome, folks.

    To me, the interesting thing about Johnson's arguments is that he provides an explanation for the Pashtun insurgency that isn't focused on the Taliban/AQ relationship. He argues that the problem driving the insurgency is the breakdown of traditional tribal structures based on Pashtunwali self-government. This breakdown began with efforts in the 1970s by the Pakistani government to impose conservative Islam on the Pashtuns to quell any incipient nationalism. The Islamization of the Pashtuns accelerated during the Soviet occupation, which the Pakistanis exploited with their support for the Taliban in the 90s.

    As McChrystal's ISAF evaluation points out, the Taliban are now only one of several Pashtun insurgent groups, loosely affiliated through their opposition to both the Afghan and Pakistani governments. Johnson argues that the way to quell this insurgency is to reconstruct the traditional balance between tribal elders, mullahs and central governments that existed before the early 1970s, and to restore the primacy of Pashtunwali-based Pashtun self-government.

    If Johnson's argument is correct, than any COIN CONOP that involves pushing the authority of a central government upon Pashtun tribes who have never submitted to such an arrangement is akin to pouring gasoline on a fire. But...the focus of current U.S. strategy is to strengthen the Afghan government and security forces, thereby allowing U.S. military forces to depart.

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    If Johnson's argument is correct, than any COIN CONOP that involves pushing the authority of a central government upon Pashtun tribes who have never submitted to such an arrangement is akin to pouring gasoline on a fire. But...the focus of current U.S. strategy is to strengthen the Afghan government and security forces, thereby allowing U.S. military forces to depart.
    Since we are tied into that plan pretty deeply by now, and desire to have a government that can be relied on to live up to its part of the bargain (minimal corruption, more efficiency, etc., etc.), do we need to modify the approach and shape that government into a body that can be less a dose of gasoline and more like a pan lid that can quell the fire somewhat?

    Put another way, can we ever facilitate central government power over Pashtun areas in a way that compliments their daily way of life, as opposed to being two pieces of sand paper rubbing against each other? If the honest answer is no, then we have some serious decisions within decisions that have to be made. Why we would have elements of a overall strategy that work at cross purposes is depressing at times.

    In better news, there were 9 military servicemember deaths in Iraq last month, by CNN's tally. Only 2 of them were due to hostile action. The preceding few months are similar. Sectarianism aside, Iraqis at least had a tradition of a strong central base they had lived under, perhaps making it easier to return to central government control.

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