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Thread: Pashtun / Pashtunwali / Pashtunistan (catch all)

  1. #41
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    Default The Pashtun Problem

    Focus on the "the breakdown of traditional tribal structures based on Pashtunwali self-government" is nothing new. Kilcullen spends quite a bit of time on it in The Accidental Guerrilla. And, any thinking person knows that it is a combined Pstan and Astan problem because the Pashtuns are on both sides of the artificial border.

    The question is how to solve the "Pashtun Problem". One solution is the top down approach of the Coalition in Astan to enhance the central Karzai government; which has its counterpart in the Pakistani efforts against the Taliban and associated groups in its own Pashtunistan.

    Neither takes into account local governance in any real sense (compare the Taliban approach, which does provide governance down to the village level, no matter how flawed we think that "shadow governance" is).

    Johnson-Mason would attempt to get back to the pre-SovCom Invasion structure of a weak central government and strong local tribal structures by moving reconstruction teams down to the district level. How this would differ from a top down (essentially a rule by law, nor rule of law) approach is not readily apparent to me.

    From our (US and ISAF) standpoint, the lack of a non-Taliban center of gravity (or centers of gravity) among the Pashtuns is a real hurdle. Correct me if I am wrong, but I have not read of any large Pashtun group that could be co-opted, either as an ally of the Karzai government, or as a solid regional group that would be willing to take our side (even if not loving of Mr Karzai).

    Another, and far more radical, approach is that suggested in Steve Pressfield's series of articles on reaching down to the tribes. There we can link to Jim Gant's One Tribe At A Time, which lays down in as much detail as he could provide the TTP for co-opting one small tribe via one ODA (e.g., p.28).

    Bottom line: The GIRoA (Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan) must find a way to incorporate the historical tribal structures into the national political system. It will not look like anything we can envision at this point, and may vary from province to province or even from tribe to tribe. But it can be done. Tribal Engagement Teams can help facilitate this.
    A very good read, etc.

    Again, MAJ Gant's approach is not new - it goes back to the initial stages of the CIA-SF operations in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. By very local work, the indigenous tribe is assisted to create its own security zone and, as an important incidence of that, its own local governance. As such, it creates a "rule of law" situation (a bubble up from the indigenous villagers), which is far removed from the "rule by law" situation imposed by many versions of population-centric counter-insurgency.

    The problem with Jim Gant's solution is that it is in effect a form of revolutionary counter-insurgency. The indigenous villagers come to realize their own value and power, which reinforces their primary loyalty to their own institutions. To the extent they have secondary loyalty, it is to the US SF soldiers who assisted them (and who represent the US in their eyes). All of that is contrary to established US policy in Astan (as it was in Vietnam).

    If we were starting this from scratch, I'd vote for MAJ Gant's solution. Given the policies in place, I'm quite certain that is not going to be the solution adopted by the "Powers That Be". I expect to see more of the same.

    And, some form of conversation between ISAF officers similar to this between two French officers during the First Indochina War, after their unit (6th Spahis) had spent much of a week clearing a village and adjacent area of Viet Minh (well, not quite completely, as the dialogue suggests). It makes a point as the two officers discuss a five person civic action team, all Vietnamese, who had just joined them and who now had to "hold and build". The conversation is from Bernard Fall, Street Without Joy, pp.154-155):

    MAJ Derrieu: Funny, they just never seem to succeed in striking the right note with the population. Either they come in and try to apologize for the mess we've just made with our planes and tanks; or they swagger and threaten the farmers as if they were enemy nationals which - let's face it - they are in many cases.

    LT Dujardin: That may be so, but I wouldn't care to be in his shoes tonight when we pull out. He's going to stay right here in the house which the Commie commander still occupied yesterday, all by himself with the four other guys of his administrative team, with the nearest [military] post 300 metres away. Hell, I'll bet he won't even sleep here but sleep in the post anyway.

    MAJ: He probably will, and he'll immediately lose face with the population and become useless.

    LT: And if he doesn't, he'll probably be dead by tomorrow, and just as useless. In any case, there goes the whole psychological effect of the operation and we can start the whole thing all over again three months from now. What a hopeless mess.
    And so it goes ....

