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Thread: Reconciliation and COIN in Afghanistan

  1. #81
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    C.I.A. Chief Sees Taliban Power-Sharing as Unlikely
    By SCOTT SHANE
    New York Times
    Published: June 27, 2010

    The director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Leon E. Panetta, expressed strong skepticism on Sunday about the prospects for an Afghanistan deal being pushed by Pakistan between the Afghan government and elements of the Taliban, saying militants do not yet have a reason to negotiate seriously.

    “We have seen no evidence that they are truly interested in reconciliation, where they would surrender their arms, where they would denounce Al Qaida, where they would really try to become part of that society,” said Mr. Panetta in an interview on ABC’s news program “This Week.”

    Mr. Panetta’s comments came amid reports, not yet confirmed by American officials, that Afghan President Hamid Karzai has met personally with Sirajuddin Haqqani, leader of the Haqqani network, a faction of the Afghan Taliban considered to be close to Al Qaeda.

    Acknowledging that the American-led counterinsurgency effort is facing unexpected difficulty, Mr. Panetta said that the Taliban and its allies at this point have little motive to contemplate a power-sharing arrangement in Afghanistan.

    “We’ve seen no evidence of that and, very frankly, my view is that with regards to reconciliation, unless they’re convinced that the United States is going to win and that they’re going to be defeated, I think it’s very difficult to proceed with a reconciliation that’s going to be meaningful,” he said.

    ...
    Pretty much my view too, regarding the senior Taliban leadership. At the local level the prospects might be a little brighter--although not much more so if there is a sense of momentum being on the Taliban side.
    They mostly come at night. Mostly.


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    Century Foundation, 21 Jun 10: Negotiating With the Taliban: Issues and Prospects
    ....This report tries to lay out how the Taliban are structured and organized, with an eye to assessing the impact of their organization and modus operandi on their willingness to negotiate and to reach a political settlement. There is considerable controversy over the way the Taliban function, which is inevitable given the limited information available. The different points of view can be summarized (with some simplification) as follows:

    • the Taliban operate as a “franchiser” business, allowing disparate groups of insurgents to display the Taliban brand while retaining complete autonomy on the ground;

    • the Taliban are not organized to the same extent as the Marxist movements
    that had been the main worry of Western counterinsurgents until the end of the cold war, but nonetheless have a discernible organizational structure (decentralized).

    As the reader will realize while going through the paper, this author tends to follow the second line of thinking. One reason for the failure to understand the modus operandi of the Taliban is the lack of in-depth studies of the 1980s jihad in Afghanistan; if such studies had been carried out, understanding the Taliban would be much easier now....

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Notes from London

    Adam Holloway, a Conservative MP and ex-UK Army officer, took part in a short radio discussion today on Afghanistan; he has been an advocate of an accommodation with the insurgents since 2008.

    Link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/console/b00sw3sc (available for a week).

    He made two particular comments:
    The insurgents are hundreds of local groups united by a hatred of foreign troops and an unwanted corrupt central government....In Helmand 80% of bodies we recover after an engagement have died within twenty miles of where they live. That should tell you who we are really fighting here.
    The second belongs better on 'The UK in Afghanistan' thread and will be posted there too:
    The big threat (to the UK) is the video pictures on the websites of the global Jihad. Afghanistan is a massive driver of radicalisation across the region and in our northern mill towns.

    I asked the head of the Afghan secret service a while back how many hard core AQ operatives were in Afghanistan, he said he didn't know it was less than the number of British citizens of Pakistani origin who were working with the Taliban...

    (Commenting himself ) AQ are long gone from Afghanistan...
    I know the Taliban this week decried negotiations, my question is how will the presence of non-Afghans fighting alongside the locals influence any accommodation?
    davidbfpo

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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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    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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    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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    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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    Afghans are reportedly known for sending in emissaries who aren't the person but represent that person, in order to flush out the intentions of the other side.

    I experienced this once, and wonder if we have the same thing happening here.
    Last edited by jcustis; 11-25-2010 at 10:03 PM.

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    Washington Post article claiming it was the UK that brought the impostor forward.


    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...112503577.html

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    USIP, 12 Jan 11: Afghan High Peace Council Fails to Reflect Afghan Civil Society
    Summary

    • The Afghan public, along with the international community, appears increasingly supportive of opening negotiations with the Taliban to end the war. The Karzai administration also supports this, as reflected by the June 2010 Peace Jirga held in Kabul and the 70-member High Peace Council that was formed thereafter.

