Development in Afghanistan's Counterinsurgency

Dr. Mark Moyar's Development in Afghanistan's Counterinsurgency: A New Guide, (c) 2011 Orbis Operations, LLC, is posted here with permission of the author.

Executive Summary:

In the areas of Afghanistan beset by insurgency, development spending has done little to increase popular support for the government, casting doubt on the counterinsurgency and development theories that have inspired this spending. Practitioners, however, have lacked access to viable alternative theories or principles on the use of development in COIN. This guide offers a comprehensive alternative approach, derived from the leader-centric model of counterinsurgency and based upon a wide variety of counterinsurgency campaigns in Afghanistan and previous conflicts. According to this approach, the primary purpose of development aid in counterinsurgency should be to improve local security and governance, because development is less important than security and governance and is effective only where security and governance are present. Development aid should be used to co-opt local elites, not to obtain the gratitude of the entire population, and should be made contingent on reciprocal action by those elites. The elites must be selected carefully, as the selection of certain elites will empower malign actors or alienate other elites. The number of organizations involved in development activities should be kept as small as possible, and greater attention should be paid to the selection of leaders for those organizations, as leadership quality has a great impact on project effectiveness. In select districts and provinces, governors should be permitted to use development aid to bolster patronage networks. The current aid streams flowing into Afghanistan far exceed the capacity of leaders and development personnel to handle them, so aid levels should be reduced, and emphasis on quantity of aid spent should be replaced with emphasis on attainment of COIN objectives. In Afghanistan, senior leaders of USAID and other foreign development organizations still prefer long-term development to short-term stabilization, to the detriment of the counterinsurgency. If they cannot be convinced to change their ways, then their participation in Afghanistan may need to be downsized.

Download the full guide here.

See also Dr. Moyar's recent book, A Question of Command: Counterinsurgency from the Civil War to Iraq (Yale Library of Military History) and his highly regarded work Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954-1965.

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John Kountz- great post!!!

This paper, although true in some of its points, still gets it on the whole wrong. He's right in saying that stability isn't going to be enhanced by long-term development efforts and without short-term development helping establish security- we'll never get sustainable stability that will enable us to leave.

Unfortunately, even if we did what the author says we should: short-term development to help establish security- we still don't get long-term stability- we get a client state (or several client states) that is dependent on our largess. That is fine if we are an imperial state bent on conquest or we are intent on exploiting the client state's natural resources- but we are neither.

Vanguardism
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vanguardism

Focoism
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foco

Protracted People's War
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/People's_war

Patrolling Rio's Favelas - From Pacification to Police State?

Rio de Janeiro's new Police Pacification Units, designed to take back the city's favelas from drug dealers, represent a doctrinal and operational revolution away from police business as usual. The widely praised program, however, is not without its critics, who worry that it will turn each newly pacified neighborhood into a quasi-police state.

By Albert Souza Mulli for ISN Insights, 19 April 2011

http://www.isn.ethz.ch/isn/Current-Affairs/ISN-Insights/Detail?lng=en&id...

The good doctor and others of his ilk represent the latest vogue in education: make experts!
Disquietingly, they, the academic multitudes of them emerging from the halls of higher education prompted by the smell of money contribute only the excuses the military requires to pursue its nefarious trade or war.
Thus, while representing the ability to read, observe and proclaim, they, all of them lack a singularly important ingredient: experience.
That this doctor's perceptions are any better than those of the janitor down the hall is doubtful. Only his credentials make him plausible.
I have yet to hear or see in print the term 'tchapaloos' with which to describe the stupidity into which the United States has inserted itself and now finds impossible to leave without embarrassment. That this fine word from Afghanistan is apparently unknown is telling and the result of intellectuals dawdling at the helm of a military demanding reasons.
Sadly, the people this absurdity is supposed to protect would be far better served had that same military been deployed where it should be, along the nation's borders rather than engaged in the construction of a Potemkin Nation over there ... far away.
The intellectuals powering this fiasco have had their say. Our noble politicians have implemented their agendas and dissertations. Now let us admit it was fun while it lasted and bid adieu to their notions while leaving Afghanistan to the Afghans regardless of how horrific our feminist propelled public opinion describes their treatment of women.
Igniting our largest bomb or exercising our most devious tactic will change nothing. We shall have simply wasted blood and fortune to stall the civil war we so rudely interrupted with our cowboy appearance and overwhelming display of military toys.
Let this decade's crop of university products luxuriate in discussions of Pukhtu versus Pashtu versus Brahui versus Pashai and the poetry of Khushal Khan Khattak. But keep them out of real world affairs where they do little more than make messes only time will clean up.

It's one more example of where we apply tactics straight from the US army playbook to pacify the Plains Indians.

We try to turn them into reservation Indians. Disrupt their natural systems and put them on the government dole. Meanwhile there will always be wild Indians who resist such affronts to their manhood, their culture and their way of life. Some Sioux took the deal and moved onto the reservations. Others rode with Crazy Horse. We did Clear-hold-build with the first group, capture kill on the second. Same-same in Afghanistan. Work for pay on CERP doing odd jobs around the village, or take a Taliban paid job to resist the foreign invaders.