    Regards to all

    Mike

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    Default Hi Jon

    Glad you joined the discourse - and provided this astute observation:

    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.
    We are both depressed for the same reasons. The answer to your question is, of course, affirmative - if we were willing to spend the decades slowly building Jim Gant's small tribal infrastructures and melding them with a very accommodating central government (add honesty and integrity to the adjectives).

    As it stands, our dialog will be that of the two French officers (you can stay the MAJ; I'll play the LT cuz I agree with his bottom line). So, the "decisions within decisions" is probably pre-ordained.

    You hit Iraq right on the head. Iraq was ruled by a very centralized, authoritarian police state for decades. In such situations, a rather authoritarian population-centric "COIN" strategy will work because the people are used to it. Of course, it also involves quite a bit of local honey (just as Saddam did) as Mike Few and Niel Smith are waxing fine in another thread.

    Best as always

    Mike

  3. #43
    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    Kilcullen spends quite a bit of time on it in The Accidental Guerrilla.
    I've had that for some time, yet have not cracked it open yet.

    Your comments about the Gant piece are what have been nagging at me for a while too. Gan't approach just requires time (strategic time) that we might not have.

    EDITED TO ADD: Upon posting, I see that you made specific reference to time as well...

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    Default The books and time

    The Accidental Guerrilla is worth cracking - not the Bible, but worth the read; especially as to the destruction of the traditional systems of local tribal governance in Astan and elsewhere. Another one addressing some of the same issues is Seth Jones, In the Graveyard of Empires, which I'm just finishing. Neither gives any pat solutions to the "hopeless mess".

    I found MAJ Gant's little piece fascinating. Since there are some 40,000 villages in Astan, the picture of 40K ODAs (or their equivalent) is not what I expect to see. However, it could be the answer if we (US) wanted to get a firm hold on a key strategic piece of geography. Let us say, a base for conducting direct actions against AQ. In that situation, it wouldn't matter if that region had loyalty to the central government - so long as its inhabitants had primary loyalty to themselves and a secondary loyalty to us. E.g., the Montagnards in Vietnam.

    In a sense, we would be engaging in the Management of Savagery (Chaos) and taking what seems to be a situation of local instability and turning it to our advantage. Naji thinks that AQ can manage savagery; I think we could do even better if we kept in mind the enlightened self-interests of ourselves and the local indigenous people - adapt, improvise and overcome. In such limited cases, the timeframe might well be acceptable.

    And, oui, M. Legrange, I am stealing a bit from your thoughts as I have been digesting them. Colonialement.

    Regards

    Mike

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    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    so long as its inhabitants had primary loyalty to themselves and a secondary loyalty to us.
    And from this I wonder if we can gain, from some serious "living among them" effort, a sense of loyalty derived from the Pashtunwali code. If that code could be exploited through IO, engagement, development, etc., in order to allow support for our efforts, and that support was in harmony with faith in Allah, we'd probably be headed along the right track (let's term it the "Gant Path").

    The beautiful thing about Gant's proposal is that we don't have to do it in all 40,000 villages in the country. That's why we orient on key terrain at times...all 40K villages are not key, but the need to determine the ones that are is paramount.

    I wonder how we'd fair if we could all just grow beards as a first best practice.

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    ..hang on a second. Seems here that some things are getting mixed up.

    a.) Can you defeat "the insurgency." Yes. It's just a matter of time, resources, and political will. The argument "oh but the Soviets lost" is hokum, because they might have won, if they had been prepared to invade all the safe-havens, and the Mujahadeen were in pretty dire straights till they got US funding.

    ....NATO has neither of those problems. Pakistan is an ally, are they not.

    b.) Is there a strategic goal worth the time, blood, money and effort? - Dunno.

