Small Wars Journal

An Alternative Approach for Afghanistan

Share this Post

Don't Try to Arrest the Sea

An Alternative Approach for Afghanistan

by Major Mehar Omar Khan

An Alternative Approach for Afghanistan (Full PDF Article)

Over the last three months that I've spent in the United States, I've heard with concern and trepidation the growing calls for a possible pull out from Afghanistan. No sane citizen of our world, let alone a Pakistani infantry officer who may soon end up being another name on an ever-growing list of the fallen soldiers in the war against terror, enjoys thinking about the painful possibility of our world's greatest military power and history's most inspiring nation retreating in the face of an onslaught by Kalashnikov-wielding bearded barbarians riding on the back of motorcycles, hungry horses and perspiring mules. What is being realized with increasing intensity is the pain of a seemingly endless and bloody war for almost a decade now; the pressure of a US public opinion that's almost irreversibly weary of war (at least for now); the misery of a mismatch between resources and mandate; the rising groans of despairing allies un—to persevere and, the scary scarcity of success stories. However what needs to be realized is the fact that abandoning Afghanistan will be an unmitigated tragedy.

For the United States, I believe, Afghanistan is not a case of 'success or failure'. The USA is too big and too powerful to fail against a collection of miserable fanatics holed up in the treacherous mountains of Southern Afghanistan. It's instead a case of doing too much with too little care and attention. It's a challenge (still quite surmountable) aggravated by ditching smart choices and contracting wrong compulsions.

An Alternative Approach for Afghanistan (Full PDF Article)

About the Author(s)


kdog101 (not verified)

Sun, 02/28/2010 - 12:11am

The whole relationship is broken. We are trying to figure out how to fix and protect the Afghans. This is wrong.

I am not against giving Afghans help, but they have to want it. They have to have ownership of the vision for their future. They have to be motivated about defending their land from Taliban. They need to do the heavy risky work. I am willing to give help, but not at a great expense to our soldiers.

Also I do not blame Afghans who do not want our help. I am not sure we are helping them. We are placing a government and the laws and weight that comes with that government on top of them. We are telling them what crops they can grow. We are telling them what government they can have. We are putting them at risk by our presence in their neighborhood. So yes maybe we think we are giving them a gift, but its seems more like a gift that comes with a lot of problems, and it is not one they can refuse.

We should find Afghans that actually want our help, that don't like the Taliban, that have reasonable values that we can live with, and help them directly. If they need help to defend themselves from the Taliban, give them weapons. Perhaps as we form a good relationship we can give them other forms of help that the Major and others suggest, but they have to want it and appreciate it.

Also I am not sure people can truly take ownership with a top down approach. That is why we should support existing groups at the local level, and allow those groups to form alliances, and should they decide form a government. We can help them with this process, but we should not mandate they do it.

adeel matloob (not verified)

Sat, 02/27/2010 - 12:46pm

a classic piece ,an eye opener for the world storngest military fleet .

Faisal Marwat 2br (not verified)

Wed, 12/02/2009 - 8:28am

The article is genuinely in line with the intelligentia of pakistan in gen and Pashtuns in particular .I agree with the idea of focussed application of resources but if i may add to it that the idea of creating hamlets or model districts misses the fact that its application in area like Afghanistan may not work being a tribal society .Geograhical consideration may not work it should be done demographically that is, picking up a tribe and making it a model for others to follow. One more thing that can be considered during the discussions for the Afghan solutions and that is to alienate the Afghan struggle from the cause" The occupation of the Khawara(soil)by infidels" by getting non stake holder Mulim Countries Armies replacing the American/NATO ground forces .

K. Hussan Zia (not verified)

Thu, 11/12/2009 - 12:23am

Major Khans proposed plan may work if the US has the patience to stay the course for the next one hundred years. Afghanistan went wrong the day the decision for the invasion was made. If the aim was to dislodge Taliban, it had been achieved within a few weeks of the invasion. It soon became obvious that it was much more than that. We still do not know what we are trying to achieve but it is fairly clear that there is more to it than meets the eye.

We are not being honest, not to the Afghans, not even to ourselves. The claim that we are in Afghanistan to keep terrorists off our streets is false; our presence there, if anything, increases the threat of terrorism here. The Afghans have so far shown no inclination to conduct war inside NATO countries. They only want NATO out of their country.

In the eight years of occupation there has been no improvement in the appalling conditions under which most Afghans live. The plight of poor Afghan women is worse than what it was under Taliban. This is commonly attributed to 'the security situation'. There are huge areas of Afghanistan untroubled by Taliban that have remained totally neglected.

General Petraeus said that the war was "not a war of choice" and attacks on the World Trade Centre in 2001 were planned in Afghanistan. The perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks resided in Germany, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and were trained in flying schools set up in Florida.

General McChrystal says he needs more troops or the war there will be lost within 12 months. He also wants to kill fewer Afghans and try harder to win over their hearts and minds. How can you win hearts and minds of people who dont want you and whose kith and kin you have killed by the tens of thousands and it hasnt stopped?

No one asks the Afghans what they want. This is because we know what the answer will be and we wouldnt like it. They want NATO out of Afghanistan and they have every right to do so. It is not simply Taliban --- they ceased to exist eight years ago. They have been replaced by fifteen or more groups of insurgents with no central command and control structure.

