Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Afghan Auxiliaries in the Making

Here are two encouraging pieces of news from Afghanistan:

1.) Danger Room reports that the Coalition is paying villagers to maintain militias, somewhat similar in concept to the Sons of Iraq in OIF and the Strategic Hamlet Program of Vietnam. Not everyone is onboard with the idea, of course.

2.) Danger Room also reports that the Coalition will hire some Afghans to man the base security for some FOBs. This one sounds like it came from a Good Idea Fairy, and has the potential to end very badly. On the other hand, this could be the manifestation of a treaty between the base commander and the local chieftain.

These two pieces show that the Coalition is building up security from the local level, arming villagers to defend themselves and paying sub-warlords to maintain their armies. In a previous article I said that the Coalition was failing to learn their lessons from Iraq. That the Coalition is now building up Afghan militias, shows that they are implementing some lessons, at least.

There has been some arguments in the public domain, saying that we need to give money directly to the Afghan provinces, rather than Karzai's central government, following the Afghan election disputes. That's good news, especially since some of the advocates were American political appointees. We are moving strategically away from the Westphalian paradigm by focusing on local, rather than national, governance. However, we can't bypass the Karzai administration completely, as he appointed the governors, who presumably return the favor by tributes and political supports.

In any event, we are taking baby steps to recognize the non-Westphalian realities on the ground, which is that people only have loyalty to their own tribes/villages in Afghanistan. However, we will continue to fail in Afghanistan until all parts of the Coalition comes to accept this paradigm change (yes, I'm looking at you, State Dept.) The German soldier quoted in Nathan Hodges' article clearly needs a paradigm shift as well.

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