Think About Why Things Seem Chaotic

by Joshua Foust on 1/17/2009 · 2 comments

From Paddy Maguire’s piece about the “new tactics” in Afghanistan:

The United States has set out plans for new tactics in Afghanistan which it hopes will turn the tide of increasing violence in the country. Part of the plan includes an influx of troops and bringing local militias on board – a strategy similar to the one used to improve security in Iraq.

But the mission will be more difficult because Afghanistan is splintered by tribal rivalries and weakened by militant safe havens across the border in Pakistan. Afghanistan’s notoriously difficult terrain and dire infrastructure will also make efforts more challenging.

Security in the country has steadily worsened in the last two years as the Taliban-led insurgency has gathered momentum. 2008 was the deadliest year for US soldiers since their arrival in 2001.

In recent months, NATO forces, which number some 35,000, have had the Taliban on the defensive and the US will be keen to build on that momentum and try to reduce Taliban presence in Afghanistan as much as possible.

Well, which is it? Is security worse now than ever, or is the Taliban on the defensive? Meanwhile, in better news, NATO is improving its rules for the use of air strikes:

A directive by NATO’s commander in Afghanistan, U.S. General David McKiernan, stresses the need for proportionate use of force and for Afghan forces to take the lead in searching Afghan homes and religious sites unless a clear danger is identified…

In October, NATO ordered troops to pull back from firefights with the Taliban rather than call in air strikes that might kill civilians.

Hrm, well so I’m pretty sure no one wins when the good guys run away. Except of course the Taliban. Proportionality is different from turning tail and running.

But this is a problem seemingly built in to the very fabric of the war effort in Afghanistan: at a fundamental level, deep confusion.


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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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{ 2 comments }

Lee Brasher January 17, 2009 at 10:07 am

Okay guys,
Before I get going on my point, I want to state that I think you both do an excellent job of running this website. Thanks for your efforts, this is very important to all who visit this site.

Now I am going to separate the meat from the bone and factually state that the current plan to arm tribes is not a “faulty plan” but , percentage wise is the best plan. This is not for the “kneejerk” reasons that immeadiately come to the defensive mind, about lofty learnings and ideals within the scope of Afghani studies and application: but rather it is the way things work in that part of the world.

What exists in this problem is the choice between military force exercisied and idealogy. the missing element is that many Afghans do not believe that westerners can honor thier value-belief system. Basically, it is about communication and not ammunition.

That being said , I have degrees in History/Political Science and great deal of International Studies and more than one language, BTW I have also done a recent our of duty in Afghanistan as a member of the US military. I can tell you two things for sure, The Aghanis are a decent people and also they truly hope for a better existance.

Michael Hancock January 17, 2009 at 2:24 pm

Thanks for the comment, Lee! Words from the ground-pounders are more than welcome, and if you find you have the desire to post something here, let Nathan know [his email can be found on this blog]. An ounce of experience is worth a pound of theory, always.

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