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    Default Reconciliation and COIN in Afghanistan

    USIP, Sep 08: Thwarting Afghanistan’s Insurgency: A Pragmatic Approach toward Peace and Reconciliation
    Summary

    - Afghanistan is at a crucial stage of transition. The Taliban, with sanctuaries and a support base in the tribal areas, has grown stronger, relying on a wide network of foreign fighters and Pakistani extremists who operate freely across the Afghan-Pakistani border.

    - Present trends raise serious doubts about whether military solutions alone can defeat the insurgency and stem the expansion of terrorism. In short, reconciliation must also be a key element of comprehensive stabilization in Afghanistan.

    - A multitude of factors suggest that the time is ripe for a reconciliatory process.

    - The Taliban and the Hekmatyar Group will be key challenges to any reconciliation process as long as they enjoy sanctuaries and support outside of Afghanistan.

    - An examination of past attempts at reconciliation with the Taliban reveals that the process has lacked consistency. The Afghan government and its international partners have offered conflicting messages, and there has been no consensual policy framework through which to pursue reconciliation in a cohesive manner.

    - The goal of reconciliation in Afghanistan must be to achieve peace and long-term stability under the Afghan Constitution with full respect for the rule of law, social justice, and human rights. To successfully meet this goal, Afghanistan’s reconciliation program must be carefully targeted and guided by a clear set of principles.

    - A comprehensive and coordinated political reconciliation process must be started. At the same time, significant progress must be made on the security front and on the international (regional) front. Without security and stability or cooperation from Afghanistan’s neighbors, reconciliation will not occur.

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    Council Member Featherock's Avatar
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    Thanks for the link. I don't think any plans to 'win' in Afghanistan can afford not to include robust reconciliation efforts, including allowing Taliban/ACM fighters to come in from the cold without reprisal (assuming they haven't committed any crimes against humanity).

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    Council Member Danny's Avatar
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    Default I don't see how ...

    You would reconcile with the same ones who gave sanctuary to AQ prior to 9/11. And if we did this the point of Operation During Freedom would have been ... exactly ... what?

    Compounding this is the emergence of the TTP in Pakistan, led by Baitullah Mehsud, who have clearly said that they are globalists, and you have an even bigger problem than before 9/11.

    Reconciliation with this band of criminals is going to accomplish exactly what?
    Last edited by Danny; 09-18-2008 at 09:16 PM. Reason: Spelling

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    Quote Originally Posted by Danny View Post
    Reconciliation with this band of criminals is going to accomplish exactly what?
    One might have said the same thing about the Provisional IRA and the Good Friday Agreement, or for that matter those ex-Baathists and sundry other Sunni ex-insurgents currently now receiving USG support as part of the al-Anbar (etc) Awakening in Iraq.

    There are Taliban, and there are Taliban. A key aspect of coalition and GoA COIN efforts should be to try to peel away the soft-liners and those motivated by a complex web of local, tribal, economic, and other pragmatic considerations from the hardline radical Islamist ideologues.

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    Council Member Danny's Avatar
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    Default Different

    No, one may not say the same thing about the Sunnis in Anbar, for instance. They fought AQ, the Taliban gave AQ safe haven. The Sunnis fought primarily for reasons other than religious, the Taliban, and in particular the TTP, fight for reasons purely religious. The Anbar awakening occurred alongside or after the most powerful tribes had already turned on AQ, and the Taliban have yet to express any disdain at all for AQ. To the contrary. They have called them brothers.

    The analogy breaks down quickly, and so my question stands.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Danny View Post
    The analogy breaks down quickly, and so my question stands.
    Not quite so quickly--certainly a significant number of those who are now part of the Sons of Iraq were active in the earlier Sunni insurgency and in attacks against US personnel, and a portion were members of the various Islamic State of Iraq militias that were formal allies of AQI.

    Moreover, many members of the current Afghan government, parliament, and local government administration were members of the Taliban or Taliban governmental administration at the time of 9/11.

    I'm not suggesting that reconciliation with Mullah Omar is possible. I am suggesting that a significant portion of the neo-Taliban rank-and-file may not be primarily motivated by the grand ideological cause of armed jihad against the West, and can be potentially neutralized with some adroit politics. Indeed, one of the problems with the DDR and especially DIAG programmes in Afghanistan appears to be that this group has been rather poorly targeted.