    Just my take.
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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    The argument "oh but the Soviets lost" is hokum, because they might have won, if they had been prepared to invade all the safe-havens, and the Mujahadeen were in pretty dire straights till they got US funding.
    This implies that the Soviet Union would have had to invade Pakistan in order to win the war, which means they had no chance to win at all. Somehow I doubt invading FATA and Baluchistan would have ended the insurgency --- instead it would have simply continued in even more intensified fashion from Punjab and Sindh, with all of Pakistan drawn in as opposed to just the ISI. The whole of Pakistan would likely have been radicalized as a result.

    Never mind the diplomatic and Cold War implications of another Soviet invasion of a sovereign country after Afghanistan. The Kremlin chose wisely to avoid this.

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tequila View Post
    This implies that the Soviet Union would have had to invade Pakistan in order to win the war, which means they had no chance to win at all. Somehow I doubt invading FATA and Baluchistan would have ended the insurgency --- instead it would have simply continued in even more intensified fashion from Punjab and Sindh, with all of Pakistan drawn in as opposed to just the ISI. The whole of Pakistan would likely have been radicalized as a result.
    Maybe. I'm not playing "what if" history here. What I am trying to point out is that the argument that the "Afghan Guerilla" is some how un-beatable, is simply not true. He only manages to survive because of the political context of Afghanistan being a basically worthless cross-roads in the middle of nowhere, which no one wants to risk their future over.

    They can be beaten, but basically unless their is a valid strategic goal, there is no point in making the investment. Like the US and NATO, the Soviets wanted a friendly regime in Kabul. OK, assuming that is somehow a good idea, what do you want to pay politically and diplomatically?
    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.
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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    What I am trying to point out is that the argument that the "Afghan Guerilla" is some how un-beatable, is simply not true. He only manages to survive because of the political context of Afghanistan being a basically worthless cross-roads in the middle of nowhere, which no one wants to risk their future over.
    Yes. But I don't think anyone here buys any of that orientalist crap. Problem is, of course, that strategic conundrum exists for us as well, which means that we of course could lose in the same way as the Soviets and the British did.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tequila View Post
    Yes. But I don't think anyone here buys any of that orientalist crap. Problem is, of course, that strategic conundrum exists for us as well, which means that we of course could lose in the same way as the Soviets and the British did.
    The issue isn't whether it is possible to subdue the insurgency in Afghanstan. Given enough resources and time it's possible. The question is whether it is worth it in the strategic calculus. I think that's the crux of the President's decision and why it is taking so long - I don't think he's deciding between 20,000 and 40,000 troops, but whether to do it at all, given all the other constraints on the nation, and whether such an effort would benefit national security in proportion to the lives and treasure invested to make it work.
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    Quote Originally Posted by tequila View Post
    Yes. But I don't think anyone here buys any of that orientalist crap. Problem is, of course, that strategic conundrum exists for us as well, which means that we of course could lose in the same way as the Soviets and the British did.
    Precisely my point. So what is the political objective in Afghanistan again? Why are NATO and US there?

    a.) Is it important?
    b.) How much will it cost?

    The idea that military force cannot defeat the insurgency is rubbish. It's just in this case it's politically pointless, because the cost cannot match the benefit.
    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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    We can take the very reasonable view that some responses to terrorism (Afghan war, Iraq war? not sure if that even counts as a "response to terrorism", but whatever) have actually led to even more terrorism and that these are not the best responses. Maybe we should be removing "root causes" (Israel? Oil?). Maybe we should be arresting people and bringing them to court and dealing with nations that harbor such criminals by imposing X or Y UN backed sanctions. Still, its hard to see how you can get out of Afghanistan, after having gone in, without that being a major defeat with serious consequences (not to have gone in at all may have been a good idea, but that toothpaste has long since been pushed out of the tube).

    Afghanistan is a god-forsaken cross roads with little appeal, but there IS a strategic reason for making Afghanistan work and that reason is Pakistan. Pakistan is the center of the loosely networked Islamist fanatics that have launched major terrorist operations in many different parts of the world. The most spectacular being the 9-11 attack. Pakistan is practically the only way a worldwide jihadist effort can ever be something bigger than a particularly bothersome irritant. IF defeat in Afghanistan leads to jihadi-sponsoring Pakistan, then its a serious matter.

