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Thread: Control comes before Collaboration

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    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default Control comes before Collaboration

    The boys (and girls) over at Inkspots are getting after it in trying to peel back the causal relationships of governance, legitimacy, and aid in these post-colonial small wars.

    Gulliver's post on Plans for Afghanistan aid and getting it backwards addresses the complexities of the art and science in our own theories and practice.

    Aid is a vital part of counterinsurgency, right? Development projects help back up improvements in security and win over support from the local population for the counterinsurgent and the legitimate government, so goes the thinking. We ought not be surprised, then, with this:

    The White House is developing “clear targets” for both the Afghan and Pakistani
    governments, possibly with specific timelines, as a way to signal that the American military presence will not last indefinitely, American officials said. It is not yet clear what the administration is willing to do if the targets are not met.

    Among other things, the officials said, the administration will insist that Afghanistan fight corruption, speed up troop training and retention, and funnel development assistance to areas the Taliban dominate.

    Emphasis in the above is mine. Only problem with the latter bit is that it's precisely the opposite of what we ought to be doing to help stabilize and legitimize the Karzai government. (A case can be made, too, that rapid expansion of the ANSF is similarly counterproductive to this aim.)

    So why is it wrong? Well, it's pretty simple: pouring money and development assistance into areas dominated by the Taliban means that 1) everything we do will be much more expensive, 2) the prospects of failure are much higher, imperiling the government's overall legitimacy and control over areas previously deemed "quiet" and "safe," and 3) the enemy will gain from our efforts to the extent that any of them are successful in delivering benefits to insurgent-controlled (or insurgent-influenced) areas.

    Control comes before collaboration. The support of individuals and groups is contested by the insurgent and the counterinsurgent through the provision of services and the suggestion of legitimacy, sure, but that only happens after one party is able to largely prevent the other from contesting territory and/or a subject population through force and security. The Taliban doesn't run sharia courts for the local nationals who work at Bagram; why? Because it's senseless to spend resources pitching a guy who cannot plausibly shift his support to the group that's unable to access or protect him. Pouring money and bridges and wells and so on into places that coalition or government forces cannot consistently and safely access decouples those resources from the counterinsurgent's most important tool: presence.

    Kilcullen's been on this point lately, too: why spend all our resources in "red areas" when we've got a lot of light green areas we could be shoring up with those efforts? Why contest the hardest spots first? (And further, why work on connecting more of the population to a government that as yet doesn't seem to be competent enough to reap any benefit in legitimacy or support from being more closely connected to more of its citizens?)

    There's a whole lot more to say about this -- it speaks to the "ink spots strategy" issues that Bernard and Christian have recently highlighted, and to which I've yet to respond -- and I hope to cover a lot more ground in a comprehensive Afghanistan "path-forward" post in the coming days.

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    Default

    Dorronsoro and Stewart have also hit on this in a big way. Dorronsoro explicitly relates this to the resourcing of PRTs, which control a lot of aid spending in OEF.

    Dorronsoro points to this report by Matt Waldman of Oxfam: "Falling Short: Aid Effectiveness in Afghanistan."

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    Default The incumbant's strategic base areas

    I suggest going back a few decades and have a look at John McCuen's The Art of Counter-Revolutionary War (available as a reprint from Hailer Publishing at $29.95). The blurb does not convey the point I want to make.

    In any event, one of McCuen's major points, which runs through the book, is the necessity for the incumbant to secure its strategic base areas, even at the cost of giving up large areas of the country. McCuen saw one of the greatest failings of incumbants as being reaction to the brushfires, without having first secured its own bases - whatever geography they might happen to be in the context. In short, trying to be strong everywhere results in not being strong anywhere.

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    tequila -- Agree that the Dorronsoro paper is excellent; I just read it yesterday. Working up something a little more extensive that draws heavily on his arguments.

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    Default Gulliver, welcome to SWC

    I'm positing that you are the Gulliver here ?

    Regards

    Mike

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    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmm99 View Post
    I'm positing that you are the Gulliver here ?

    Regards

    Mike
    Yeah, how about you introduce yourself here? Not to threaten you, but don't make me unfriend you from Facebook.

    Mike

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    jmm -- You posit correctly.

    I've been around SWC for a couple of years, but tend to lurk more than post (and when I did post, it was under my real name; this was before I had professional justifications for anonymity, I suppose).

    Mike -- This, of course, is the problem with my thin veil of anonymity: I'm not on Facebook as "Gulliver"!

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    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gulliver View Post
    Mike -- This, of course, is the problem with my thin veil of anonymity: I'm not on Facebook as "Gulliver"!
    No worries. Just poking the bear. As to the beginnings of this thread, you've brought up some important discussions that I felt needed to be cross-posted.

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Control comes before Collaboration

    Mike F,

    I just hope as 'Ink Spots' moves along they can explain to this "armchair" watcher why Helmand Province is so (deleted) valuable that the UK commits 7-9k and the USMC 8k plus? Plus a reported 8K ANP (which I simply don't believe). Better back off this "hobby horse" quest.
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    Mike F,

    I just hope as 'Ink Spots' moves along they can explain to this "armchair" watcher why Helmand Province is so (deleted) valuable that the UK commits 7-9k and the USMC 8k plus? Plus a reported 8K ANP (which I simply don't believe). Better back off this "hobby horse" quest.
    One of my brothers, an SF buddy, was the sole-battlespace owner for two years in Helmand (in between rotations). Long before the rest of us could spell Helmand, he was screaming of the threat of safehavens, shadow gov'ts, training camps, and narco-terrorism. Nobody listened. He handed off responsibility to the UK. We've discussed the problem in length over many lunches and dinners.

