I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on The Seminal or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.
If you’ve been following the recent military operations in Helmand and Kandahar, you’ve likely noticed that it’s been something of an unmitigated disaster. And not just a disaster in the sense that most of our military efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan have been disasters, this is the make-or-break moment for the US counterinsurgency strategy. My colleague Derrick Crowe writes:
No reporter should let Secretary Gates, General McChrystal, or President Obama off the hook in the coming months regarding the make-or-break nature of the Kandahar operation for their (poorly) chosen COIN strategy in Afghanistan. As described in the report to Congress, Kandahar/Helmand is the main effort, and everything else is either a “shaping,” “supporting,” or “economy of force (read: leftovers)” operation. Kandahar/Helmand is the COIN strategy. If ISAF fails there, it fails, period.
Fail there, fail everywhere. Couldn’t be any more clear than that. And that’s not his characterization, he’s citing the people in charge. Derrick then offers us some advice:
Members of Congress considering funding the ongoing Kandahar/Helmand/escalation strategy should read these comments from Secretary Gates with alarm. He’s hedging and trying to set expectations because he knows the COIN effort is in serious, “bleeding ulcer” trouble. Congress should save us all a whole lot of trouble and vote against the $33 billion war spending supplemental under consideration.
Right, when you pressure your representative to block the funding, they need to be made fully aware that our strategy is broken and ruinous. But the problem is, it won’t be that easy. Politicians can be very slippery, even the ones we like, and they’ll try to shift the blame on to someone else. “No, it’s not the strategy,” they’ll say, “it’s our allies. Our allies need to do more.” The folks on Capitol Hill are big believers in Counterinsurgency doctrine, and as we’ve seen, COIN is not a doctrine, but an ideology that can never be proven or dis-proven. Communism isn’t the problem, it’s “human nature” that fails. Conservatism can’t fail, only you can fail to be conservative. And our COIN strategy can’t fail, it has to be the fault of our allies.
But that’s wrong. Our allies have been doing more, a lot more. NATO, Karzai, and Pakistan have all been participating in President Obama’s escalation strategy, and that is only making the problem worse. If we see what it is our allies are actually doing, we’ll find that the COIN defenders are wrong. Our counterinsurgency strategy, the idea that occupation and war have anything remotely to do with stabilizing and developing a nation, is the problem. The US will try to shift the blame onto our allies, but as we’ll see, Derrick is right, it’s our war that is the problem. Continue Reading