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Metz on the Afghan Surge

Friday, December 4th, 2009

Nothing like dueling Steves (see previous post).

Dr. Steve Metz of SSI compares the surges of Obama and Bush and finds them to be cut from the same cloth. Hat tip to SWJ Blog.

How Obama”s Surge is Like Bush’s

….Ultimately, though, the Obama strategy in Afghanistan and the Bush strategy in Iraq are more alike than different–variations on a theme rather than stark alternatives. Both were attempts to give a beleaguered ally an opportunity to reverse its slide into disaster. And both were gambles. In Iraq, President Bush bet that the Maliki government would rein in sectarian violence, and that the Iraqi Security Forces were nearly ready to assume responsibility for their nation’s security. This panned out. Now President Obama is making the same bet. His strategy is contingent on the Afghan security forces, bolstered by increased assistance from the U.S. military, being able to conduct counterinsurgency on its own by 2011. Even more importantly, Obama’s plan is contingent on the Karzai government’s reining in its crushing corruption and addressing the myriad problems that the Afghan people face. If the Afghan security forces or the Karzai government are not up to the task, nothing the United States can do will matter. A surge of 20,000, 30,000, or 100,000 would be equally irrelevant. Unfortunately, only President Karzai and the Afghan security forces can determine whether the Obama strategy works. Our fate is in their hands.

Read the rest here

Steve has spotted a poor contingency for the administration to rely upon. Putting the war strategy on Karzai’s performance is akin to building a house on quicksand. It might look a little like wet cement but it is not going to harden into a foundation no matter how much time passes. We need to work within the parameters of our own capacities and with realistic and not utopian options.

We’d garner more goodwill giving every Afghan child a pony than by waiting for villagers to see honest officials from Kabul appear. It’d be cheaper too.

Schippert on COIN as an Exit not a Strategy

Friday, December 4th, 2009

Steve Schippert, my national security amigo from Threatswatch.org, scored an op-ed in The Washington Times. He’s not happy.

Counterinsurgency incoherence: President Obama prefers an Exit Strategy to Victory

In war, and particularly in an Afghanistan counterinsurgency effort, there are always three sides to the coin: the good, the bad and the ugly. This is especially true in President Obama’s new Afghanistan strategy, finally announced to the American public Tuesday from a West Point backdrop.

The prescribed influx of much-needed American warriors onto the battlefield is clearly and rightly the good. And the good can withstand the bad, a Taliban enemy in the absence of reliable partners in the Afghan and Pakistani governments.

But the glimmering light of the good will surely be eclipsed by the ugly, an incoherence of strategy beneath the surface sheen of a surge. The devil is always in the details.

….For a counterinsurgency effort to succeed, the willing partners aren’t in Kabul or Islamabad, no matter the demands made upon each. Rather, they reside in the villages and towns spread through the provinces of Afghanistan. Winning over the local leaders will strengthen our position and ultimately lead to the Afghan people demanding better governance from Kabul.

This requires – in both word and deed – clear demonstration of presence and resolve, not in intellectual arguments for an exit strategy. There are no exits for the Afghans we seek to defend in parallel with our own security and interests.

Read the rest here.

Arm the tribes. Where there are no tribes, create loyalist paramilitaries from whatever networks are at hand for district and village self-defense. A heavily Tajik and Uzbek Afghan National Army will never fight the Taliban half as eagerly as Pushtun villagers defending their own homes and fields.

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