    One reason for confusion on this issue that I have noticed is that some people are saying "pakistan is an ally now, so that job is done, why bother about afghanistan". Well, if this were totally true, then definitely, leave afghanistan to the afghans. The country is just Somalia X 3 with better organized contestants (northern alliance and taliban being the main ones) and if the world can live with Somalia (not sure about that, but lets assume we can) then the world can live with the taliban and northern alliance fighting on in afghanistan. In any case, its a headache for regional powers, not for the US and Europe. But is that statement about Pakistan really true and is it permanently true?

    I think it is not. I think the Pakistani army still has a lot of people who think they can use the taliban to project power westwards and the jihadis as proxies against India and if they gain the upper hand, then Pakistan will be jihad central, not just locally, but with distant consequences. IF the US and NATO leave without securing Afghanistan (and I have said before that securing is a very loose term with very flexible meaning, but NOT infinitely flexible) then the Pakistani army is likely to revert to its Jihadist position. Not overnight, not even as part of some clever plan, but just as the path of least resistance.

    I also think there is a real salafist terrorist movement in the world that will be emboldened by an American defeat in Afghanistan. But I personally dont think THAT justifies hundreds of billions in money and thousands of casualties. Because I dont think they are that big a threat IF the Pakistani and Saudi states were both determined to stay away from these people. They would then be little more than Baader-Meinhof and company. OK, substantially more than Baader Meinhoff, mainly because so many of them have already been trained and organized into cells and because salafi Islam is a bigger movement than radical Marxism ever was, but I still think that in the bigger scheme of things these kind of movements have no future. NO country is as penetrated by Salafi ideology as Saudi Arabia, yet when push comes to shove, the Saudi state can and does act against them. Not just recently, but as long ago as 1930 (battle of Sibillia).

    Pakistan is not as well organized a state as modern Saudi Arabia, but even in Pakistan these people will eventually lose IF the state is determined to act against them. IF the Pakistani army sees that going back to the good old days of using taliban and jihadi proxies are not really an option anymore, then there will be an almightly mess in Pakistan for a few years, but I have no doubt about who would win. The state would win. The real reason there is any doubt is because the jihadist factions of the army can still convince their fellow officers to keep some "good taliban" and "good jihadis" in reserve for the day when America leaves (and Obama's prolonged decision dance has not helped in this matter).

    I am not saying the US HAS to stay. Its possible that there is some strategy that allows leaving Afghanistan while making sure Pakistan does not backtrack. But that will have to be specifically planned and cannot be taken as a given just because "now they are our allies". IF that can be done...IF things are so arranged that leaving afghanistan does not lead to triumphant victory celebrations in Pakistan, then by all means, leave. Can that be done?

    Btw, I dont think offering the Pak army "help with resolving issues with India" is as brilliant an idea as its sometimes projeted. India can help or hinder this process to some extent, but it is not the crucial link. If the nexus with the salafists is broken (as it can be, if America is smart about it) then Pakistan and India can manage affairs without war and terrorism and that will be enough. No more is needed in the medium term. Trade and other links will change the equation over time. No grand deal has to be made in the interim and putting one on the table just gives the jihadi element in the Pak army another chance to push their agenda and delay things.

    sorry for repetitions and disorganized thoughts. this was written in between real work. Got to run..

  13. #53
    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cavguy View Post
    The issue isn't whether it is possible to subdue the insurgency in Afghanstan. Given enough resources and time it's possible. The question is whether it is worth it in the strategic calculus. I think that's the crux of the President's decision and why it is taking so long - I don't think he's deciding between 20,000 and 40,000 troops, but whether to do it at all, given all the other constraints on the nation, and whether such an effort would benefit national security in proportion to the lives and treasure invested to make it work.
    Thanks Cav. Simple and coherent as ever! Good job!
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    - 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 jcustis's Avatar
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    The idea that military force cannot defeat the insurgency is rubbish. It's just in this case it's politically pointless, because the cost cannot match the benefit
    .

