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Thread: Reconciliation and COIN in Afghanistan

  1. #21
    Council Member reed11b's Avatar
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    Default Isolation

    Would the geography of the region allow the primary AQ and Taliban affiliated tribes to be isolated by military force? I know closing the border is a no-go since A. the topography is not an ally (mountains) B. The Paki's are not a reliable ally, but isolation seems like it might be more possible. From there efforts to reintegrate the disinfected tribes might make ground. Just a thought, would love feedback.
    Reed
    Quote Originally Posted by sapperfitz82 View Post
    This truly is the bike helmet generation.

  2. #22
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    Although these talks are welcome, the representatives of the Taliban are fringe guys...

    Would the hardcore TB guys really want to talk? Probably not...however, district commanders in some areas may be amenable to such activities...the question is, what will the government have to give up to get the TB to stop fighting? I'm willing to bet more than it would compromise.

    And does anyone really believe the TB and AQ will completely part ways?

    I don't...

    Key thing to remember is that the TB is not monolithic and is also not the only group fighting in Afghanistan.

  3. #23
    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default Engagement not isolation

    Would the geography of the region allow the primary AQ and Taliban affiliated tribes to be isolated by military force? Reed
    Reed, from the little that I've read, it seems that isolation has been our policy for the last twenty years that exasperated the current TB problem. I think we'll need a five-pronged strategy:

    1. FID/IW w/ Paki brothers
    2. COIN in Afghanistan
    3. Reconciliation with TB moderates
    4. Massive reconstruction/humanitarian assistance to the area
    5. Precise DA strikes- kill irreconciliables

    Even if this approach was Pol/Mil feasible, the big elephant in the room would still be the drug trade.

    Very difficult problem set.

    v/r

    Mike

  4. #24
    Council Member reed11b's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeF View Post
    Reed, from the little that I've read, it seems that isolation has been our policy for the last twenty years that exasperated the current TB problem.
    True, but this isolation has been of the entire country, I am asking if the region where the strongest TB and AQ support comes from can be isolated by military force to allow the rest of the country a chance to recover.
    Reed
    P.S. I like the rest of the suggestions, just wanted to clarify my question.
    Last edited by reed11b; 10-14-2008 at 04:51 PM. Reason: bed spilling..er bad spelling
    Quote Originally Posted by sapperfitz82 View Post
    This truly is the bike helmet generation.

  5. #25
    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default A second strategy

    Occupation. As far-fetched as this sounds, it may work. Arguably, IMHO, the two most dangerous places in the world today are the FATA of Pakistan and Afghanistan border and Diyala Province in Iraq.

    Again, very difficult problem set, but I thought I'd throw it out there.

    v/r

    Mike

  6. #26
    Council Member Ron Humphrey's Avatar
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    Question Although I get where your coming from

    Quote Originally Posted by reed11b View Post
    True, but this isolation has been of the entire country, I am asking if the region where the strongest TB and AQ support comes from can be isolated by military force to allow the rest of the country a chance to recover.
    Reed
    P.S. I like the rest of the suggestions, just wanted to clarify my question.
    Consider that in order for that to happen there would have to be sufficient capability to force all trafic through given checkpoints.
    (Probably not possible, but if it were)

    By isolating those areas you are isolating their populations from economic interaction with the rest of the markets.

    1- How much of the agricultural production is found in those areas
    a: What effect does this have on the rest of the country

    2- If you cut off their ability to sell/buy you have just given them incentive to take a job the one place thats left. IE AQ/TB/Etc.

    3- They have a loooottt of family outside of their areas
    a: How will their families react towards the government.
    (I might like living in a safe gated community with all the amenities but if my family couldn't come visit me, or stay with me because their house got flooded I might not be to happy with the community)

    Just a couple of more definitive ramblings
    Any man can destroy that which is around him, The rare man is he who can find beauty even in the darkest hours

    Cogitationis poenam nemo patitur

  7. #27
    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default Mett-tc

    Quote Originally Posted by reed11b View Post
    True, but this isolation has been of the entire country, I am asking if the region where the strongest TB and AQ support comes from can be isolated by military force to allow the rest of the country a chance to recover.
    I would suggest that your recommendation is a definite consideration in Iraq, but not Afghanistan (given the current environment).

    In Iraq, the "Surge" allowed us to create a secure enough environment that we can isolate diyala province and conduct reconstruction/stabilization ops throughout the rest of the country.

    In Afghanistan, IMO, we have not shown the same ability to dominate, control the populace, secure the terrain, etc...IOT isolate problem areas.

    v/r

    mike

  8. #28
    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default I'd argue insightful ramblings...

    Quote Originally Posted by Ron Humphrey View Post

    1- How much of the agricultural production is found in those areas
    a: What effect does this have on the rest of the country

    2- If you cut off their ability to sell/buy you have just given them incentive to take a job the one place thats left. IE AQ/TB/Etc.

    3- They have a loooottt of family outside of their areas
    a: How will their families react towards the government.
    (I might like living in a safe gated community with all the amenities but if my family couldn't come visit me, or stay with me because their house got flooded I might not be to happy with the community)

    Just a couple of more definitive ramblings
    Again, it is a very unstructured/wicked problem if you will.