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    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default To Further Afghan Reconciliation: Fight Harder

    To Further Afghan Reconciliation
    Fight Harder
    by Joseph Collins, Small Wars Journal Op-Ed

    To Further Afghan Reconciliation: Fight Harder (Full PDF Article)

    It’s official. Everyone from the Pentagon to Saudi Arabia thinks that reconciliation between the Taliban and the Karzai government is a good idea and a step toward settling the conflict in Afghanistan. A few deluded analysts even see dealing with the Taliban as the Afghan equivalent of the Sunni Awakening in Iraq. One wonders whether war weariness, success with reconciliation in Iraq, and a lack of familiarity with the Afghan context may not be pushing us toward a tactical error or worse, an endless round of talking with an illegitimate adversary that believes it has the upper hand.

    Reconciliation in Afghanistan is fraught with complications. For one, there is no Taliban per se. In the south we have Mullah Omar’s “old” Taliban, but in the East, the toughest fighters come from the Haqqani network and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hezbi Islami, both of which work closely with Al Qaeda. Complicating the issue even more, there is now a multi-branch Pakistani Taliban, some of whom operate in both countries. Ironically, the Afghan Taliban and its friends seem to be well tolerated by Pakistani authorities who are now in conflict with their own Taliban...
    To Further Afghan Reconciliation: Fight Harder (Full PDF Article)

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Excellent

    Short, pithy and all too accurate analysis on talking to the Taliban. Encouraging defections from the Taliban, which is a coalition after all, may explain another motive for such talks.

    Will the Saudi intermediaries impose their own conditions? Can the Taliban be seperated from AQ, in particular the Saudi in exile Bin Laden?

    davidbfpo

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    Default Dorronsorro, Semple, Nathan, Exum

    (Moderators note copied here from Strategic Intelligence thread, as appropriate).

    Went to a Center for American Progress conference today.

    Gilles Dorronsoro, Micheal Semple and Joanne Nathan (corrected), all non-US experts who have been in Afghanistan since before 2001.

    Each had a presentation on their field. Most of you have heard some of this: Dorronsorro (secure the cities first, etc..), and Semple's work with the Taliban are pretty well known.

    Nathan, an Australian, asked: What's this COIN thing about? I read the manual and it said Clear-Hold-Build, but all you ever do is Clear, Clear, Clear. No administrative purpose or capability. Why are you clearing unless you have civilian capacity to Hold and Build? Where has this strategy ever been applied?

    Even Andrew Exum didn't take a stab at answering that.

    The big question that all were asked to comment on: What do you think of these people who see one small part of the country, then try to exprapolte what they saw there to a bigger picture about the country? (Obviously, the Hoh question).

    They were pretty devastating in explaining just a snippet of what they know about the whole country, and why that kind of speculation is not useful.

    Like Exum said, DC is usually full of generalists, and it was a rare opportunity to have three leading specialists in one place.

    Certainly worth hearing every word yourself to build or assess strategy.

    http://www.americanprogress.org/even...streaming.html

    Steve
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 11-07-2009 at 09:43 PM. Reason: Copied here and note added.

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    I think that what is glossed over in the overall reconciliation debate is that GIRoA must be worth reconciling with. Given that the farcicial elections came part way through a relatively successful year in the south for the Taleban, it's pretty difficult to imagine any commanders whose lives are not in frequent danger giving it so much as a second thought.

    Take a random Taleban leader esconced in Quetta. What precisely is his motivation? He never travels into Afghanistan so his life is not under threat that way. So long as he doesn't upset the Pakistanis, or other Talebs with ISI connections, he won't be arested in Quetta either. In addition, there is barely any chance for the drone strikes in Waziristan to be replicated in Quetta. He's as safe as safe can be. Correctly, we speak of the requirement for both carrot and stick in the context of reconciliation, but for a great many key individuals, nor we nor GIRoA can even locate a suitable tree, never mind find a stick.

    This is an instance where the reality on the ground is about, at a conservative estimate, 7 or 8 years behind the public debate in London and Washington. OK, if the tide is shown to be turning in GIRoA's favour some individuals may flip, but let's be blunt, GIRoA is in a chronic state and the Quetta led Taleban, for the time being, is doing just fine, thank you.

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    "Reconciliation" is a two-way street; and certainly should not be seen as the insurgent member of the populace simply dropping his cause and apologizing to the government member of the populace. That solves nothing except possibly keeping a questionable actor in office, and keeping what are likely many legitimate concerns of the larger populace unaddressed.

    So reconciliation must be between the populace and the government, and the insurgent really need not be invited. Far better that those legitimate leaders within the populace step forward to sit with governmental leaders at the table to work out true reforms that address legitimate needs and put in place legitimate vehicles for the populace to address such concerns in the future short of rising up in insurgency.

