We need more COIN in the Afghan realm
it worked in Iraq, it'll work in afghanistan
By Charles Bird Posted in War — Comments (0) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »
Mudville Gazette has a good round-up of current events in Iraq, and it looks like the surge strategy is continuing to work. There are several factors now at play: the security situation is improved, al Qaeda is continuing to get shredded, the Mahdi militias are weakened and satisfactory progress has been made on 15 of 18 political benchmarks. Also factoring into the mix is the iniative taken by the al Maliki government. It started in Basra last March, then moved to Sadr City and then on to Mosul. Al Maliki & Co. aren't just being assertive with Shiite militias and al Qaeda, they are being more assertive with the United States in their negotiations for a Status of Forces Agreement. Omar Fadhil has an interesting take on the deal, and so does Dr. iRack:
Lets be clear on one thing: the current Iraqi leadership wants some kind of long-term partnership with the United States, including assurances that we will protect them against foreign invasion, continue to conduct counterterrorism operations, continue to train and support the ISF, continue to help them re-negotiate their debt obligations, etc. All of this is in the November 2007 "Declaration of Principles," signed by Bush and Maliki, which the SFA is meant to codify. What they bristle at--or at least see as a "marketing problem" with the Iraqi people--are the various immunities in the SOFA (for our troops and contractors--the latter of which has apparently been addressed) and prerogatives in the SOFA (such as control of Iraqi airspace, the right for U.S. troops to detain Iraqis, the right to conduct independent U.S. operations, basing rights, etc.). So think of this as a "sovereignty game." The Maliki government wants us to continue to help them with residual support--on their terms.
More below the fold...
On the security situation alone, it is likely that we will continue troop reductions after the current 45-day pause. Hopefully, we'll get to an agreement that withdraws troops and retains security.
It would nice to send our troops home, but they're needed in Afghanistan. The Pakistani government has been signing ineffectual agreements with local leaders in western provinces, and violence in Afghanistan has increased and the Taliban has exerted more influence (the Kabul and Islamabad suicide bombings are examples). In the last two months, military casualties have been higher in Afghanistan than Iraq, indicating that the situation in Afghanistan is degrading. It doesn't have to be that way. One of the recurring themes at the Captains Journal is that NATO and Afghan forces lack sufficient force projection and they lack a cohesive counterinsurgency strategy. In Helmand province, the Marines are showing how it's done, applying similar tactics that they used in Iraq.
The problem is that we don't have the numbers to do the job properly, and several of the NATO nations refuse to engage in areas where the fighting is the heaviest. The result is that our Marines are taking the brunt of the casualties.
The other problem is that Taliban and al Qaeda operatives have safe haven in Pakistan and we can't go into Pakistani territory to root them out. This is not unlike Iraq, where al Qaeda had supply lines from Syria. More from Herschel Smith:
Again, Syria has been a problem with respect to infiltration of foreign fighters into Iraq, but the surge and security plan (along with other events such as the Anbar awakening) has slowed the river of fighters to a trickle. While harder and more costly, it is possible to fight a transnational insurgency in a local battlespace, as long as global pressure is brought to bear.
Pakistan is a thorny problem, and obviously their pact with the Taliban cannot be honored by the U.S. But Pakistan’s recalcitrance is no argument for under-resourcing the campaign in Afghanistan. Recall the words of one Taliban commander: "If NATO remains strong in Afghanistan, it will put pressure on Pakistan. If NATO remains weaker in Afghanistan, it will dare [encourage] Pakistan to support the Taliban."
We’ll take the admonition of the Taliban over the pontification of Jeremy Shapiro. More troops will indeed "fundamentally change the situation." Similar to other RAND studies (which advocate a very small footprint for COIN), Shapiro behaves as if the last two years in Iraq never occurred and the gains never happened. The quickest gains in Iraq were at the hands of the U.S. Marines (the experience on which, at least in part, the security plan in Baghdad was based). They now stand ready to be at the tip of the spear in Afghanistan.
Without adequate force projection, you get Taliban-coordinated prison breaks and all kinds of attacks, followed by defeatist mentalities (hmm, I think I see an historical parallel). But we can't turn this around at current force levels. It'll continue to be a helluva strain on our fighting men and women, but with Iraq coming around, our troops' next stop must be Afghanistan.