    • In spite of the talks, no one in Washington or Kabul has clarified what reconciliation means in practice, particularly with respect to accountability for abuses that occurred during the rule of the Taliban as well as those that occurred when rival factions fought with each other before the Taliban came to power.

    • On November 10, 2010 representatives from Afghan and international NGOs, as well as the UN, gathered for a one-day Conference on Peace, Reconciliation, and Justice in Kabul to revitalize public discussion on peace and reconciliation among the government of Afghanistan, the international community, and Afghan civil society.

    • The discussions revealed a troubling disconnect between the High Peace Council and Afghan civil society representatives who strongly criticized the Council’s inclusion of former militia leaders among its members, the lack of transparency in its activities, and the lack of clarity in its objectives.

    • These criticisms indicate that for a peace process to have broad, popular support, the Afghan government and the international community must make greater efforts to engage local leaders in a dialogue and account for the interests of communities and interest groups that are not represented in the High Peace Council.

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    Default Talking while fighting: UK conference

    Thanks to Canadian pointer. Wilton Park, a UK conference centre, held a meeting a month ago on 'Talking while fighting: conditions and modalities' and has now released a summary and podcasts.

    Link:http://www.wiltonpark.org.uk/en/news...s&id=532534382

    Introduction:
    The conference examined a wide range of internal conflicts, including thematically focused case study sessions on Iraq, Nepal, Nagaland (Northeast India), Tajikistan, Darfur, El Salvador, and Afghanistan during the 1980’s. We concluded with an assessment of the generalised lessons from these case studies that might be of most relevance to Afghanistan.
    The podcasts features: Ashok Mehta, Independent Security Analyst and retired lieutenant general, Noida, India; Mukkhidin Kabiri, Chairman, Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan, Dushanbe; Ahmedou Ould Abdallah, Mediator-in–Residence, United Nations, Department of Political Affairs (DPA), New York.
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Default Why The Taliban would negotiate and give up AQ

    As SWC regulars (and irregulars) appreciate I am a big believer in the criticality of reconciliation of the issues of poor governance that are at the heart of causation for the Taliban Leadership in Pakistan. This to be followed up by Constitutional Loya Jirga that is focused on producing a constitution that prevents any one organization, ethnic group or office from gaining too much power (create trust) and identify and protect key individual rights, and defining a trusted, certain and legal construct that makes sense to these people for selecting leaders and enacting laws at all levels.

    Vocal opponents to such logic stand, proclaim "Why would the Taliban negotiate?!" and sit back down, their argument made and their business complete.

    Why indeed. The Taliban are proving to be quite resilient to the Coalition's surge, and according to many reports are actually gaining in strength and influence. Either they will "win" outright; or perhaps, if the West is willing to settle for a "decent interval" to declare success, break contact and return home, they can surge then in their own right a seize power by force. This is all quite logical.

    But how long could they hold such power once they surrendered the sanctuary of their non-state status for the vulnerability of a sovereign state? How long would it take the U.S. to go back in and conduct a strategic raid to send them fleeing right back into Pakistan. Days? Perhaps weeks?

    It is this misunderstanding of "sanctuary" that drives a fault line of illogic through our entire current approach to this operation. The Taliban can win Afghanistan, but in so doing loses their sanctuary and are quickly defeated. The same is true for AQ and the Caliphate. If AQ ever gained even a single state, they would lose the sanctuary of their status and merely become another weak state and be quickly defeated. THEY understand this, it is the West that for whatever reason fails to grasp this essential point.

    So, the entire argument that we must stay and prop up Karzai's regime regardless of how outrageous his behavior or corrupt and "poor" his governance is for fear that the Taliban may return to power and grant AQ the sanctuary of the sovereign Taliban State is specious. They could only do so for those few day or weeks, then they would all be on the run once again back to their caves. The same is true for the argument that we must prop up despotic leaders across the Arab world and help them build capacity to suppress the nationalist insurgencies within thier populaces for fear that AQ will form a Caliphate.