    The insurgent will have performed his function, providing the forcing function that got the government to evolve. This does not grant him some fiat of entitlement to a leadership role in either the negotiations or any future government...but it should not automatically preclude him either.

    Family squabbles can get ugly, but when they are over you still have to live with each other and get on with life.
    Robert C. Jones
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    (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)

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    RFE/RL, 26 Nov 09: Ex-Taliban Ambassador Says Work Needed To Bring Taliban To Talks
    Although the United Nations never formally recognized the Taliban regime in Afghanistan as the country's legitimate government, Abdul Hakim Mujahid served as a Taliban representative and point of contact for the UN. He also served as the Taliban's ambassador to Pakistan -- which was one of just several countries to recognize the Taliban government. Years ago, Mujahid reconciled with the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai. In an interview with RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan correspondent Ahmadullah Takal, Mujahid discusses the possibility of reconciling today's Taliban insurgents through a traditional Afghan Loya Jirga -- a grand assembly of elders.....

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    From Jedburgh's post:

    "Mujahid discusses the possibility of reconciling today's Taliban insurgents through a traditional Afghan Loya Jirga -- a grand assembly of elders..... "

    Until we hear something on that front, the top will continue to spin.

    How do you implement peace, and post-conflict stabilization/reconstruction until the majority parties reach an agreement?

    Steve

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    Council Member Lorraine's Avatar
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    Default Perspectives on reconciliation options in afghanistan

    The US Senate on Foreign Relations conducted a hearing on reconciliation options in Afghanistan on July 27. Though the testimony was posted on the SWJ blog, it seems to have been drowned out by the WikiLeaks drama.

    Video and transcripts are found here. Though 169 minutes long, the discussion remains thoughtful, intelligent and genuine throughout. (A refreshing change from recent confirmation hearings....) It kept me engaged the entire time. (Note: the video doesn't actually start until 20 minutes in -- so you'll have to manually move the cursor forward.)

    The panel included former Ambassador Ryan Crocker, David Kilcullen, and Ms. Zainab Salbi, Founder and CEO, Women for Women International.

    Key points shared by the three panelists --
    1) Leaving by 2011 is a bad idea. Even talking about leaving is a bad idea
    2) Other regional partners besides Pakistan need to part of the long-term solution
    3) The US's poor influence in the region reflects our shallow commitment historically...a cycle which seems to be repeating itself again in real time right now.

    One big surprise -- Kilcullen announces that the effort in Afghanistan is NOT counterinsurgency...but rather stability ops. First time I've heard that. Could be true story.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 08-01-2010 at 05:52 PM. Reason: Moved to existing thread and PM to author.
    "Sweeping imperatives fall apart in the particulars."

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    USIP, 21 Sep 10: Navigating Negotiations in Afghanistan
    Summary

    • There are reasons for skepticism about government-insurgent talks, especially as both sides are known for abusive, unjust and discriminatory policies. However, given the constraints of counterinsurgency, obstacles to an anticipated security transition, and the threat of worsening conflict, the potential for negotiations should be explored.

    • Field research indicates that the coalition’s military surge is intensifying the conflict, and compounding enmity and mistrust between the parties. It is therefore reducing the prospects of negotiations, which require confidence-building measures that should be incremental, structured and reciprocal.

    • Strategies should be developed to deal with powerful spoilers, on all sides, that may try to disrupt the process. The form of pre-talks, and the effectiveness of mediators and “track two” interlocutors, will be critical.

    • Pakistan provides assistance to, and has significant influence over, the Taliban. Talks require Pakistan’s support, but giving its officials excessive influence over the process could trigger opposition within Afghanistan and countermeasures from regional states. The perceived threat from India is driving Pakistan’s geostrategic policies, thus concerted efforts are required to improve Pakistan-India relations.

    • Negotiations could lead to a power-sharing agreement, but implementation would be highly challenging, especially due to multifarious factional and other power struggles. An agreement could also involve constitutional or legislative changes that curtail fundamental civil and political rights, especially those of women and girls.

    • Genuine reconciliation efforts are required to build better relations between hostile groups. For legitimacy and viability, any settlement must be both inclusive and just: it should therefore seek to reflect the aspirations of all elements of Afghanistan’s diverse society. It should also seek to address underlying causes of the conflict, especially the abuse of power.