    I did a bit of thinking about this statement while reading up on the "Night Letters" phenomena being employed by the Taliban, and in this day and age I don't think military force can defeat a very critical component: insurgent will. Their will/motivation is an important target that is very difficult to attack when his IO effort out-cycles yours, you're already considered an invader, and the government you are partnered with is not nearly as transparent as it should be.

    For that effort, the full spectrum of resources need to be brought to the table, and frankly, force is probably about 20-25%.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default While not Solomon by any means, I can agree with both sides of that.

    Quote Originally Posted by jcustis View Post
    "The idea that military force cannot defeat the insurgency is rubbish. It's just in this case it's politically pointless, because the cost cannot match the benefit."

    ... I don't think military force can defeat a very critical component: insurgent will...For that effort, the full spectrum of resources need to be brought to the table, and frankly, force is probably about 20-25%.
    Will cannot be defeated but it can be rendered only marginally if at all relevant. The determinant is simply how much force you are willing to use. If you use enough, their will won't be defeated but you will make it too costly for their will to be effective thus achieving a more acceptable result for yourself.

    That, in essence, in this case, gets back to the cost not matching the benefit...

    Which, in turn, creates a problem for the west in the current case because the west is unwilling to use enough force (or to be mean or brutal enough, to put it another way) and thus provides prospective opponents a very exploitable failure of political will. The Comintern and Socialist International did their jobs well.

    The problem is thus lack of political will, not a failure of force. Applying minimal force -- up to your (and the COIN crowd's) probable level -- will doom us to a never ending conflict in which the opposition will ultimately gain the advantage due to western emotional exhaustion.

    Turning the other cheek got us where we are...

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    Default Hanging pictures with sledgehammers...

    ...and railway ties in a room finished with gypsum.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    Turning the other cheek got us where we are...
    A market segmentation approach would acknowledge the impression two simultaneous wars have on the youth bulge while acknowledging the long-term view of our resident grey-beards.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    That, in essence, in this case, gets back to the cost not matching the benefit...
    Can we find a way to cost effectively improve America's position?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    Which, in turn, creates a problem for the west in the current case because the west is unwilling to use enough force (or to be mean or brutal enough, to put it another way) and thus provides prospective opponents a very exploitable failure of political will. The Comintern and Socialist International did their jobs well.

    The problem is thus lack of political will, not a failure of force. Applying minimal force -- up to your (and the COIN crowd's) probable level -- will doom us to a never ending conflict in which the opposition will ultimately gain the advantage due to western emotional exhaustion.
    The Comintern & Socialist International comment has me scratching my head...are you saying these folks abolished the bourgeois and associated state in Afghanistan?

    I take issue with the apparent implication that all that is needed to regulate conflict is the application of that single variable, force/security.

    Over the course of a year in Iraq I learned first hand that the deft application of a mixture of variables (security, governance, economics, information, and diplomacy) in a AO can more or less cost effectively regulate conflict levels. I also note that the daily application of this multivariate formula, to regulate conflict, is often used to great success inside of a variety of nation-states to include the US
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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Good example of the problem...

