Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The FT goes into detail with McChrystal

The Financial Times has published a long interview with GEN McChrystal, which seems to be accessible without registration if you click through from Google News.

One of a number of interesting Q&A:

FT: When you say we’ll see demonstrable progress, what can we expect to see that will show that your strategy is actually yielding results?

Gen McChrystal: It’s not as important what you and I see as it is what a farmer [sees]. Let’s pick a farmer in Garmsir, in central Helmand River Valley, which has been under Taliban control for several years. Right now we’ve established security, but it is in limited areas – it is pockets of security, and we’re going to expand those pockets. Right now that farmer can farm inside that security zone; he does business in the bazaar that was almost closed eight months ago. Now he can do business there, and he can live his life in there. He will see – when we hit the day, and it won’t be too long in the future – when he can get in a vehicle and move products from Garmsir up to Lashkar Gar, and maybe over to Kandahar and maybe all the way up the ring road to Kabul, without being endangered by Taliban IEDs, without being taxed by malign actors, warlords or something like that. That’s when he sees the absolute effect of what we’re doing, and so at that point the government has a tremendous opportunity to convince that farmer how much better life can and will be.

H/T to Barnett Rubin's invaluable listserv.


  1. I don't know what to make of the excerpt you've pulled, MK (the link don't get to the full article for me).

    That farmer's gonna have problems with the Pakistanis (and maybe the Iranians and Chinese, too) once we are gone, isn't he? And the Foreign Policy establishment in the US, Right and Left both, will just continue pouring money into the dysfunctional regime next door in an attempt to game the situation, when, in reality, we are being gamed.


  2. I wonder if a different math problem is more telling.

    Question to the Afghan farmer:
    Which of the following is a better life?

    a) You earn a reliable stream of income of about 100 USD (2010 dollars) and enjoy freedoms promised by the GIRoA, but you are policed by the ANSF who might occasionally rape a boy in your village and will stick their noses into your family affairs.

    b) You earn a reliable stream of income of about 150 USD (2010 dollars) and have fewer freedoms under the Taliban's version of Sharia, but your boys don't get raped and your wives are left alone.

    If there are any glaring problems with how I framed either of those, feel free to call me out. My only point is that what we think is important may not be what the farmer thinks is important. And what the farmer thinks is important may be something that we're overlooking or just unaware of.