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    If the U.S. had a pair of brass ones it would do the following:

    a. Declare an end of calling Afghanistan a war (at least for us).

    b. Make Reconciliation and a follow-on constitutional Loya Jirga the prerequisite to a single additional dollar or Euro going to GIROA, or a single additional trooper getting on a plane to head into country.

    c. Tell Mr. Karzai straight to his face that we don't care who is in charge of Afghanistan, and that we will work with whoever is.

    d. Tell Pakistan that we recognize that their national interests are very different than U.S. national interests and to return their focus to those things they need to do to maintain balance in their Cold War with India.

    c. Release NATO from any obligation to send support to Afghanistan beyond what they desire to send; and to cut our own efforts there by some 60% as well; leaving a capacity building capability for security forces; security for a much more focused and narrow development activity; and a small, ruthless CT capability that is missioned to focus on AQ leadership, but also any network nodes that they try to establish there as well.

    It's time to stop being scared. It's time to stop being a bully. It's time to stop trying to control outcomes all around the world. We have bigger fish to fry, and they aren't in South Asia.
    Robert C. Jones
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    (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)

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    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    If we don't care who runs Afghanistan, why did we go there... and why did we stay? And while it's all well and good to say we'll work with whoever runs it, we have no assurance that whoever runs it will be remotely interested in working with us.

    In many ways dumping Karzai and allowing the existing dysfunctional government structure to collapse makes perfect sense, though it begs the question of why we put that structure there in the first place. The question is whether we can do that without surrendering the objectives that led us to go there in the first place.

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Default Hubris, and 60+ years of policy based in controlling others

    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    If we don't care who runs Afghanistan, why did we go there... and why did we stay? And while it's all well and good to say we'll work with whoever runs it, we have no assurance that whoever runs it will be remotely interested in working with us.

    In many ways dumping Karzai and allowing the existing dysfunctional government structure to collapse makes perfect sense, though it begs the question of why we put that structure there in the first place. The question is whether we can do that without surrendering the objectives that led us to go there in the first place.
    Perhaps it could have worked. Certainly if we would have helped them get a better Constitution it would have had a better chance. The current constitution virtually guarantees insurgency, corruption and the conversion of the government into a virtual dictatorship.

    Consider the sole purpose for this huge Afghan Army we are working to build. Is it to deter or defeat foreign state militarize? No, it is primarily to hold back the very citizens of the state from storming the palace. Now, certainly Pakistan and AQ and a handful of others are conducting UW to varying degrees; and many of the Pastu populace that resists Karzai's regime may well be technically Pakistani citizens. That line on the map means little to the affected populace. We give it meanings that just aren't relevant to the affected populace. It is a Western fiction, and we create friction when we enforce such fiction. (The same was true with the line that Western governments drew to form the states of North and South Vietnam. Meant a lot to us Westerners and shaped our understanding of the problem there, but I strongly suspect it did little to change the intent or perspective of an insurgent movement that was hell bent on ousting Western Colonial governance and its local stooges. We just gave them a legal sanctuary to execute it from and gave them access to international diplomatic venues as well).


    Good intentions count for a lot; but the road to hell is indeed paved with good intentions. The Afghan Constitution turned the government there into a giant Ponzi scheme. Foreign investment, Drug profits, and the protection of foreign armies are all keeping the facade of normalcy artificially alive. Pull the plug and watch this collapse faster than Bernie Madoff's house of cards. But freeze all of the accounts in the UAE where Karzai and his cohorts have been stashing our cash for years first.

    Insurgencies are fought in the countryside, they are won and lost in the Capital. This one was lost when the Constitution was enacted.
    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)

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    Default ooops

    Well, this is a little embarrassing...


    Taliban Leader in Secret Talks Was an Impostor
    By DEXTER FILKINS and CARLOTTA GALL
    Published: November 22, 2010

    KABUL, Afghanistan — For months, the secret talks unfolding between Taliban and Afghan leaders to end the war appeared to be showing promise, if only because of the repeated appearance of a certain insurgent leader at one end of the table: Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, one of the most senior commanders in the Taliban movement.

    But now, it turns out, Mr. Mansour was apparently not Mr. Mansour at all. In an episode that could have been lifted from a spy novel, United States and Afghan officials now say the Afghan man was an impostor, and high-level discussions conducted with the assistance of NATO appear to have achieved little.

    “It’s not him,” said a Western diplomat in Kabul intimately involved in the discussions. “And we gave him a lot of money.”
    They mostly come at night. Mostly.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Rex Brynen View Post
    Well, this is a little embarrassing...


    Taliban Leader in Secret Talks Was an Impostor
    By DEXTER FILKINS and CARLOTTA GALL
    Published: November 22, 2010
    "A Sherman can give you a very nice... edge."- Oddball, Kelly's Heroes
    Who is Cavguy?

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