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The Myth of Successful Counter-Insurgency (COIN) in Afghanistan
Posted by Jake Diliberto on October 15th, 2009

The current strategy and tactics used by US military commanders in the open ended global war on terror is a profound blunder for Afghanistan now called Af-Pak. The art of COIN developed in Iraq by General Patreas and David Kilcullen was based upon US and local partnerships to create security in the region. The illicit “surge” in the Anbar province, particularly in Fallujah, provided a mild form of peace because of 3 major circumstances. Firstly, the culture of Iraq had a history of authoritarian governments that the people were used to. Secondly, Al-queda insurgents were disliked in the region specifically because they were not locals, they came from other locations including Syria, Iran, and northern regions. Thirdly, the geography of Iraq was reasonably easy to pacify due to its infrastructure. The roads and cities were conducive to allowing US military commanders to implement the COIN tactics, plus local US commanders paid off potential resisters to avoid combat with the US forces. US commanders used anything between US dollars, to Viagra as means of co-opting the locals to follow the US implemented laws. Military commanders implemented the COIN strategy while under the presupposition that the US had authority of the central government. There was no need to pacify anyone because Iraqi’s were already sympathetic to the previous authoritarian government.

This is a profound difference to Afghanistan. Afghanistan has never had a central government, thus the US now must be working to pacify this culture first, and then the COIN campaign can be implemented and might have a possibility to work. Previous empires have attempted to conduct such a military campaign, and even the soviets in the 1980’s could not accomplish this task with 600,000 or more troops. The likelihood that the US can pacify the Afghan population the same way we did in Iraq however seems to be reaching for a nightmare.

The reasons the US COIN strategy is a failure in AF-Pak should be obvious but often evade the mainstream media. First off, the region is highly rural and difficult to navigate. The mountains are some of the most difficult to negotiate in the world and have is had limited roads designed for massive military interventions. Secondly, the resources needed to do a COIN military operation in the area demands 250,000-600,000 troops according to General Patreas field manual of COIN. Consequently, the US does not have such a force in reserve. Our troops are exhausted in Iraq and consequently the men and women in uniform are suffering severe social costs as a result of their deployments. The divorce rates among first term-enlisted soldiers are in excess of 80% and suicide rates are at an all time high. The only solution provided by the US government is more money allocated to social welfare programs for troops. The massive failure of the this policy is, the US has failed to recognize the solution to these problems is ending the open ended global war on terror and bringing the men and women in uniform home. Money cannot fix PTSD, TBI, and emotional dysfunction as a result of deployments. Thirdly, the cost of sending our troops to Af-Pak according to Nobel Economist Joseph Stieglitz amounts to $780,000 US dollars for 1 soldier for 1 year. Currently, the US is spending appx. 4-6 billion dollars a week in Iraq and Afghanistan, and if the US continues to pursue this endeavor of military intervention, by the end of 2010 we will incur a war bill of 4 trillion dollars. Interesting enough this is a debt we are borrowing from China and will be paying interest on for decades to come. This massive spending crisis is easily enough to buy health care for every American and then some. It is time the US recognizes the massive illusion that the global war on terror in Af-pak is a wise decision.

It is appropriate to be fearful of the radicalized Islamic group known as Al-queda. However, one should be aware this is not a well-organized threat like Nazi Germany. Al-queda is a 5-7,000 operative force worldwide that is indeed a criminal conspiracy. The US should us non-military interventionist means to find them and route them out. This would be a worldwide effort to join intelligence forces to conduct special police actions to find these criminals. This does not include military occupation of countries, and sending our troops on long-term deployments that is bankrupting our country.
Our heroes in uniform are suffering from the massive political blunder of the previous Bush administration. The much-touted “Change” of President Obama needs to be demanded by the American people.

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  1. [...] The Myth of Successful Counter-Insurgency (COIN) in Afghanistan. By Jake Diliberto 2009 October 15 by kanan48 Via: Rethink Afghanistan. [...]

  2. lemgenovese says:

    When a nation that has been ruled by tribes and warlords for several centuries and has no main system or roads, highways and basic plumbing and electrical power in addition to a weak and corrupt central government, you have a nation at the mercy of a small number of insurgents fomenting chaos at the expense of progress.
    To believe that a “surge” in the number of combat troops will eventually solve all the aforementioned issues along with the opium trade as an added roadblock, its to be in a state of denial.

  3. lemgenovese says:

    When a nation that has been ruled by tribes and warlords for several centuries and has no main system or roads, highways and basic plumbing and electrical power in addition to a weak and corrupt central government, you have a nation at the mercy of a small number of insurgents fomenting chaos at the expense of progress.
    To believe that a “surge” in the number of combat troops will eventually solve all the aforementioned issues along with the opium trade as an added roadblock, its to be in a state of denial.

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