The irony of this all is, that of the men and women, military and civilian, who go to Afghanistan as part of the coalition, probably 90% of them would chose to ride with Crazy Horse; would chose to be Taliban; before submitting to the reservation.

This is just one more example of the flaws of a COIN strategy that focuses the majority of the engagement down on the resistance insurgency at the local level rather than on the revolutionary insurgency between GIRoA in Kabul and the Taliban leadership in Pakistan. The more we engage the bottom, the deeper we seat the resistance.

There is a clear dichotomy in this insurgency and success can only come from resolving the issues driving the revolutionary movement at the top. But we have built a functional sanctuary around GIRoA, and the all the Taliban a physical/legal sanctuary. Once we shift the focus to a full court press on reconciliation (which is primarily GIRoA reforms and opening all of the doors they have closed to those who were not part of the Northern Alliance) we will begin to make headway.

As to going into the Pakistan sanctuary? I recommend parking the drones (except to use as CAS and ISR) and shrinking the target list down to pure AQ leadership and foreign fighters that come from Uzbekistan, Germany, and other places to support AQ. Then to take elements of the Afghan Commandos and combine them with a similar Pakistani force with US SF and enablers (lift, ISR, intel, etc) and build a combined team that puts local boots on the ground, engages the populace, scarfs up the problem, and leaves. Repeat as necessary. Leave the Insurgent leadership alone unless they refuse to participate in reconciliation.

We've made this far larger, harder and more expensive than it needs to be.

Mr. Mathews,

Agreed. I have become less and less enamored with CERP since 2007 when I first saw it in action in Iraq. We were throwing money around like a drunken sailor. Nothing we did with CERP was sustainable thus not real development work. Then as you say it is not designed as development work. The problem is, as I see it, the willingness to use CERP without any real goals causes aberations in the local economy. Case in point is canal cleaning where we pay farmers more than the daily wage has ever been to do work that they used to do cooperatively without pay.

I agree with Dr. Moyar, we can do more good and less harm with less money and a sharper focus on leveraging what we spend. Sooner or later we've got to take our hands off the bicycle and let the Afghans peddle away or crash. We can't continue to bankrupt our nation in an attempt to build what never existed - - a modern, united, centrally ruled Afghanistan.

Mr. Ramage,
I think we agree upon more than we disagree.

I don't believe that CDCs are the answer either.

Nor do I! Just as artillery is not the answer in a high intensity conventional conflict - it is but one component - CDCs are not "the" answer either. But they can be and should be part of an integrated plan along the lines of what Dr. Moyar argues for. Their track record thus far demonstrates this.

As Mr. Mathews says, "In some locales, the CDC has assumed prominence as a decision-making body that has displaced local elites or assumed some of the power once wielded by those elites." The CDCs are supplanting a long held tradition in Afghanistan known as shuras.

Yes, in some locales. In others, they do not. The performance is uneven. That is, in my opinion, and in those cases, an argument for not adopting them as the constitutionally-mandated village-level bodies. In cases where they do not negatively disrupt customary bodies, I see no reason to rule out leveraging CDCs as a means of developing governance capacity.

In my opinion the shura should be "coached" on local development issues - - not supplanted by the CDCs which are as stated a creation of the well funded NSP.

Agreed. In the areas where CDCs are most successful, that is what occurs sometimes (Perhaps "usually"? - Need more data).

It amazed me from my first contact with CERP as to how we could expect success from a program that is entrusted to people that are focused on spending money in the name of relief/reconstruction and call it development work.

I agree that the way in which CERP has been sold to us is problematic. But I think that is the greatest problem with CERP - how it has been publicly portrayed. I had some familiarity with the program shortly after it first began, as we requested funds for CERP projects - strictly for short-term tactical gains, not for development - and it served our purposes.

I received my first thorough briefing on the program in 2006 (in preparation for being responsible for supervising it for my battalion in 2007) and had a well-worn copy of the MAAWS SOP that I referred to often in theater. We were explicitly told that CERP was not a development program. "Official" language in legislation, policy memos, and public statements may have contradicted this - but we were told, in no uncertain terms, that it was not a development program. Rather, it was a program to obtain short-term tactical gains. We were explicitly told that CERP projects do not create long-term good will unless we had the luxury of performing project after project after project without end - which we had no intention of doing. Practical experience demonstrated that this guidance was correct. It did not create long-term good will. It was not intended to. We did not attempt to use it for that purpose.

Unfortunately, the myth lives on. We are subjected to studies that "discover" some truth that we already knew with certainty in 2006 - that CERP doesn't create goodwill and is not a good tool for development.

From the exsum: "In Afghanistan, senior leaders of USAID and other foreign development organizations still prefer long-term development to short-term stabilization, to the detriment of the counterinsurgency. If they cannot be convinced to change their ways, then their participation in Afghanistan may need to be downsized."

I would argue that USAID and these other foregin development organizations are actually much closer to right. Sure ISAF wants to co-opt their energy and efforts to help create a window of stability that the coalition can escape through; but that is not what USAID does.

