The Bad News is…..Getting Better?

So…picking up where I left off

In Mr. Kagan’s article, “Planning Victory in Afghanistan”, he first makes clear the necessity of not allowing the country to become a terrorist haven, and that this necessity is a major reason for our military presence there. Achieving this goal will require, Kagan writes, “building an Afghan state with a representative government.” Now, in my earlier exposure to this foreign scenario, I didn’t get the connection. Why not just drive out the bad guys, right? Just shows I wasn’t thinking it through. Thank God, our military planners, strategists, advisers & endless other involved persons do not make that error!

Following the thread of this idea of building a representative system of governance in Afghanistan expanded my vision. This country is not a stranger to political organization. In fact, the villages often have ‘representative bodies’, and/or elders, who manage local issues & tribal concerns. But there does not exist a strong tie to centralized government. In fact, even among themselves, many villages are ‘highly localized’, not connecting with other villages and possibly viewing Afghans from another area as outsiders. Multi-ethnicity and many years of internal warring added to the mix ensure a violent resistance to any form of government not representative of such diversities among the people. However, Kagan believes that “building local solutions that do not connect with the central government is the path toward renewed warlordism and instability.”

(Talk about cliques!)

We can compare such a situation to our early history, during the times prior to the framing of our Constitution, when the Articles of Confederation were in effect. America lacked a strong central government, and though she had individually developed states, those states were at risk for becoming individual monarchies, of sorts. What was supposed to be one united nation was actually thirteen of them! basically doing their own thing. Not exactly the best of plans! Washington predicted ‘the worst consequences’ for such a government, which was fast becoming impotent, & ridiculed by other nations as well. (Wayne Coffey, How We Choose A Congress) So, as in the case of those thirteen United States, Kagan sees Afghanistan’s hope as “develop{ing} local solutions that are connected to the central government but not necessarily completely controlled by it.” Has a familiar ring to it…

However, if the government to which the people & their states are connecting is corrupt, stability will be hard to come by.

Bottom line, “…we must work hard to develop local solutions to local problems, but always with the goal of integrating those solutions into a loose but real central support-and-control system.”

Let’s talk about counterinsurgency.

Absent a counterinsurgency and nation-building strategy that leads the population to reject the terrorists, killing bad guys will not defeat well-organized and determined terrorist networks.”

In Iraq, during 2006, “…U.S. Special Forces teams had complete freedom to act against al-Qaeda…”,with tremendous air and ground support, both US & Iraqi, killing “scores of key terrorist leaders”, including al-Qaeda’s head in Iraq, Abu Musab al Zarqawi. Yet, in a sense, it was to no avail, producing rather an increase in terrorist activity, violence and control. Not until a counterinsurgency approach was applied did we defeat al-Qaeda in Iraq.
The proof is in the pudding, people…
Kagan discusses the concept of ‘awakening’, which proved so effective in Iraq in 2007, and caused the Sunni-Arab rejection of al-Qaeda as well as their turning to coalition goals. He specifies that this change of heart was the result of ‘myriad local developments’ (meaning, not a pre-determined, regulated movement, I’m assuming?) and that each grouping of Iraqis remained independent. From there, he extrapolates that, concerning the Afghanistan populace, “…we must allow and encourage local movements to grow organically—in accordance with local conditions and traditions, but moderated by Afghan and coalition forces that understand the local area.” If memory serves, a major strategy change in General McChrystal’s plans is just such a move – partnering our troops with the Afghan soldiers in a way that they will be not just fighting with them, but living in their midst, walking their streets, getting ‘down with the people’. In other words, ‘understand{ing} the local area’ through exposure to the local dynamics. Mirroring McChrystal’s thinking, Kagan believes that such understanding can be gained “…only by living among the people…”

Working from the inside out…

(Unless otherwise indicated, all quotes are from the National Review Online article “Planning Victory in Afghanistan” by former West Point professor and Yale graduate Frederick W. Kagan.)

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