    We are like the sheriff in blazing saddles, holding a gun to our own heads:

    "[the Johnsons load their guns and point them at Bart. Bart then points his own pistol at his head]
    Bart: [low voice] Hold it! Next man makes a move, the nigger gets it!
    Olson Johnson: Hold it, men. He's not bluffing.
    Dr. Sam Johnson: Listen to him, men. He's just crazy enough to do it!
    Bart: [low voice] Drop it! Or I swear I'll blow this nigger's head all over this town!
    Bart: [high-pitched voice] Oh, lo'dy, lo'd, he's desp'it! Do what he sayyyy, do what he sayyyy!
    [Townspeople drop their guns. Bart jams the gun into his neck and drags himself through the crowd towards the station]
    Harriet Johnson: Isn't anybody going to help that poor man?
    Dr. Sam Johnson: Hush, Harriet! That's a sure way to get him killed!
    Bart: [high-pitched voice] Oooh! He'p me, he'p me! Somebody he'p me! He'p me! He'p me! He'p me!
    Bart: [low voice] Shut up!
    [Bart places his hand over his own mouth, then drags himself through the door into his office]
    Bart: Ooh, baby, you are so talented!
    [looks into the camera]
    Bart: And they are so *dumb*!"


    Only no one's going to help us either, only we aren't so clever as the good sheriff. We're more like the townspeople.

    Be firm with Karzai and demand reconciliation and a new constitution to protect the populace from the government. At the same time open talks with the Taliban (realize not a monolith, but no major group will want to get cut out of the final deal) support their re-entry into Afghan political process so long as they turn over key AQ figures and evict the rest, along with the various groups of foreign fighters. Remind them that while we are quite willing to support whatever form of self-determined government comes out of the loya jirga, that if the Taliban try to pull a fast one and return to their old ways we will be back with a vengeance, and not nearly so many will be able to escape the next time. They can gain power without us, but they can only retain it with our blessing once the lose the sanctuary of non-state status.

    If Karzai refuses to play ball? Go home. It will be him who abandoned us, not the other way around.
    Last edited by Bob's World; 01-25-2011 at 07:53 PM.
    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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    Default As you'd expect, a thing or two to say about that...

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    As SWC regulars (and irregulars) appreciate I am a big believer in the criticality of reconciliation of the issues of poor governance that are at the heart of causation for the Taliban Leadership in Pakistan.
    This assumes what has yet to be established. How do we know that "poor governance", rather than the simple desire to reclaim the sole power that they once had, is "at the heart of causation for the Taliban Leadership in Pakistan"? I suspect that if Karzai were an Afghan Thomas Jefferson the Taliban leadership would still want him off the chair, because they want the chair themselves. Of course if Karzai were an Afghan Thomas Jefferson the Taliban leadership would probably not be able to draw enough followers to get the job done, but it wouldn't be for want of trying.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    This to be followed up by Constitutional Loya Jirga that is focused on producing a constitution that prevents any one organization, ethnic group or office from gaining too much power (create trust) and identify and protect key individual rights, and defining a trusted, certain and legal construct that makes sense to these people for selecting leaders and enacting laws at all levels.
    Do you really, truly believe that trust can be created among people who have been killing each other continuously for 2 decades simply by adopting a new Constitution? Do you really, truly believe that a Constitution can "prevent any one organization, ethnic group or office from gaining too much power", if the groups in question decide to abandon or ignore it as soon as it is to their advantage to do so? More to the point, do you think the Afghans believe it?

    More important, why should we think that a Constitutional Loya Jirga would in fact be "focused on producing a constitution that prevents any one organization, ethnic group or office from gaining too much power (create trust) and identify and protect key individual rights, and defining a trusted, certain and legal construct that makes sense to these people for selecting leaders and enacting laws at all levels". Unless we control the process, thus rendering it irrelevant, we cannot expect it to be any such thing. More likely each group involved would be focused on protecting itself and finding an opportunity to stab the others in the back, or in the front if opportunity presents itself. Why should the prevailing political culture vanish simply because we decide that they are going to have a Loya Jirga and we decide that this Loya Jirga is going to produce a Constitution that's going to solve all the problems? Why, based on precedent, should we think that they will decide what we decided they should decide?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    But how long could they hold such power once they surrendered the sanctuary of their non-state status for the vulnerability of a sovereign state? How long would it take the U.S. to go back in and conduct a strategic raid to send them fleeing right back into Pakistan. Days? Perhaps weeks?
    Are you so sure we'd go back? We didn't go back into Vietnam when the GRVN crumbled. It takes a whole lot of political will to go back into a place where we just had a long, costly, unpopular and unsuccessful war (if we have to go back, then it was by definition unsuccessful). How do we know the Taliban aren't betting that if they force us out we won't come back? How do we know they're not right?

