Friday, October 9, 2009
Go read Scott Wilson's article in the Post today discussing the Administration's developing policy on how to handle the Taliban in Afghanistan - it's a pretty good synopsis of the current issues and friction points in the debate. However, in addition to validating Michael Cohen's Afghanistan Mission Creep Watch (somehow defeat, disrupt, and dismantle al Qaeda translates into preserving a corrupt government engaged in what is essentially a civil war), there was another statement in this article that bothered me.
Wilson is not the first to report on this (and it's actually old news) and Wilson hits on the problem, but it keeps bothering me. I do not like this transfer of units from the countryside into the towns and cities, ceding that terrain to the enemy. So while we complain about the safehaven that the Taliban enjoys in Pakistan, we are going to hand over to them a large safehaven inside of Afghanistan itself from which to launch attacks on population centers.
But this problem goes beyond military operations. Counterinsurgency is about governance. If we remove coalition forces from the countryside the likelihood of the Afghan government governing effectively there is slim. Gee, who could fill that political vacuum? Oh right, the Taliban who has experience in this and being local actors are more likely to be well received in these regions. Instead of creating ink spots in urban areas, we'll be giving the Taliban their own ink spots from which to expand their own influence and governance. This will be exasperated when attacks from the countryside will cause turmoil in the cities. It will make the less than perfect, but relatively calm Taliban governed areas look pretty nice in comparison.
Even with the addition of 40,000 troops, we won't be able to effectively control the cities and the countryside. It will be a battle of our ink spots versus theirs and I don't know how well that will turn out.
(Editorial note: apologies for the dearth of posting - that whole day job thing has been keeping me pretty busy. Thanks to Gulliver for keeping up the momentum!)
(Also, apparently I shouldn't post before I've had my coffee. Otherwise words like "barrell" sit in the title all day.)