A Practical Look at the Value of Roads

by Joshua Foust on 4/27/2008

Péter Marton posts one of the only other critical views of Kilcullen’s article I could find. (Side note: what’s up with that? Why do so many nod their heads in agreement without seeing the glaring holes in the equation roads = security?) He has harrowing video, of an insurgent attack on a Humvee convoy in the Korengal Valley:

Once you move past the realization that this is essentially a snuff video—the puffs of bullets scattering around those stopped Humvees is not a pleasant sight, though it’s nice to hear return fire whizzing past the camera—a few things become clear:

  • Good roads really do help, and bad roads in some cases make insurgent attacks less difficult (this attack would not have been as easy if the road were wider and the trucks could move faster).
  • Good roads might not matter if blue forces are still forced into narrow valleys and along valley floors (this is a point I made above: bad tactical positioning is bad tactical positioning, regardless of the type of surface you’re moving over). Valleys are still killboxes.
  • In this part of the country there aren’t effective or useful alternatives to valleys as transit corridors.
  • Despite that, the generally miserable aim of the insurgents still favors the U.S.

From this we can draw the lesson that while roads play some role (this is undisputed), again, the degree to which Kilcullen is selling them is simply not in step with reality. The general lack of critical review, however, deeply troubles me.

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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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