    Quote Originally Posted by Surferbeetle View Post
    ...and railway ties in a room finished with gypsum.
    Bad allegory in most senses but very good in one -- do not try to do a job with the wrong tools and materials...
    A market segmentation approach would acknowledge the impression two simultaneous wars have on the youth bulge while acknowledging the long-term view of our resident grey-beards.
    Equally bad silliness. No market involved; The youth bulge is, mostly, too shallow and narcissistic to really have a clue and the grey beards obviously aren't into long term views. If they were, we wouldn't be in this position. Apply that to, not least, the education system * , moral values * , the health care issues -- plural -- the economic situation or the wars ** . The wars at least have causes not solely related to US arrogance, greed, intransigence and stupidity even though all those adverse attributes plus a glaring lack of imagination and military acumen are obvious in the way we are 'fighting' them.
    Can we find a way to cost effectively improve America's position?
    Easy -- stop interfering with other nations, develop that missing long term view and when attacked, repel the attack rapidly, forcefully, effectively with the right tools for the job and don't get stuck on stupid and expensive (in all aspects) long term building projects while fighting people you don't need to fight.
    The Comintern & Socialist International comment has me scratching my head...are you saying these folks abolished the bourgeois and associated state in Afghanistan?
    Not at all; over the last three quarters of a Century, they purposely have preached non-violence etc. etc. (for the west, not themselves), they infiltrated the educational systems, provided moral dysfunction to weaken the west (see the asterisked items above) and have generally aimed toward world government on the so-called Social Democratic model and they did all that quite well. They effectively emasculated their perceived enemy in the strictest sense of the word. They also fomented hate and discontent on all the fault lines that the British and French created by drawing lines on maps to establish territorial jurisdictions which are now, nominally Nations. They did that in the course of weakening the west (the double asterisks above) and, again, were quite successful.
    I take issue with the apparent implication that all that is needed to regulate conflict is the application of that single variable, force/security.
    Your perception of an implication is your problem. I did not write nor did I imply what you say. What I did write was that the measured application of force can negate willpower, no more. I also said that the west is unlikely to apply great -- I will now say 'adequate' -- force due to the aforesaid emasculation and current societal norms. That failure (and it is that) literally invites us into still more expensive FID rebuilding fiascoes when the object should be to avoid them due to their base inefficiency as a mechanism, their tendency to provide low rate but continuing casualties and the long term commitment and expense entailed.
    Over the course of a year in Iraq I learned first hand that the deft application of a mixture of variables (security, governance, economics, information, and diplomacy) in a AO can more or less cost effectively regulate conflict levels. I also note that the daily application of this multivariate formula, to regulate conflict, is often used to great success inside of a variety of nation-states to include the US
    I do not doubt that, I've seen that application -- rarely at all deft, just clumsily adequate -- many places and know it can do that. I also have seen tailored and effective (not necessarily massive, just well designed) force properly and rapidly applied then as rapidly removed when the message was sent and received eliminate the need to do the multivirate, multi-year and multi-expensive thing...

    Further, I've noted that such an effort removes the need to regulate conflict because the short sharp conflict causes less damage and fewer casualties of all types in the long term.

    It is not cost effective to enter into a long term multivariate application of security, governance, economic, information, and diplomatic actions when a short, sharp blow can be as or more effective in eliminating a threat or ameliorating a problem. There may be times when such missions are unavoidable. I've not seen one that met that criteria since 1949. Not one.
    Last edited by Ken White; 11-22-2009 at 07:05 AM.

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    Default The Asymmetric Political Fight

    Posted by Wilf

    The idea that military force cannot defeat the insurgency is rubbish. It's just in this case it's politically pointless, because the cost cannot match the benefit.
    Posted by Ken

    The problem is thus lack of political will, not a failure of force. Applying minimal force -- up to your (and the COIN crowd's) probable level -- will doom us to a never ending conflict in which the opposition will ultimately gain the advantage due to western emotional exhaustion.

    Turning the other cheek got us where we are...
    Easy -- stop interfering with other nations, develop that missing long term view and when attacked, repel the attack rapidly, forcefully, effectively with the right tools for the job and don't get stuck on stupid and expensive (in all aspects) long term building projects while fighting people you don't need to fight.
    I agree with Wilf to a point, but there is a large degree of asymmetry in our current western way of conducting political warfare compared to our foes. Insurgency is political warfare at the tactical level (conventional warfare is also waged for political purposes, but the political aspects are generally waged at the strategic level, military force compells State leaders to negotiate).

    The communists, the taliban, and others are successful with their use of force because they direct it against the people to the degree necessary to force them to organize politically under their party (dissenters either keep quiet or have a short life). On the other hand, we come in with our western ideas of economic development, free markets, and democracy. In short we're pushing more chaos on top of chaos in a post conflict situation, under the "assumption" that the people will embrace this, when what they're looking for at this point is some degree of security and predictability, not blue dye on their finger. The other side is doing a better job of providing this. If we're going to meddle in other people's affairs, then we need to slow the train down, apply the appropriate level force to suppress the will of the people to fight us, force a form of political organization upon them (the closer to their accepted norms the easier it will be), and then, and only then, if we can afford to be altruistic we can gradually "encourage" them to evolve towards democracy and more effective economic models. I agree with Wilf, insurgencies can be defeated or perhaps more accurately suppressed, but probably not by western forces using our current doctrine. We're too impatient and prolong the conflict by pushing democracy too quickly.

