Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Meeting us in the middle on Afghanistan

Guest post by Jared Stancombe

Jared Stancombe is a 2009 graduate of Indiana University, where his studies focused on peace and conflict studies in Northern Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. His other academic interests include counterinsurgency and complex military operations. He is currently an analyst for a U.S. government agency responsible for national security and is in the officer selection process for the United States Marine Corps. He lives in Washington, D.C.

Ed. note: I'd like to welcome Jared to The Reaction. This post will be the first in a series on Afghanistan and the Afghan War, all providing astute analysis of the complex situation. -- MJWS


As the insurgency in Afghanistan continues, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) nations are seeking to dramatically increase the number of soldiers and policemen in the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police. With embedded ISAF soldiers, these fresh Afghans can learn through combat how best to secure their country for a better future. 

However, the neo-Taliban insurgency has deliberately targeted training centers for the ANA and ANP, as well as centers of government administration. Despite the dramatic rise in recruitment among Afghan National Security Forces, the insurgency continues to use acts of terrorism and coordinated violence to actively challenge the rule of law of the legitimate regime. 

The Neo-Taliban insurgency is essentially waging classic insurgent warfare in an attempt to isolate the population away from government influence. They are succeeding. While many Afghans do not see the Taliban favorably, they are essentially forced to accept their rule. They secure the roads, protect the opium crops, and in some areas even open up hospitals. While the insurgents do not have the resources to create adequate non-military governmental institutions, something is better than nothing, and some Afghans see the Taliban as a better alternative than the corrupt and weak Karzai regime. 

The counterinsurgency must focus on bottom-up changes, focusing on the population, while seeking to create policies and doctrine that will institutionalize the focus on distinguishing between those we can buy off or negotiate with and those we must alienate from the population. More troops and resources are required for this effort; however, the Karzai Administration must meet us in the middle in creating reform that establishes government legitimacy with the population. 

No amount of ISAF resources will substitute for leadership. Karzai must step up and start talking to the various tribes and incorporate them into the democratic process while providing basic services to show results and rewards for their participation. These could come in the form of proving water treatment facilities, building roads and schools, and providing the resources necessary to educate the future of Afghanistan into trades that could help rebuild their shattered country. But the government is unable to manage projects that could alienate the insurgents from the population. 

Just as the Palestinians voted for Hamas, the Afghans are choosing the Taliban because they view the government as corrupt and unable to provide the basic needs and services they require. While ISAF forces are working hard to root out the insurgents, the government is full of corruption, which makes it unable to provide political solutions after stability operations are conducted. They are essentially unable to meet us in the middle, and, if they continue to fail, our efforts may be in vain.

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