Counterinsurgency Field Manual: Afghanistan Edition
By Nathaniel C. Fick, John A. Nagl
…Technological advances and demographic shifts point to the possibility of an increasingly disorderly worldâ€”what some military strategists are calling â€œan era of persistent irregular warfare.â€ The United Statesâ€™ conventional military superiority has pushed its enemies inevitably toward insurgency to achieve their objectives. And in a multipolar world where small wars proliferate, there is reason to believe that this doctrine will shape not only the next phase of the fights in Afghanistan and Iraq, but the future of the U.S. military.
…. Two myths persistently hamper U.S. policy in Afghanistan. First is the notion that the notorious border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan is ungovernable. The area, whose terrain resembles the front range of the U.S. Rocky Mountains along a border roughly the distance from Washington to Albuquerque, New Mexico, is home to the international headquarters of al Qaeda as well as much of the Taliban insurgency. However, the absence of a Western-style central government there should not be misconstrued as an absence of governance. The Pashtun tribes along the border have a long history of well-developed religious, social, and tribal structures, and they have developed their own governance and methods of resolving disputes. Todayâ€™s instability is not the continuation of some ancient condition; it is the direct result of decades of intentional dismantling of those traditional structures, leaving extremist groups to fill the vacuum. Re-empowering local leaders can help return the border region to an acceptable level of stability.
Second, Afghans are not committed xenophobes, obsessed with driving out the coalition, as they did the British and the Soviets. Most Afghans are desperate to have the Taliban cleared from their villages, but they resent being exposed when forces are not left behind to hold what has been cleared. They also cannot understand why the coalition fails to provide the basic services they need. Afghans are not tired of the Western presence; they are frustrated with Western incompetence.
…It is almost too late. In the next phase of the Afghan war, the U.S. military must finally do what it has often failed to do in the past: follow some of the basic precepts of counterinsurgency, as detailed in the field manual, no matter how paradoxical they may appear.
2010-01-11 23:13:17 UTC