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Dec 12

Written by: Diana West
Sunday, December 12, 2010 7:34 AM 

Seventy-two percent of "southern Afghan males" believe "foreigners are disrespectful of their religion and culture." Why is that percentage so low?

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Don't know what happened to Ann Marlowe, whose astute comments on Afghanistan, as noted in July, include the following:

What we have in Afghanistan is a counterinsurgency strategy of tactics. COIN is a set of tactics: station your troops among the people, conduct a lot of meetings with tribal elders to find out what bribes they want, protect them from the insurgents, connect them with their officials—every private knows the mantra. But COIN is not a strategy.

Or, as I wrote then, COIN is a bad strategy. Marlowe:

Strategy requires a political vision. Throughout history, counterinsurgency has barely worked when conducted by a government with substantial popular support.

Where is the historic model? I asked this question of COIN strategist Frederick Kagan back in March 2009 at a Washington conference that in many ways previewed the Obama administration war policy. At the time I wrote (in a column):

Onto Afghanistan, where we are told U.S. national security depends on denying sanctuary to Al Qaeda and related jihadists. Meanwhile, the world is riddled with jihadism in the form of active agents, sleeper cells, propagandists and sympathizers from the Bekaa Valley to Belgium, from Iran to London, from Saudi Arabia to South Florida. Nearly eight years after 9/11, the United States still has unsecured borders, but it is Afghanistan where we must establish security and clean government -- for our own good.

Why? Frederick Kagan said "we have to establish the legitimacy of the Afghan government (because) that's how you end an insurgency." John Nagl was more emphatic still, stating, "If we ever want to leave, we have to build an Afghan government that can accomplish those goals (of good government) on its own."

If we ever want to leave?????

During a coffee break, I asked military historian Frederick Kagan whether there was any successful historical model for this strategy. Ticking off a few non-matches including the Boer War in South Africa, Malaya, and civil war in El Salvador, he, a little sheepishly, offered Iraq.

Iraq? Heaven help the United States.

Back to Marlowe in July:

It is much more of a challenge, when the government, like Karzai's, lacks almost all support.

Why should Republicans tolerate waste of our tax money, merely because it happens in Afghanistan? Exactly which Republican values do the Karzai brothers—merchants in drugs and explosives, skimmers of contracts and runners of protection rackets—exemplify? Why is it honorable for Republicans to sacrifice the best of our young people for a miserable kleptocracy?

More than $320 million a day, folks.

These were great questions, and they remain unanswered questions, although let's hope Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) brings them up in the next Congress.

Marlowe, meanwhile, appears to have scrapped her critique of COIN, particularly the policy pillar of bribing locals with stuff, booty, etc. In today's Washington Post, Marlowe goes micro-analyst on us to critique merely the US practice of pretending that tribal elders/government are the source of US largesse -- as if that's the only (see-no-Islam) reason we're not winning hearts and minds overall. She writes:

In this village, Afghans know that Americans are people of good will. But American policy of putting an Afghan face on our taxpayers' generosity is to blame for the attitudes in other, similar places, where rural Afghans whose support we are trying to gather believe that we disrespect their traditions or are the dupes of their worst elements.

She is referring to a poll showing that 72 percent of southern Afghan men believe "foreigners are disrespectful of their religion and culture." Of course, US charity and southern Afghan male attitudes have nothing to do with each other, but here's the thing: If we ever get to a point where "southern Afghan men" believe we respect their religion and culture. we're in big trouble.

   

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