Abu Maqawama has a most excellent (yet depressing) post restating the assumptions of our campaign in Afghanistan. Here they are, in brief. Read his post to see them in their gloomy and realistic glory.
- “The United States and its allies will devote the time, money, and troops to execute a counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan”. Probably False.
- “The United States and its allies have vital interests in Afghanistan and Pakistan”. Probably True.
- “Afghanistan is a binary conflict between the government and the insurgents”.* Certainly False.
- “The provision of social services leads to a reduction of violence”. Mostly false.
- “What we do is what matters”.** Mostly false.
- “Population-centric counterinsurgency is appropriate for Afghanistan”. Mostly true but perhaps false in one key way.
Spencer Ackerman riffs off that and raises a very important point:
…the American public has never debated, in a rigorous and bloodless way, just how proportional it is to confront a network of a few thousand extremists… through a commitment of something upwards of $300 billion to date and roughly 100,000 troops. The damage that extremist network can export is real. But it’s increasingly insubstantial. If Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the perpetrator of the most sophisticated al-Qaeda plot in years, had succeeded, he would have killed an order of magnitude fewer people than on 9/11 — 300 people. Out of a nation of 300 million. And that is ultimately how asymmetrical warfare succeeds: what bin Laden calls “Bleed to Bankruptcy.”
I mean geez…I’m still waiting for the honest debate about our strategy now that the Soviet Union has collapsed.
Here’s a video of David Killcullen talking COIN at Google last year.
Definitely worth watching if you’re interested in the mindset behind our current counterinsurgency policy.
(h/t from Permissible Arms)
I’ve said for awhile now that I’m too close to Afghanistan to make an objective call (or anything that could even be mistaken for one) on the mission there but it’s getting hard to ignore the fact that I don’t really see a good way out of this thing.