    Of course there's some divergence in interests here between AQ and the Taliban: the Taliban want us gone, AQ need to have a foreign aggressor in Muslim lands to justify their existence. A problem, but not insurmountable. If we're forced out of Afghanistan or simply worn out, AQ can always try to bait us into Yemen or Somalia instead of Afghanistan.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    The same is true for the argument that we must prop up despotic leaders across the Arab world and help them build capacity to suppress the nationalist insurgencies within thier populaces for fear that AQ will form a Caliphate.
    Possibly a bit of a straw man there: who, if anyone, is arguing that position?

    Personally, I think that we went wrong on Afghan governance issues the moment we decided to try to govern Afghanistan, or to determine how Afghanistan would be governed. It is simply not within our capacity to bring anything that we would call "good governance" to Afghanistan. Any government we install will end up being, by our standards, bad. The political culture in place assures this. The Afghans may in time evolve something that they can agree on as "good governance", but it's not likely to resemble anything we would call "good governance" and we can't do it for them, or make them do it.

    Our task from the start should have been not to embark on a futile quest to bring "good governance" to Afghanistan, but to make absolutely sure that whoever ended up governing Afghanistan badly knew beyond doubt that attacking us or sheltering those who do will bring immediate and horrible consequences. That would have been done more effectively if we'd made our point very vigorously and left, before a prolonged occupation could remind everyone of our limitations and weaknesses.

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    BW,

    As SWC regulars (and irregulars) appreciate I am a big believer in the criticality of reconciliation of the issues of poor governance that are at the heart of causation for the Taliban Leadership in Pakistan. This to be followed up by Constitutional Loya Jirga that is focused on producing a constitution that prevents any one organization, ethnic group or office from gaining too much power (create trust) and identify and protect key individual rights, and defining a trusted, certain and legal construct that makes sense to these people for selecting leaders and enacting laws at all levels.
    You often bring up the US Constitution as a model for bringing about good governance. I agree to a point - however, I (and others) have often tried to point out to you the problem of irreconcilable divisions within a nation or society and this is a point you've pretty much ignored in your responses. So let me illustrate this position by looking at the US and the US Constitution.

    While I agree that US Constitution is a great model for governance in the United States we need to remember that it failed, spectacularly, in preventing a civil war. We had a civil war because the Constitution was unable to peacefully reconcile the deep, irreconcilable divisions within this country. Lord knows we tried and the Constitution was instrumental in delaying the day of reckoning by allowing a host of political compromises - however, all of them proved to be temporary and inadequate. All the features of the Constitution that were carefully and specifically crafted to satisfy the diversity of interests in America failed and the consequence was war.

    My skepticism of your faith in a Constitutional and "good governance" solution to Afghanistan's many internal problems stems in part from this history in the US. A good Constitution is no guarantee that differences within a political structure can be resolved peacefully. This is especially the case with Afghanistan, whose borders are the unnatural result of colonial ambitions that arbitrarily divided ethnic groups. Consequently, Afghanistan's neighbors and outsiders have plenty of incentive to intervene in Afghanistan's internal affairs which only makes governance more difficult. What, exactly, makes you think that an agreeable construct is presently possible, much less the specific fix you have in mind? Your advocacy seems to be based solely on your theory of governance and insurgency which doesn't account for conditions where good governance is not possible, nor does it account for weak states that are kept weak thanks to constant foreign meddling.

    In my estimation, the differences in Afghan society are deep enough to at least give one a measure of skepticism regarding the potential for mutually-agreeable power sharing in a "nation" as dysfunctional and broken as Afghanistan. My skepticism is further deepened by the consideration that these ideas about how Afghans should govern themselves come from foreigners with different cultural traditions and mores who are pursuing their own interests and are likely engaging in cultural mirror-imaging.

