Monday, September 28, 2009

Thoughts & Re-Thoughts on the Afghanistan Campaign

Since Afghanistan is in the news lately, with the McChrystal report to the President, everybody is talking about Afghanistan, again. I guess I need to join the fray, too. I do not have much new to contribute to the current strategic debate, other than my earlier proposal to focus on refugee camps as an alternative, economy-of-force, population-centric tactic. We do not have the resources to save every Afghan, not to the standards we want. We need to focus on the ones we can help, and build a refuge that people can turn to. A refugee camp, which is self-sustaining (a place that gives inhabitants the means to make money and feed themselves, and allows them to organize themselves to administer shared resources), will give the displaced Afghans a place to live, and oppressed Afghans a place to go to.

In addition, such a refugee camp will provide a wealth of human intelligence for the Coalition.

In 2007, I asked the commanding general of the Joint Contracting Command-Iraq/Afghanistan about their plans for civilian "internally displaced people"; he said there was none. It was a Department of State mission, and the US military is authorized only to assist when State asks. At the time, State didn't ask, so the military didn't prepare. Luckily for the Iraqi people, Iraq kind of sorted itself out. However, Afghanistan is still a wreck. If the military really wants to "win" Afghanistan, then they need to break down the bureaucratic walls and seize this mission for themselves. We can't wait for State to get its acts together.

[Perhaps, with Hilary Clinton in charge, the State Department will do something about this. However, they do not have the money in FY2010 to do this mission. The latest they can is FY2011, and we do not have a year to wait.]

The current Afghanistan strategic debate has two levels: Build the Country vs Disrupt the Insurgents, and Top-down vs Bottom-up. Obviously, we need to go with the Bottom-up strategy, which unfortunately has not been in vogue with the Nation-State-Centric Paradigm crowd. I personally would prefer that we build the Afghanistan state; but that's not realistic, so I'm settling w/ the Disrupt the Insurgent camp.

In terms of strategic location, Afghanistan is in an interesting location. It borders Iran, Pakistan, and China, and close to India, all four states of interest to the US. A US presence in Afghanistan can thus influence nearby events. The only problem is that it is expensive to sustain our presence there.


Anonymous said...


Interesting, especially the link to the Nation State centric vs Nation-Tribe centric.

I came up with the "West Berlin" analogy in 06 in Arakia...tried to sell the Boss, no good. I basically wanted to protect 1-2 villages that we already had ties to - a large number of the males were on base working for us anyway. Leverage the ties.

I still would support full up Triage and Pope McCINC. Sadly POTUS doesn't look like he's serious about anything but a nice speech save what we can.

BTW I get the impression from contacts that we were going to implement your very idea ..uh..across the Durand line shall we say, but the disconnect between the let's do this (mil) and the let's all do this as part of the International Community crowd (diplo) strangled it in the crib.

Not sure of last para, but that's the impression I get.

Jimmy said...


Well, that's sad to hear. Our respect for Westphalian Nation-State paradigms and good ole turf battles are strangling our missions and soldiers, yet again.