  9. #29
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    Default

    An excellent piece on the history of negotiating with the Taliban.

    The Taliban (Afghan and Pakistani) pattern of behavior will hopefully be in the mind of any negotiator who finds himself opposite a Taliban representative claiming to deliver on the ground in Afghanistan. Assuming those at the negotiating table can actually make their field commanders comply with the political leaderships' decisions, the Afghan government/coalition would be foolish to offer too much up front.

    At the moment there is great speculation about exploratory talks and negotiations, up to and including a comprehensive negotiated settlement. Beyond the issue of the Taliban's history of neglecting to deliver on agreed terms is this question: why would a force on the rise negotiate honestly and seriously with a force that still appears to be on the decline? I don't believe in assigning a rigid pattern of behavior to any social/historical entity and then expecting predictions based on that to be completely accurate. Variables, sometimes unseen, can change. However, the recurring pattern of the Taliban failing to honor agreements should instil wariness in any potential negotiator.

  10. #30
    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)

  11. #31
    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

  12. #32
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    CEIP, Apr 09: Reconciling With the Taliban? Toward an Alternative Grand Strategy in Afghanistan
    Negotiating with the Taliban—who are convinced military victory is within sight—is the worst possible approach to stabilizing Afghanistan, and one that would fail. The author warns that U.S. signals of impatience and a desire for an early exit could motivate insurgents to maintain a hard line and outlast the international coalition. Though costly, a long-term commitment to building an effective Afghan state is the only way to achieve victory and defend U.S. national security objectives.

    Key Conclusions:

    • Negotiation with the Taliban is premature and unnecessary.

    • A lasting peace in Afghanistan and defeat of the Taliban can only come from a political-military victory that diminishes the rewards for continued resistance.

    • The United States must reaffirm the goal of building a democratic and stable Afghan state.

    • Although counterterrorism cooperation by Pakistan is desirable for U.S. success in Afghanistan, American goals in Afghanistan can be—and if necessary must be—attained without Islamabad’s assistance.

    • Portending coalition defeat in the “graveyard of empires” is an inadequate analogy. Neither the British nor Soviet experience mimics the current situation.

    • President Obama’s recently announced “Af-Pak” strategy is courageous and responsible, but still incomplete.

  13. #33
    Council Member Surferbeetle's Avatar
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    Default Negotiation Models vary...

    From the Washington Post by Greg Bruno The Role of the 'Sons of Iraq' in Improving Security

    The decision to cut ties with AQI was dubbed the "Anbar Awakening" by Iraqi organizers, and has been hailed as a turning point in the U.S.-led war effort. Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, told lawmakers in Washington the uprising has reduced U.S. casualties, increased security, and even saved U.S. taxpayers money. "The savings and vehicles not lost because of reduced violence," the general said in April 2008, "far outweighed the costs of their monthly contracts." Yet the future of the Awakening -- Sahwa in Arabic -- is a matter of increasing debate in foreign policy circles. Internal disputes within the predominantly Sunni groups have threatened the stability of the revolt, some experts say. Sunni groups have also complained about low pay and a lack of opportunities for employment within Iraq's army and police forces. CFR Senior Fellow Steven Simon writes in Foreign Affairs that while the Sahwa strategy may bring short-term stability to Iraq, the long-term effect could be runaway "tribalism, warlordism, and sectarianism."
    Wikipedia's entry on Paramilitaries in Colombia

    Paramilitary groups, whether of private or public origin, having legal or illegal support, were originally organized during the Cold War proxy wars as small groups, being created as either a preemptive or reactive consequence to the real or perceived growing threat represented by the actions of guerrillas and militant political activists of Marxist-Leninist ideology.
    Sapere Aude

  14. #34
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    Default I'm all for negotiations, but...

    ...what exactly do we have to offer?

    In most cases where insurgents have been coopted or reconciled, they were enticed by either a share of political power, specific reforms that they had been fighting for, monetary rewards, or safety. I just don't see what we could offer the Taliban that would entice them to lay down their arms, or at least stop interfering with our nation-building efforts.

    Would we be willing to let known Taliban have positions in the central government, or to run openly in elections? Would we be willing to accept a 'Swat solution' by allowing shari'a law to hold sway in certain areas of Afghanistan? Will bribery work? Are we dominant enough militarily to say (with a straight face) 'reconcile or die'?

    I would be interested to hear what those espousing reconciliation think we could negotiate about; personally I don't believe we have a dominant enough position yet to enter in to talks with any hope of success, especially with a people who consider armed intransigence for its own sake a national virtue and part of their cultural identity.

  15. #35
    Council Member Ron Humphrey's Avatar
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    Unhappy Can someone please explain

    Where this got so convoluted from the original intent?

    "We should never fear to negotiate, but we should never negotiate from fear"

    The Taliban(org) cannot and should not be negotiated with

    1_ They have nothing to offer that is acceptable to a populace that seeks representative leadership

    2_ They represent all that is oppressive and truly intolerant of self destination

    Those who make up their ranks however are people and can be approached through their own self and societal interests.

