My cerebellum just shorted out.
Some of the Red team’s ideas seem to be getting attention. Its report on how the Taliban seized power in the 1990s — by building a network of dependencies with public officials — is required reading for commanders who want to re-evaluate how U.S. troops are prosecuting the war, and how a Western strategy can be tailored to Afghan culture.
The team studied how the Taliban first organized, as a motley crew of locals and returned refugees who had studied at religious schools in Pakistan led by Mullah Omar, the future Taliban leader. Taliban members then worked their way into territory of the Pashtuns, Afghanistan’s largest ethnic group, by expanding their influence until they were strong enough to take and hold Kabul by force, in 1996.
The Taliban capitalized on local anger at the violent excesses of feudal warlords, offering similar, often superior government-like services, explained lead report author Capt. Jeffrey Marrs.
In case that sounds really familiar, that’s because it is basically a summarization of Ahmed Rashid’s book, written 10 years ago in the year of our Lord 2000, conveniently titled Taliban and for sale at Barnes & Noble and Amazon this whole time.
That’s not to say that this Red Team got anything outrageously wrong in their story of how the Taliban came to power (they might, but I don’t have their report to read). But why the hell does ISAF need a Red Team to tell them things that anyone paying attention already knew a decade ago? That speaks to a ridiculous laziness and willful ignorance (to revisit a theme) about Afghanistan that is at the heart of why things in that country go so badly: everyone is hellbent on reinventing the wheel. Which is not only wasteful of time, resources, and people, but also prevents us from ever making progress. There’s an even darker angle to this, though.
So the officers recommend U.S. commanders do the same — monitor the graft and warn the local Afghan officials when their greed is driving the populace to the Taliban.
The NATO equivalent of the bribe comes in the form of U.S. military and development aid.
The ultimate goal is to teach the Afghan leaders to co-opt the locals better than the Taliban can.
They have to “develop a method for co-opting … Afghan communities positively by opening opportunities for the communities to access wealth,” such as giving them access to electricity, new schools or clinics, explains Staff Sergeant Steven Dietz, Ph.D., an Army reservist and professor from Texas State University.
So the Red Team is back to the $10 Taliban, pretending people support the insurgency for money because they are, basically, mercenaries for sale the highest bidder. If only we had thought of flooding Taliban-friendly communities with money, the war could have been won. Et cetera.
Jesus. These people refuse to learn. In reality, this is little more than warmed over and rephrased common sense and conventional wisdom. Within the U.S. military, it seems, that counts for innovative, outside the box thinking. Yuck.