    To Ken's points I agree 100%. We have other options (or at least we did before we articulated to the world we were going to spread democracy and free markets) for detering attacks, and we can respond to attacks with overwhelming force when appropriate. We don't have to default to occupation and nation building in every case. Other options generally have a greater chance of success (regardless if that success is short lived or not, because realistically that is the best we can hope for in many cases). Furthermore, in the long run they are less cruel than the current norm of protracted conflict.

    In some situations it is in our interests to engage in protracted conflicts, but there seems to be this thought that our nation's strategy requires us to rebuild Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Somalia and a handfull of other countries in our image because that is the only way we can win, which IMO is simply a day dream, and a very dangerous one.

  19. #59
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Good points, Bill. While the desire to provide better lives for people

    is an admirable goal, folks forget that military force is not at all amenable to that -- those are intelligence, diplomatic and aid related efforts, all mostly civilian and non-combat functions. Plus the effort is most often not going to produce results worth the risk and cost.

    I do not question that we need well trained and adequately resourced IW, CA and PsyOps elements to do FID and SFA. Nor do I question they will be needed when all other options fail. They simply should not be the first -- or the only -- choice. We neglected those areas for too long and while we have now hauled them back aboard, we still need to do more to enhance their capabilities.

    However, we also need to do far better in efforts to avoid their use AFTER the issue has developed into a need for force and GPF commitment. We must have the capability to do that but we somehow have to sort out the conflicts that arise from simply having a capability means to many that it must be used. I've carried a concealed firearm, legally and illegally (in some places) for many years but I have yet to use any of them other than twice in quite different circumstances as a display of capability.

    This statement of yours:
    "...there seems to be this thought that our nation's strategy requires us to rebuild Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Somalia and a handful of other countries in our image because that is the only way we can win, which IMO is simply a day dream, and a very dangerous one."
    is quite correct and attempts to 'help' that cause more problems and chaos do not really help anyone.

    That statement ranks right up there with Dave Maxwell's:
    "Perhaps we should strike COIN and CT from the lexicon and talk about real strategy of ends, ways, and means instead of trying to devise strategy based on formulas (e.g., 20-25 troops for every 1000 people) - of course we love the science because it is too hard to explain the art."
    Strategy is indeed an art -- and good strategy avoids conflict or if conflict must happen, sets the parameters to one's own advantage.

    Playing by the other guy's rules is just dumb, no matter how well you attempt to play...

  20. #60
    Council Member rborum's Avatar
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    Default Any good evidence that foreign presence is the main driver of Pashtun insurgency?

    I have heard this argument several times, mostly anecdotally. Matthew Hoh raised it in his letter of resignation.

    The assertion is that most of the Pashtun insurgents are not fighting for the Taliban, but rather against foreign presence and a corrupt national government.

    I have also heard some suggest - again, anecdotally - that the Taliban knows this and uses that rhetoric in their recruitment / propaganda efforts more than promoting Taliban ideals.

    I completely understand that insurgent motivations can be complicated. You can't necessarily pin it on "one thing." But it led me to wonder about two things:

    1. Beyond these anecdotes is there is any evidence - even polling or surveys or anything - that would support or refute the argument that at this juncture foreign presence and national government corruption drive the AFG insurgency more strongly than any pro-Taliban sentiment? (Maybe this even varies by region??)

    2. Is there any merit - as part of a strategic assessment - to considering whether our mere presence (and possibly support for the local government) may make an insurgency worse, rather than better...independent of what we do when we're there? If so, how might a strategist (and I know there are a number of you out there) consider this is in his/her decisionmaking calculus?
    Randy Borum
    Professor
    College of Behavioral & Community Sciences
    University of South Florida

    Bio and Articles on SelectedWorks

    Blog: Science of Global Security & Armed Conflict

    Twitter: @ArmedConflict

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