    Back in the day, the British refused his recommendations along the lines of Jim Gant, and they established a FOB in the desert far removed from the populace.

    I've made some of my points clear on other threads. At this point, I am only saddened at our lack of creativity, ingenuity, and resolve.

    I can resolve any safe-haven dillema with 10 hand-picked men and an unlimited budget or 200 paratroopers.

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default From an acorn observer comes a mighty hammer

    Mike F,

    Cheers for that. I'd read the only Western presence in Helmand Province before the UK choose it as the place to be, in 2006, was only a small US SF presence. I accept the Taliban were there, maybe a "safe haven", but "mowing the grass" was far from worthwhile.
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    Mike F,

    Cheers for that. I'd read the only Western presence in Helmand Province before the UK choose it as the place to be, in 2006, was only a small US SF presence. I accept the Taliban were there, maybe a "safe haven", but "mowing the grass" was far from worthwhile.
    He was that "small US SF presence."

    In this case, as with most of small wars, size does not matter. As many tell their wives and girlfriends, "sometimes less is more!!!"

    As for me, I walk with a big stick regardless of my numbers.

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    Default Gulliver's Travels

    Read:

    Implementation: How Great Expectations in Washington are Dashed in Oakland; Or Why It's Amazing that Federal Programs Work At All, This Being a Saga of the Economic Development Administration as Told by Two Sympathetic Observers Who Seek to Build Morals on a Foundation of Ruined Hopes.

    Authors: Wildavsky and Pressman

    This is one of those small books that takes years to understand, but, as a basic planning/public administration text, explains the complexities of program/project implementation in a non-war zone (although the area and project they describe was an urban jungle).

    Take that complexity and challenges, magnify it by conflict, and the probability of success of any of these "whiz bang" stupid development strategies is readily understood to be close to zero.

    As a senior planning adviser in Iraq, I lived with that book and it's realizations, and tried to re-direct US efforts to helping Iraqis to fix what was broken, rather than any stupid US programs and projects. Obviously, in 2007, I was too late to stop much of the Sorcerer's Apprentice buckets of cash wasted, but did what I could.

    You just couldn't convince the system to stop sending wasteful, and often damaging US programs and projects. Every Brigade commander needed to shoot off his arsenal of schools, clinics, wells and refrigerated bongo trucks.

    Beetle and I are two old time Systems guys, and just scratch our heads at what they don't understand: Complex systems are counter-intuitive. (My brother-in-law taught it at MIT under JF, and we have worked on projects together over the years.)

    Go figure.

    Steve

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    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    Mike F,

    I just hope as 'Ink Spots' moves along they can explain to this "armchair" watcher why Helmand Province is so (deleted) valuable that the UK commits 7-9k and the USMC 8k plus? Plus a reported 8K ANP (which I simply don't believe). Better back off this "hobby horse" quest.
    Cause that is where the pipeline is going.
    Link F.W.Engdahl article
    http://www.engdahl.oilgeopolitics.ne...ghanistan.html

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    Council Member M-A Lagrange's Avatar
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    Default

    I agree with most of the points from Gulliver, just like MikeF and JMM. Control is a key point to settle your position. But not THE key.
    Counterinsurgency theory is based on the fact you are ruling a place and then you become or stay more attractive by your capacity to deliver social services and protection. The challenge on uncontrolled areas is to reinstall the legitimacy and the legacy of loyalist power. This is costly, extremely costly. Why? Because you have to conduct at the same time shock or hold operations and convince the people that you are the legitimate power.
    In somehow, in red areas, you are the insurgent (with a lot more means, manpower and money). The battle you are conducting is the propaganda phase from Mao insurgency three phases, the very first one step.
    In such approach, you need to put more efforts and money into red areas. But, in the same time, and this is costly, you have to strength and settle your position in green areas.
    Loosing the red areas may look more interesting in a short term. But after, you put your self into a defense strategy. This never works. The best defense being attack, you have to challenge the insurgents in red areas. They protect people then you have to demonstrate to the people that they are not protected. You cannot kill them but you can disrupt their economy, the distribution of justice…

    Justice, as it is mentioned in the first quote from MikeF, is one of the most important issue to be addressed. Justice does not have to be the tool to distribute terror but to convince population that under your power, justice is protecting them.
    In green areas, distributing justice and fighting corruption should have been the objective since the first day.

    As a senior planning adviser in Iraq, I lived with that book and it's realizations, and tried to re-direct US efforts to helping Iraqis to fix what was broken, rather than any stupid US programs and projects. Obviously, in 2007, I was too late to stop much of the Sorcerer's Apprentice buckets of cash wasted, but did what I could.
    As humanitarian coordinator, I can just agree with Steve. And not just about social services. Bad implementation of any kind of aid based on administrative career is may be the most counter productive thing that we have been able to come with in conflict areas.

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