by Joshua Foust on 11/11/2008 · 1 comment

The Small Wars Journal posted two really fantastic essays this week, both of which are fully worth reading.

The first is, “The Role of Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Counterinsurgency Operations in Khost Province, Afghanistan,” which explores exactly what the title implies. An excerpt:

Perhaps the hardest lesson of the PRT experience in Khost has been that no amount of development will improve security conditions. In fact, security in Khost province has largely deteriorated to almost alarming levels despite the substantial increase in funding of projects and development. From January 1 through July 13th, 2008, attacks by the Taliban and their allies (HQN) have increased by 20 percent over 2007 levels for that same period to a total of 301. (Radin and Roggio 2008) In 2007, there were 107 “clashes” – actual engagements between the Taliban and NATO/Afghan security forces. As of August 31, 2008, there were already 115. (McCreary 2008) Some spectacular Taliban attacks on the major U.S. installation in Khost province – FOB Salerno, located just outside Khost City – give pause to any previous speculation that U.S./NATO efforts in Khost represented a “model counterinsurgency” as some suggested. (See [Ann] Marlowe for example.)

Aside from the repeated digs at Ms. Marlowe, there is some good analytical work there about the specific roles PRTs can play in area.

The other paper, “Getting the Basics Right: A Discussion on Tactical Actions for Strategic Impact in Afghanistan,” is also exactly about what it says. This was prepared by the Counterinsurgency Training Center in Kabul. What relationship this has to the Counterinsurgency Academy I don’t know. Its point?

Although there is much to do at the strategic level in Afghanistan, such as developing a comprehensive border strategy, eliminating corruption, developing an effective and functioning government, defining the role of the Afghan National Police (ANP) – the list goes on – it is at the tactical level, at Regional Commands (RC), Task Forces (TF), Battlegroups, Companies and Coalition mentoring teams that the most immediate and tangible change for good can be made.

I titled this post “fascinating” because both of these papers do a good job of tying together many of the threads I’ve been pulling here. Leaving aside the hilarious mentions of Ann Marlowe’s lazy representations of Khost as how some people just don’t get it (see here), the piece on PRTs tracks closely with my own informal explorations of them as a phenomenon (see, for example, here, here, here, and here). The other piece on tactical level changes to effect change at the strategic level is a much broader exploration of the examinations I’ve made of the impact of civilian casualty rates on local perceptions, and how it has begun undermining the counterinsurgency (see, for example, here, here, here, and here). So it’s neat to see that I’m not off the deep end with regard to my analysis of what’s going on in Afghanistan. I’m just not in the right good ol’ boys’ club to get my analyses heard. Which I’m fine with, to a degree.

Plus, it’s funny to read this on a site administered by a guy who once accused me of not knowing anything about ISAF, OEF, or Afghanistan because I was too hopelessly wedded to my biases and cynically used MSM reporting to support them. I almost lolled when I realized it.

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– 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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{ 1 comment }

David November 12, 2008 at 10:55 am

Hail to these guys!

Let’s hope that there’s some way for them to stay engaged in the deliberations concerning how we adapt to be more effective.

Unfortunately, for every thoughtful contribution like these, there’s many more making the rounds produced by experts with name recognition and connections who insist that the answer lies in more boots on the ground and more money.

While there’s plenty to quibble with when it comes to the recommendations offered up here, at least these guys demonstrate that they are involved with the Afganistan that is rather than the one we would like it to be.

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