    I find myself completely perplexed by this apparent failure to connect those dots currectly in the public message
    Any man can destroy that which is around him, The rare man is he who can find beauty even in the darkest hours

    Cogitationis poenam nemo patitur

  16. #36
    Council Member Surferbeetle's Avatar
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    Default An indirect approach takes time...

    From wikipedia Stakeholder Analysis

    Stakeholder analysis is a term used in project management and business administration to describe a process where all the individuals or groups that are likely to be affected by the activities of a project are identified and then sorted according to how much they can affect the project and how much the project can affect them. This information is used to assess how the interests of those stakeholders should be addressed in the project plan.
    Sapere Aude

  17. #37
    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Wink I'm playing Devil's Advocate here...

    Hi Eden,

    Quote Originally Posted by Eden View Post
    I just don't see what we could offer the Taliban that would entice them to lay down their arms, or at least stop interfering with our nation-building efforts.
    We had the same problem with some troublesome colonies the the late 18th century.

    Quote Originally Posted by Eden View Post
    Would we be willing to let known Taliban have positions in the central government, or to run openly in elections? Would we be willing to accept a 'Swat solution' by allowing shari'a law to hold sway in certain areas of Afghanistan? Will bribery work? Are we dominant enough militarily to say (with a straight face) 'reconcile or die'?
    I have to note an interesting point - why is this entire paragraph couched in terms of "would we"? I recognize the reality of the situation in Afghanistan vise vie the US forces, but you have the little problem of not claiming sovereignty there. This leads, inevitably, back to questioning about the "would we" statements since the only claims to political legitimacy in Afghanistan the US has are on force majeur.

    Quote Originally Posted by Eden View Post
    I would be interested to hear what those espousing reconciliation think we could negotiate about; personally I don't believe we have a dominant enough position yet to enter in to talks with any hope of success, especially with a people who consider armed intransigence for its own sake a national virtue and part of their cultural identity.
    I really don't think it is so much a case of having a dominant position so much as having political legitimacy. As far as dealing "with a people who consider armed intransigence for its own sake a national virtue and part of their cultural identity", I'll go back to those unruly colonists we had to deal with . Apparently, they had the gall to say that we (the British imperium) lacked the political legitimacy to engage in nation building and actually took up arms against us !

    Moving out of the Devil's Advocate position...

    One thing to keep in mind is that "the Taliban" don't exist as a single, unitary group; it has become a label of convenience for a multiplicity of groups and movements. The second thing to keep in mind is that the situation in Afghanistan is closer to a multi-party civil war with a lot of foreigners added to the mix. In some ways, there are parallels with the Russian civil war of 1917 - 21 and, politically, with the American Revolution and the establishment of the Tetrachy (~300 ce).

    The position of negotiating with the Taliban is aimed at ending part of that civil war (i.e. part of the internal, Pashtun civil war), possibly as a prelude to getting some of the foreign fighters under control. Personally, I don't think the Karzai Gov't will be able to do so, but we'll have to wait and see what happens with the elections there.
    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/

  18. #38
    Council Member Surferbeetle's Avatar
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    Default Who is on first and...

    An Afghanistan Country Study from the Illinois Institute of Technology

    Afghanistan's rugged physical environment serves to isolate residential communities and to create microenvironments. Members of the same ethnic group and tribe who reside in different locations must adapt to their own microenvironment, which may result in different kin based groups within the same tribe and ethnic group using different modes of production.
    Sapere Aude

  19. #39
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Agree with Marc.

    "One thing to keep in mind is that "the Taliban" don't exist as a single, unitary group; it has become a label of convenience for a multiplicity of groups and movements. The second thing to keep in mind is that the situation in Afghanistan is closer to a multi-party civil war with a lot of foreigners added to the mix. In some ways, there are parallels with the Russian civil war of 1917 - 21 and, politically, with the American Revolution and the establishment of the Tetrachy (~300 ce)
    You're confronted with the harsh fact that any 'agreement' is going to be with only the temporarily and apparently (though not necessarily actually) dominant faction who likely will not be able to control all the other factions. That's just the Taliban.

    Then extrapolate that to the corrupt (by our standards, not theirs) government, other Ethnicities, Tribes, Clans plus the Drug producers, smuggling gangs etc. No one is in charge there so with whom, precisely would 'we' make a deal. Far more importantly, who there would honor that deal -- not even considering that a 'deal' in western eyes and a deal in Afghan eyes are two different things -- as also is the concept of agreement between Muslim and non-Muslim not being binding...

    Consider also that any deal is going to have the moral difficulties that Ron suggests -- plus there's Marc's original point -- it is NOT our call; it's up to the Afghans.

    I'll also note that with regard to Marc's first comment to Eden, the solution was to leave the pesky colonies to quarrel among themselves about religion, the economy, the role of women and anything else that could be dreamed up...

  20. #40
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    Agree with MarcT and Ken.

    I would add that several members of the Taliban did switch sides several years ago and are now serving in the Afghan legislature last I checked. So it can be done, but it's very situational.

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