Democracy Arsenal

« What would it take to nip al-Qaeda in the bud? | Main | Four Things Obama Needs to Do in the Middle East »

April 21, 2010

Kandahar Cluster**** Watch
Posted by Michael Cohen

After the rousing success of US operations in Marjah, where good governance, security for local Afghans and a demoralized Taliban defines that sprawling metropolis, it seems only natural that US military planners are planning an ambitious operation for this summer in Kandahar province where a mere few Taliban dead-enders and eagerly expectant Afghan locals will be sure to greet their American and European liberators with flowers and candy.

Ok, I jest, but after reading the news out of Kandahar the past few days I'm not sure if it makes sense to laugh or to cry. As Matt Yglesias noted the other day COIN advocates have long told us that no one who supports COIN actually wants to do COIN because it's so difficult. But in Afghanistan, in the face of obvious impediments to doing effective counter-insurgency (time, political will, lack of host nation support and civilian support and the continued existence of an external safe haven) the US plows ahead convinced that a COIN fight is the only way to protect US interests there. So instead of confronting reality in Afghanistan US military planners seem increasingly committed to inventing their own.

Take the impending summer offensive in Kandahar.  Week before last the Times of London reported that Kandahar elders told President Karzai in no uncertain terms that they don't want a NATO intervention in their city:

Visiting last week to rally support for the offensive, the president was instead overwhelmed by a barrage of complaints about corruption and misrule. As he was heckled at a shura of 1,500 tribal leaders and elders, he appeared to offer them a veto over military action. “Are you happy or unhappy for the operation to be carried out?” he asked.

The elders shouted back: “We are not happy.”

And apparently they are not alone. As Nathan Hodge noted on Friday, the US Army's own surveys indicate that Kandaharis are not buying the tonic that NATO and Kabul is selling:

The southern Afghan province of Kandahar trusts the Taliban more than the government. And that’s according to a survey commissioned by the U.S. Army.

Kandahar is expected to be the focal point of operations for U.S. and NATO troops this summer, but a poll recently conducted by the Army’s controversial social science program, the Human Terrain System (HTS), is warning that rampant local corruption, and a lack of security, could undermine coalition efforts to win the support of the local population.

The same report also indicates that a whopping 94% of Kandaharis interviewed prefer negotiations to the NATO intervention and 85% view the Taliban as "Afghan brothers." With word yesterday that Taliban guerrilas walked into a mosque and shot to death the deputy mayor of Kandahar as he was praying it's hardly surprising. This horrific act of violence against a public official who was seen as one of the few trustworthy government officials in the city - not to mention the increasing pace of suicide bomber attacks - is almost certainly a dispiriting harbinger of the violence to come should NATO follow-through on its plans to take Kandahar back from the Taliban. It's a point elaborated on by Tim Lynch who notes:

ISAF wants to clear the city in a slow, deliberate, methodical fashion, spending lots of time in hopes of avoiding casualties.  The Taliban appear to be trying to draw them into the city ahead of schedule in an attempt to bleed them.  If they are successful at inflicting casualties (and not even heavy casualties, just a few a day, a number which would have been irrelevant in past wars) then they will completely derail ISAF.  If that happens, RC South will want to throw the Marines into the fray and we’ll lose everything they have gained over the past 18 months in a bid to win Kandahar.


And for the record, according to General McChrystal, back in March, the concerns of Kandaharis would be factored into military decision-making: "I think the most important thing is to understand that before we do a military operation in Afghanistan, we really have got to get the consent of the people who are going to be [sic] affected by that operation.   And what I mean by that is, one, we've got to operate in a way that they find acceptable."  

That was then. Now Gareth Porter is reporting that military officials are backtracking away from these words: 

Lt. Col. Tadd Sholtis, a spokesman for Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, told IPS Tuesday that local tribal elders in Kandahar could "shape the conditions" under which the influx of foreign troops operate during the operation, but would not determine whether or where NATO troops would be deployed in and around the city.

Asked whether the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) is committed to getting local approval before introducing more troops into Kandahar and surrounding districts, the McChrystal spokesman said, "We're not talking about something as simple as a referendum."

Apparently the Afghan people don't understand what's best for them.