    On that last point, advice to Afghans should be tempered by an appreciation of the circumstances, culture and history of Afghanistan. I studied Afghanistan both professionally and personally pretty much non-stop for about six years and the one thing I learned from that effort is just how much I still don't know. In other words, studying Afghanistan taught me just enough to scratch the surface and understand the depth of my ignorance - ignorance which was previously hidden to me. For me, the result was that I finally knew enough to put aside all my paternal presumptions about how Afghan's ought to organize their society. It finally put to rest the little remaining sympathy I had for the idea that the US has the power to create democracy and rearrange societies through force of arms. It made me very skeptical that we in the US can determine what is best for them, much less the process required to get them where we think they should be. On this point I am in 110% agreement with Dayuhan, who, legitimately in my view, brings this point up time and again in response to your solutions for fixing other people's governance problems whether that's Tunisia, Saudi or Afghanistan.

    So to me the idea that Karzai, the Taliban or whatever faction within Afghanistan can be pressured by an outside power to create some semblance of what we would consider fair and equitable governance is unlikely to succeed. The entire notion that one government can successfully pressure another government to fundamentally alter its governance structure is wishful thinking to me. When has such an effort ever succeeded? Karzai will do what every leader in that position will do and has done in response to similar US pressure.

    And Afghanistan is only part of the problem - the governance issues are almost as bad in Pakistan. Are we next to pressure the Pakistanis to hold alter their constitution to address the lack of governance in the tribal and border areas? We can try and they will laugh at our arrogance and then tell us politely to sod off.

    In short, we need to quit trying to change the governance structures of other nations and instead deal with them as they are.
    Supporting "time-limited, scope limited military actions" for 20 years.

  18. #98
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default If I may tag on to that...

    Quote Originally Posted by Entropy View Post
    On this point I am in 110% agreement with Dayuhan, who, legitimately in my view, brings this point up time and again in response to your solutions for fixing other people's governance problems whether that's Tunisia, Saudi or Afghanistan.
    As have I and Bill Moore for the last couple of tears. There've been others from time to time. You tend to just ignore it. However, it is a recurring point made by several here.
    In short, we need to quit trying to change the governance structures of other nations and instead deal with them as they are.
    True and we need to understand that the US is not and has never been a beacon of truth, liberty and justice regardless of what some would like to believe -- and, far more importantly, that it is not a likely model for most nations. In fact, I submit almost no other nation could make it work -- not that we do all that well...

  19. #99
    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Default Not to pile on or anything, but...

    RCJ, with reference to that other thread, can Ken, Bill, and Entropy be on the jury?

  20. #100
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Dayuhan,

    As a prosecutor I was never concerned about having smart, thinking people on the jury (many DAs are), so those three are certainly welcome.

    As to Entropy, I would need to bring him up to speed a bit on his understanding of the debate that drove the constitution. Realizing that the jury members trust each other more than they do any of the lawyers (again, juries are smart) I'd ask the jury panel during voir dire (selection - the only time a lawyer gets to have a conversation with the jury) if anyone in the room had ever been divorced. They would look at me funny, and then (because people want to participate) some one would raise their hand and say "yes". From there I would have 3-4 share there experiences, focusing on why they followed this legal process rather than just walking out, killing the spouse, or other illegal options. Then I would get to slavery and the constitution in my closing argument. (SWC jury members feel free to pile on here if you have anything to add)

    The Constitution pointedly avoided that issue as it was too divisive. Everyone there understood it was the 800 lb gorilla in the room, but also that it was at that time an unsolvable problem, and to attempt to do so would have derailed the entire effort. So, not surprisingly, rich white men focused on what was important to rich white men, knowing that the current status of poor black people was unsustainable, but that it would have to be solved later.

    So, point in fact, the Constitution did not "fail" on this issue, in fact that issue provided the greatest imaginable test possible to the document and the concepts it held up and the Constitution survived. It was the constitution that allowed state assemblies across the south to come together and democratically vote to succeed from the Union. This was no insurgency, this was a divorce. A legal action by one party to separate permanently from the other. They could have gone with "illegal politics" (my definition of insurgency), but did not have to, they had the constitution to provide them legal venues.

    Problem was, as there often is in a divorce, that the North disagreed with the South's interpretation of the law (Andrew Jackson had only fairly recently added the rule that States were not allowed to succeed, and is often the case in the law, reasonable minds can differ). The highest courtroom of such national disputes is the battlefield, so that is where this case ended up. The North ultimately "won" and the parties reconciled, but as is often the case, the children suffered and finances were a mess for years after. But the constitution and the nation endured.

