Drop Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, Part 1

Posted: March 24, 2009 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

I’ve written quite a bit about the challenges inherent in counterinsurgency in Afghanistan. In this series of posts, I want to go further argue that the U.S. should abandon the paradigm of counterinsurgency altogether with regard to its dealings with Afghanistan.

I oppose this paradigm on several levels, including a moral/religious level and a strategic level as well.

I object to counterinsurgency on religious grounds because counterinsurgency doctrine, like any other war doctrine, asks participants to abandon Christ’s methods and agenda for the methods and agenda of a violent state. The basic strategy in Afghanistan would look something like this:

  • The U.S. would send massive numbers of troops into localities to “provide security” and to deepen local relationships to facilitate better intelligence gathering. These troops would also serve to “hold” territory, i.e. prevent reinfiltration of the area by opponents.
  • Deployment of these troops would ideally be accompanied by an effort to provide basic services and rule of law in localities.
  • In addition to this “clear and hold” strategy, U.S. forces would attempt to create an effective “seal” along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border to prevent opponents from escaping U.S. firepower. (The “seal” is metaphorical…if past behavior indicates future strategy, this seal would materialize by strengthening the integrity of the border, using unmanned drones to kill opponents over the border, and by enticing Pakistan into closing their territory to the U.S.’s opponents.)
  • Victory comes when the local population within the sealed area consents to rule by the faction we support and expels the U.S.’s opponents from their midst. U.S. forces would then capture or kill as many of these opponents as necessary to force them to acquiese to a settlement on terms favorable to the U.S. agenda in the region.

Despite bromides from Gen. Petraeus that “you can’t kill your way out of an insurgency,” the basic philosophy of counterinsurgency can be boiled down to this, from Lt. Col. J. Nagl, one of the counterinsurgency manual’s authors:

“If I could sum up the [counterinsurgency doctrine] book in just a few words, it would be: Be polite, be professional, be prepared to kill.”

[h/t Tyler E. Boudreau]

Hard to imagine those words on Christ’s lips, isn’t it?

This dichotomy between the counterinsurgency doctrine and the teachings and example of Jesus has led Jim Wallis–now one of the president’s spiritual counselors–to call for a course change in Afghanistan:

“Afghanistan is a different story. The war there has dragged on for more than seven years and, by all accounts, is getting worse. We believe only a surge in funding for diplomacy and development — not more military escalation — will bring long-term peace to the troubled region.

Call on President Obama to continue supporting more economic development, not more military escalation, in Afghanistan.

“I will personally take this petition to the White House, expressing our opposition to further military escalation, and our support for diplomacy and non-military assistance. Simply sending additional troops will not provide security and stability for the Afghan people.”

Recognizing that not everyone shares my religious persuasion and that even those who call themselves Christians differ profoundly on matters of violence, in the subsequent posts in this series I’ll offer some very secular reasons for opposing counterinsurgency as our paradigm in Afghanistan: Counterinsurgency doctrine ignore human psychology, and pursuing counterinsurgency in Afghanistan will severely undermine an economic recovery while leading to increased violence in the region. This spike in violence will come both as a direct result of increased violent contact between U.S. forces and Afghan nationalist forces and, less directly, due to the effect of U.S. Afghanistan policy on Afghanistan’s neighbors.

Next: Effect of Counterinsurgency Deployment on Troops Undermines Counterinsurgency Premises

What you can do until then:

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Comments
  1. […] 2009 March 24 tags: Afghanistan, COIN, counterinsurgency, Iraq, psychology by dcrowe In my previous post in this series, I explained that the basic assumption of counterinsurgency is that combat troops […]

  2. […] my previous post in this series, I explained that the basic assumption of counterinsurgency is that combat troops […]

  3. janinsanfran says:

    What is labeled “counterinsurgency” by its practitioners inevitably looks like occupation to its objects. People — especially proud, armed people — seldom cooperate with being occupied.

  4. Sporkmaster says:

    Except that these people seem to have a distrust of each other regardless of if they are armed or not. It is a totally different way of working where there is the view that if everyone can do your job then you can be replaced. So people go to great effort to keep each other out of the loop as possible. I have a few examples if you like me to go further into detail.

  5. dcrowe says:

    Hey Sporkmaster:

    As always, examples welcome. Hope you’re doing well.

  6. Sporkmaster says:

    I am doing ok, I just got back from some remote Iraqi bases. It was a experience to say the least. It would seem that every 30-40 feet there would be a unexploded warhead of some kind. We had one of our guys dig up a 107mm rock round less then 30 feet from the area that we where sleeping from. There where other case of just walking around the building and finding UXOs(Un-exploded ordinances)

    The main example of this is that they have one medic for 400 people. I have another medic helping me and I am kept busy in make sure that any medical needs are taken care of in a 100+ unit. We train our guys to be able to do first and and be able to get treatment if we are not around. Here it was totally different.

    The Us forces that travel the areas where saying that the Iraqi medic would not train any of the Iraqi army personal there. Also had it where there was only one building that had a significant amount of medical supplies that only he had the key too. I have a room here that the other medic and the unit can get into if needed because I cannot always be there. I have talked to the Iraqi medic and he is a nice guy, it seems that if you lose your job that there is no real safty net for you to provide for yourself.

    There is the issues of upper level enlisted and lower level officers not talking to each other. I think there was a issue over basic items as what type of oil the generator needs so that the lights can be turned on at night. It seems that who ever knew that did not tell the guy that was taking over for him.

    Supply requests get lost or ignored. The US nco that I was talking to said that they where working with the Iraqi parent unit was to provide for that unit. Sure enough the requests where making it to where they needed to go, but no one was doing anything about it. It is frustrating to say the least and for anything to get done requires a lot of micromanagement. Before we left we refueled their generator tanks because they had no clue on when they would receive fuel again. On another area a while back some Iraqi army guys where complaining that ever since the new US-Iraqi security pack that the supplies have become harder to get. The experience in these bases supports that claim.

    Becuase of that I think that any civilian projects need to consider having their own logistics, skilled labor and maintenance support. Because if they where thinking on relying to the local system to for support, your going to be in a world of hurt trying to get anything done.

  7. […] Despite the humanitarian bromides, counterinsurgency is not a humanitarian exercise in chivalry. It&…. […]

  8. […] my previous post in this series, I explained that the basic assumption of counterinsurgency is that combat troops […]

  9. […] Drop Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, Part 1 posted on April 3rd, 2009 at Return Good for Evil […]

  10. […] my previous post in this series, I explained that the basic assumption of counterinsurgency is that combat troops […]

  11. […] Despite the humanitarian bromides, counterinsurgency is not a humanitarian exercise in chivalry. It&…. […]

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