Thursday, December 24, 2009

Counterinsurgency and Mentoring

I love Noah Shachtman, but wish that when he asks if the U.S. military can accomplish the train and equip mission in Afghanistan and shows a video highlighting not only ANA on drugs but also some Marines responding with a drill instructor mentality, he'd also point out his colleague David Axe captured on video another soldier using best practices.

Here's what to do.

Here's what not to do.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Assessing the Adminisration's Afghanistan Strategy

Granted the strategy looks like a camel. But I like it anyway.

The stakes in Afghanistan and Pakistan are too high to walk away lightly, but the obstacles to anything that looks like success are too high to confidently invest billions of dollars and thousands of lives in the endeavor. Rather than continue to drift into a Vietnam-like quagmire as we have been, or simply withdrawal with potentially disastrous consequences, this strategy offers a moment of clarity.

This strategy clarifies that this is the moment for Karzai to decide whether or not he wants to commit to reform while he has U.S. support, or risk not only his regime but his personal survival on the loyalty and efficacy of the deals he can cut with local warlords after the U.S. withdraws. For Pakistan it clarifies that if they want the U.S. to remain in Afghanistan for the long-term they must assist us against the Afghan Taliban, or risk their ability to retain strategic depth in Afghanistan on the Taliban’s ability to keep India out. In the meanwhile our core regional concern with Pakistan’s stability is assisted by the time this strategy buys for the Pakistan military to develop counterinsurgency capabilities to fight the Pakistan Taliban and so ensure the security of their own nuclear stockpile.

We can’t fight or buy our way to success in Afghanistan on our own. The best we can do is offer our partners in Afghanistan and Pakistan a window for success, and the additional 30k troops (w/ 10k option) does that. Either our allies oblige us or they don’t. Pretending for another year or two that we’ll stay in Afghanistan indefinitely regardless of cost won’t convince anyone we’ve a long-term strategic commitment to the region if the last 8 years hasn’t.

Tactical issues:

- Leveraging local tribal and village militias is positive, attempts to reproduce the Awakening. Risk is of setting off further intertribal wars.

- 10k option for next year is meaningless, we wouldn’t be able to get them out there any faster if we wanted to.

- U.S. aid will be going to individual ministries and local leaders based on ability to fight corruption and provide services. This is similar to the NSP model.

- 2011 withdrawal timeline will offer the Democrat base some reassurance for mid-terms, and more so for 2012 election. As we know from Iraq, there's plenty of flexibility even in a theoretically hard time line like this one.