In addition, we have this depressing update from Joe Klein, in an article that rightly causing waves across official Washington, about the enormous problems with our COIN efforts in Southern Afghanistan and how restrictive rules of engagement are putting American troops in greater danger and risk of undermining the coming summer offensive.

In short, all the warning signs about operations in Kandahar are blinking red. We have a civilian population that fears NATO intervention and is broadly sympathetic with the Taliban; we have a US military untrained in the ways of counter-insurgency and chafing at restrictive ROEs; we have an Afghan government that is hardly supportive of the mission and with Karzai's drug-dealing brother in charge of Kandahar not terribly interested in good governance and ending corruption; and of course we have a vicious insurgent force more than happy to up the ante by murdering innocent civilians and using mosques as execution chambers.

This all seems like a very odd way to follow-through on the goal of protecting Afghan civilians or even extending the legitimacy of the Karzai government. Indeed, one might imagine that a uniformly opposed escalation in Kandahar that results in civilian deaths and only strengthens a disliked and corrupt local government is not going to be met with universal appreciation by Kandaharis.  But increasingly it seems that the fetishization of COIN in the US military - and not facts on the ground - is what is driving strategy in Afghanistan.

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451c04d69e2013480070a5f970c

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Kandahar Cluster**** Watch:

Comments

I feel very surprise to read this news. I think the idea that the Afghan government could be seen by Afghans as relentlessly and ridiculously corrupt is just stunning. I would say particularly in the wake of the president stealing the election, and then trying to blame it on the UN.

This all seems like a very odd way to follow-through on the goal of protecting Afghan civilians

There was a time, not that long ago, when, for the horological Christian Louboutin Boots at least, the words fashion and watch were mutually christian louboutin. However, attitudes have changed, consumers are more educated and if they are prepared to pay a few thousand euros for a bespoke suit with hand-stitched buttonholes and a canvas interlining and purchase a crocodile Christian Louboutin Pumps, then they are not going to be satisfied with a cynical piece of battery-powered brand extension. Gildo Zegna of the eponymous men's apparel brand, explains what prompted him to work on a watch with Gino Macaluso, proprietor of Girard Christian Louboutin Sandals.

the US has been unable to provide these services or any sort of "government in a box" to the Afghan people. In fact, this has been a dominant and consistent theme in all of our dealings in Southern Afghanistan - the inability to guarantee security, jobs, good governance etc, particularly in the face of a vicious and effective insurgency. Aside from the platitudes of US military officials what possible evidence is there to believe that this time will be different? What reason is there to believe that the Kabul government and the President's drug-dealing brother are going to execute on these goals?

Coach outlet store offer coach handbags and coach purses are sold at best price.
http://www.bagworlds.com/

Our online-store rings are all very beautiful, and theylinks of london jewellery have attracted a lot of customers to order items from there. No matter which rings you choose to purchase, we guarantee that they will satisfy your needs as youlinks of london wish. If you don't believe us, try it and get convinced.


Maybe it’s just a joke for links of london you, but this is real story. You may not believe that such thing can happen, but it really happened.
Links of London can never slip out of links of london jewellery your eyes and mind whenever you want to buy jewelries, and till now it is also your best choice.

Looking for a wonderful iPhone Transfer? Do not spend your time on searching iPhone Transfer Free on internet any more, it is just a waste of your time and money. Here you can have a free trial of this iPhone Transfer I recommend to you with which it is become a simple thing to transfer iPhone files.convert avi to iphone,iphone transfer.blu ray ripper for mac.

Birkenstock was Made in Germany since 1774 . Check out our Birkenstock sandals and Birkenstock shoes including the Birkenstock gizeh,at the lowest regular outlet prices, free shipping and when you put on Birkenstocks. you will feel very comfortable.

Very informative and trustworthy blog. Please keep updating with great posts like this one. I have booked marked your site and am about to email it to a few friends of mine that I know would enjoy reading

The comments to this entry are closed.

Emeritus Contributors
Subscribe
Sign-up to receive a weekly digest of the latest posts from Democracy Arsenal.
Email: 
Powered by TypePad

Disclaimer

The opinions voiced on Democracy Arsenal are those of the individual authors and do not represent the views of any other organization or institution with which any author may be affiliated.
Read Terms of Use