    I suspect, that as the Northern Alliance and the diverse parties they represent and the Taliban, and the more homogeneous, but still diverse parties they represent sit down to talk, they too may have an issue or two that is as unresolvable today for them as slavery was for our founding fathers in 1787. I would advise them to learn from the American experience. Make a compromise (such as the 3/5th rule was) and stay focused on the big prize and keep moving. If I could offer our own founding fathers any advice, it would be to have put an expiration date on that compromise. I believe that they could have agreed that this was an issue that had to be addressed, and that they could have also agreed to some date. They probably could have agreed to a suspense of 100 years from ratification. If they would have done so "hope" would have been on the table, and it would have forced both sides to work toward a legal, mutually agreeable solution rather than ignoring the looming problem.

    As to "fixing other peoples problems" that is never what I have stood for. I do, however understand some basic "truths" of human nature. Karzai and the Northern Alliance "won" and have the power, so why should they compromise? No reason if we are going to dedicate ourselves to not only winning the fight for them, but also to protecting and keeping them in power as well regardless of how they act. They know what they are doing is wrong, but hey, its great for them, so they will not change of their own volition. We see this across the Middle East with similar governments that have come to be enabled in their perspectives of impunity in how they address their own people. Tunisia is giving hope to the populaces of the region and striking fear into the governments.

    Sometimes such parties, particularly those with a tremendous disparity of legal power, need a more powerful 3rd party to act as Mediator or even Arbitrator. To provide the balance, trust and protection that the current imbalance Denys. To empower the parties to have the conversation that their current position and recent actions prevent. This is not dictating to others HOW they should govern. It is in our current COA that we do that (without much success though, making us look weak. We demand that bad governments improve womens rights, become more democratic, etc and they ignore us and we continue to protect them anyway out of fear for what might happen if they nationalize some oil facility, raise their prices, favor the Chinese, close access to a LOC or port, etc.) The US far too often looks impotent over the issue of making moral demands on others that our own fiscal and security fears prevent us from backing up. That is not a smart approach to foreign policy. Either don't make the demands, or be willing to back them up if you do. Pick one.

    It is time for us to stop taking counsel from those who proclaim that we have "existential threats" in AFPAK. We don't.

    It is time for us to stop thinking a Karzai regime that excludes that Taliban is the best answer to govern Afghanistan. It isn't.

    It is time for us to stop fearing that a Taliban influenced Afghanistan will become a "sanctuary for AQ." they can't. (The Taliban as a non-state actor is immune to most tools of statecraft and takes sanctuary in that status far more than the do in the physical terrain of the FATA. Once they become a state they have all of the burdens and vulnerabilities of statehood and would have too much to risk to continue to offer their sanctuary to AQ. They also know that we could do any number of major strategic raids to punish them that would cost the fraction of a single year of "nation building.")

    Most people don't understand the many layers of meaning and effects of our constitution. I read it as both an attorney and as a special forces officer who has spent years working and thinking about insurgency. Our founding fathers had an experience that none of us can truly empathize with.

    1. They grew up oppressed (mildly at times) second class citizens of their own King and kingdom.

    2. They became subversives, and then Insurgents to throw off that government that they felt to be illegitimate ("no island should rule a continent"), unjust, disrespectful, and that denied any legal recourse to their reasonable complaints. These were the the wealthy, landed, ruling class of a people enjoying the highest standard of living on Earth at that time. And they became insurgents, engaging in illegal politics, betting everything they owned (their reputations, their wealth, and their very lives) over the powerful human nature factors of causation at work.

    3. Then, from the day of the surrender at Yorktown, they became Counterinsurgents. The effectiveness of British governance stripped away, the upstart nation spiraled into economic despair and near anarchy under the chaos of nearly pure democracy. The decision by a few of these former insurgents to secretly scrap the Articles and to come together to form a new constitution was in itself a bit of insurgency, but for the sole purpose of counterinsurgency. That was their goal in the issues they addressed and the purpose of the document. To protect the role of the landed, educated minority in government, and to put dampers on democracy designed to prevent abuses of government power within a central authority necessary to coordinate and lead the efforts of the diverse states. Then wisely added the personal protections in the Bill of Rights. This was genius COIN.

    Afghans would have their own issues and their own solutions. As always, it is the principles of the law rather than the black letter that matters most. They won't do it on their own though.
    Last edited by Bob's World; 01-27-2011 at 12:31 PM.
    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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