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Schippert on COIN as an Exit not a Strategy

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.

3 Responses to “Schippert on COIN as an Exit not a Strategy”

  1. Steve Metz Says:

    I’m fine with the grass roots approach but the notion that, "Winning over the local leaders will strengthen our position and ultimately lead to the Afghan people demanding better governance from Kabul" is one more example of mirror imaging: of assuming that people everywhere think and act pretty much like Americans. Armed and supporting local officials will not "win them over."  They realize we are just passing through and they will play as as long as they think they can (and I can’t blame them for that).  And it will not lead them to "demand better governance from Kabul."   It will lead them to consider Kabul irrelevant, as it has always been for most Afghans.

  2. zen Says:

    hey Dr. Steve,
    True. We don’t need to even win them over though, just to create a buffer capable of translating their latent hostility to Taliban rule into action. It’s a lot tougher for a dozen Taliban to swagger into a Hazara village and behead old men if the Hazaras are brandishing AK-47’s. I think we are at the point in terms of time, economics and domestic politics where minimum objectives are our best objectives

  3. J. Scott Says:

    Steve and Zen, The notion of tribal Afghans clamoring for a stronger central government isn’t likely, nor should it be. Zen your "minimal objective" approach I believe is best. On the economic front, a remarkable study of Somali tribal law (At Amazon: http://tiny.cc/BARhK) that I’ve mentioned before offers workable economic/legal remedies that would allow a peaceful coexistence of the Western and tribal systems. As a policy, the West should not wage war on tribal organization—which is probably interpreted as such by Afghans who see a propped-up, corrupt gov’t in Kabul. Engaging the tribes militarily is important in the short-term, but we should also heavily emphasize the economic benefits of contact/cooperation with the West–that engagement should be on terms the tribes understand/appreciate, not a "one size fits all approach."

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