Sunday, December 19, 2010

Afghanistan - I Know, Let's Start All Over

Billions of dollars of Western aid to Afghanistan winds up in the hands of the Taliban, at least according to Australian counter-insurgency expert David Matthews.  He heads the counter-insurgency group at his country's Defence Science & Technology Organization.

Matthews argues that Western forces have blundered in their focus on reconstruction:

Nine years after the invasion of Afghanistan, the coalition had fallen into the trap of trying to impose a framework of centralised governance on a country which had no real history of strong central government, Dr Matthews said.

He pointed out that some of the most peaceful provinces were also the poorest.

''There was a belief that if you come in and build roads, schools or paint a governor's compound, all of a sudden everyone's going to be happy. In my personal view, it's spectacularly failed in Afghanistan,'' Dr Matthews said.
''Inadequate infrastructure is rarely a driver of poverty … Building a road or providing education is not necessarily going to generate goodwill.''

Well, shit, there goes Plan B.  We can't crush them with bombs and we can't put them out of business with schools and roads either.

''Insecurity is a massive driver of conflict and if we can create security, it often goes a long way. A lot of people are not dyed-in-the-wool, ideological insurgents. The local guys are making guesses based on risks and rewards.''

More Afghans were turning to Taliban judges for legal rulings on inheritance and debt.

'Even if there are justice mechanisms there at a local level, justice is available to the highest bidder in the main. This is at the top of the list everywhere we go.

''The Taliban are out-governing us in the justice sector, and that is a massive problem.''

Matthews said the best thing Western forces can do is to understand and tackle the causes of local conflict, such as tribalism.  Wait a minute, ten years down the road and now we're supposed to tackle tribalism?   The window of opportunity to suppress tribalism and warlordism slammed shut back in 2003, maybe 2004 at the latest.  If we were to try that now we'd be fighting the whole damned country not just the Taliban of the south.  I think there's a word for this in High German - oh yeah, we're "Gerfukt"


thwap said...

Not only did we not fight tribalism, we encouraged it. Lazily and stupidly, the US-led NATO gave power over the country mainly to non-Pashtun Afghans from the "Northern Alliance." They had the guns and the experience so let them rule for us rather than do the hard work of building a genuine Pashtun government in the wake of the Taliban's disappearance.

As a result (and others have reported on this, "Espirit-des-Corps" for one) these non-Pashtuns governors lord it over their Pashtun subjects like conquering soldiers rather than as their public servants.

See also the "Harper's Magazine" article "The Master of Spin-Boldak" with the reference to tribal and clan rivalries leading up to Canada's big "Operation Medusa."

The Mound of Sound said...

Yeah, I read the Harper's article when it came out last December. It was the first time I learned how intimately involved Canadian officers were with the crooked border police/smugglers.

Thwap, the window to suppress tribalism and warlordism slammed shut no later than 2003 when the Western forces were so understrength that they couldn't have done anything meaningful about it if they tried.

It might have a difference had we recognized Afghanistan as a loose federation of five principal states but that would have given the Pakistanis fits with their own Pashtun and Baloch insurrections.

Real_PHV_Mentarch said...

Forever war is, so forever war we do (sigh).