Rather than corrupting USAID into just one more tool of "Clear-Hold-Build" it makes much more sense to hold their long term development projects back as a strategic carrot to get GIRoA to begin making the reforms necessary to to truly turn the corner on this insurgency. Those multi-billion dollar carrots will be just too tempting for GIRoA to ignore, so will be effective incentive. To allow them to plunder them now without consequence is just throwing good money after bad.

Current efforts aimed at suppressing or bribing the populace down at the local level into not expressing their discontent with the current government or the coalition presence are a band-aid of limited durability at best. Building ever larger and more effective security forces in the north and exporting them out to exert greater control over the people of the south is not the answer either.

Just because DoD has bought into a tactical approach to intervention strategy is no reason to derail USAID from what it does in its respective lane to promote US interests around the globe. By making US AID projects contingent upon specific governmental actions designed to go to the root of the insurgency (such as reconciliation and a new constitutional loya jirga that is fairly represented by the entire populace and not just the Northern Alliance) we get the best effect from development.

Development that merely enriches the current power structure and that is focused in secure areas (translation, those occupied by the tribes and friends of those in that power structure) to the exclusion of the same segment of the populace that currently feels their best hopes lie with the Taliban is dangerously misguided.

The military reminds me a bit of a drowning swimmer. Development swims out to see if it can help, and with panic building, the much larger military grabs onto development and drags them both under. It is against the instincts of the military to do less to accomplish more, but that is what they must do. Stop slapping at the water of the insurgency and float for a bit. The key to success lies in Kabul, not Helmand or Kandahar.

As always nothing is as simple as it seems. The story of the Kajaki dam, the largest U.S. aid project in Afghanistan, has always (since its conception in the 1950's) been emblematic of the U.S. government's failing approach to development aid in Afghanistan. I think that this is the reason that Dr. Moyar uses the latest debacle related to Kajaki as the poster child of aid gone bad. However; I don't believe that CDCs are the answer either. As Mr. Mathews says, "In some locales, the CDC has assumed prominence as a decision-making body that has displaced local elites or assumed some of the power once wielded by those elites." The CDCs are supplanting a long held tradition in Afghanistan known as shuras. The shura is probably the purest form of democracy that I've ever witnessed. In my opinion the shura should be "coached" on local development issues - - not supplanted by the CDCs which are as stated a creation of the well funded NSP. I suspect that the NSP has a "burn rate" for their dollars as does all of the aid implementers in Afghanistan.

As to Dr. Moyar's statement that, "It urges a complete overhaul of the approach championed by Gen. David Petraeus and others" couldn't be truer. It amazed me from my first contact with CERP as to how we could expect success from a program that is entrusted to people that are focused on spending money in the name of relief/reconstruction and call it development work. Soldiers are trained to be soldiers and ours are the best on the planet. They are not trained to do development work and they do it poorly.

I don't agree with everything, but this is a very good piece. Dr. Moyar helps to bridge the correlation-causality divide by pointing out and explaining the importance of leadership. Local leaders are more important than local conditions. Influencing leaders should often be a higher priority than altering conditions. Obtaining the cooperation of a local leader who can mobilize his community and ally them with you is far more important than, and often not achieved by, building a bridge.

It is important to emphasize that aid need not, and is not, exclusively directed at infrastructure development or at developing the state's central bureaucracy. A good example is the National Solidarity Program (NSP). Although it is billed as a development program and much of the tangible results of the program are small development projects (schools, bridges, etc), the purpose of the program is to empower communities and to develop their abilities to allocate resources and organize collective action of the community. The program has established Community Development Councils (CDCs) in over 30,000 villages in Afghanistan and made significant tangible and intangible positive impacts, doing so with low levels of corruption.

Dr. Moyar argues that, "the primary purpose of development aid in counterinsurgency should be to improve local security and governance, because development is less important than security and governance and is effective only where security and governance are present." The NSP helps to advance these purposes by focusing on governance and succeeding even in areas lacking security.

He also argues that "[d]evelopment aid should be used to co-opt local elites, not to obtain the gratitude of the entire population, and should be made contingent on reciprocal action by those elites." NSP has the ability to either achieve or contribute to this. In some locales, the CDC has assumed prominence as a decision-making body that has displaced local elites or assumed some of the power once wielded by those elites. The CDC is not a single elite person, but rather a collective body that enjoys some of the powers wielded by local elites (like a city council, rather than a mayor, to use a US analogy). And the financial assistance provided to the CDC is predicated upon its reciprocal actions (compliance with NSP guidelines). The danger here is, of course, that this can give rise to other problems that result when traditional power structures are upset, underscoring the importance of Dr. Moyar's warning that "elites must be selected carefully, as the selection of certain elites will empower malign actors or alienate other elites.

NSP is not a silver bullet, but it advances the purposes for aid that Dr. Moyar argues for. As we approach the decision point for whether to continue funding aid for Afghanistan, and in what form we provide that aid, NSP should get greater attention as a cost-effective program that empowers Afghans to advance our interests by advancing their own.