They see NATO as a non-Muslim occupying armed force which has killed tens of thousands of Afghans (most of them unarmed) for no reason and maimed many thousands more. It is killing and maiming their animals; destroying their homes, farms and livelihoods. It is imprisoning and torturing their people. They are fighting a war of national and cultural liberation from foreign oppressors to preserve their way of life.

There are few things about the west that appeal to Afghans. They do not admire us and do not want to be like us. The only way to win their hearts and minds is for us to leave them alone. Since this is unacceptable as long as there are oil and gas in them thar hills around the Caspian Sea, there will be no end to excuses and justifications and the war will go on.

K. Hussan Zia
(ex-Pakistan Navy).

Matt (not verified)

Fri, 11/06/2009 - 12:17pm

I like it. How many model districts is the Major contemplating? Would 30 or 40 do it?

Without adding any forces, there are currently a total of 90,000 allied counterinsurgents available (from Kagan's recent briefing). There was a recent story here about a force of 1500 combined US Marines and Afghan army that is doing a great job in a district in Helmund.

John Van Praag (not verified)

Thu, 11/05/2009 - 6:41am

A plan to favor the Pashtuns is as likely as not to exacerbate and institutionalize ethnic strife. It could well lead to a state of permanent genocidal war, as in Sudan.

The real problem in Afghanistan is Pakistan. As long as the enemy have a safe harbor in a neighboring country they are unlikely to be defeated. Objectively, the actions of Pakistan during this conflict have been those of an enemy. Whether it is a question of disfunctional bankers or hostile regimes the U.S. government has the delusion that problems can be fixed if only we close our eyes and hurl enough money at them. In the case of Pakistan this approach has failed. The flow of money to Pakistan should be terminated. The government of Pakistan should be informed that if it continues to harbor enemy forces it will be viewed as, and treated as, an enemy of the United States.

Yes, I know that Pakistan has nukes, but throwing money at the problem has created a situation in which, with U.S. aid, the security forces in Pakistan are not only destabilizing Afghanistan; they are committing suicide by supporting and arming their own executioners. When the Pakistani Taliban and Al Queda rule Pakistan and own its nuclear arsenal they can thank the U.S. for having financed their accession to power.

Tahir Malik (not verified)

Mon, 11/02/2009 - 1:39pm

It was indeed worth reading article. The author has written an eloquent article suggesting way out for knee bogged USA and its allies in Afghanistan. The peace and stability in Afghanistan may not be possible without support from neighboring Pakistan. Without peace in the areas bordering Afghanistan, peace in Afghanistan may not last for long. Moreover, Pashtuns of NWFP have great influence in Afghanistan. Pakistan is facing almost the same anarchy to counter terrorism and bring peace and stability in FATA. In comparison to USA, Pakistan is far short of resources to tackle the situation in poorly managed and governed FATA on the same lines as suggested by Maj for Afghanistan
I beseech Major Meher to put across valuable ideas and/or policy for Pakistan to deal with the situation inside Pakistan.

I know the author personally; the gentleman is blessed with peerless qualities.

Younger Bro

jp (not verified)

Mon, 10/19/2009 - 6:02am

My favorite line in the article: "leadership from 'amongst themselves'."

No amount of focus, resources, etc will prevail if we do not adopt local institutions. Specifically, support those very institutions that govern daily interaction within a given segment of the population. Our myopic focus on strenghtening the associated institutions of Kabul will only server to lengthen the war and add to the costs - human and material.

I'm afraid that the MAJ might not like a long-term outlook on leadership from within. Specifically, this might (perhaps)mean the rise of an independent Pashtun state - looking to annex parts of Pakistan?

It is time we start looking beyond a state-centric capacity building effort. Let's look at existing networks (often ethnic centered) and institutions (local courts, reciprocal arrangements) and begin a process of formalizing the informal.

Unfortunately, many aspects of the informal do not conform to our norms. The question that needs to be asked: whose instutions are these? ours or those of our partners? If our values do not permit us to strenghten/bolster our partners...

Glen Helberg (not verified)

Mon, 10/19/2009 - 12:06am

While I think that MAJ Meher's proposal needs to be included in the broader discussion of an Afghan strategy, I feel that there are some counterpoints that need to be heard. I am in the same small group with MAJ Meher, and find him extremely intelligent, and his opinion on this matter certainly puts it in a new perspective. But I'll share a few of the comments that I have shared with him in person.

First, this concept does strike a very familiar cord with the 'strategic hamlet' program, as was already mentioned by another poster. The fundamental problem with any type of program like this is that it is inherently defensive in nature. By withdrawing into a few select urban areas, we allow our enemy to engage us in the time and place of their choosing. An enemy with no pressure on them is an enemy with time on their side (even more so than is already true of an insurgent force).

Second, this strategy presumes that the "shining beacon on the hill" thought process will work in Afghanistan. While it is certainly idealistic, and I'd love to believe it, I fear that it will actually have quite the opposite effect. I'm concerned that it will most likely increase the divide between the "haves" and the "have nots", or at least the perception of this divide.

The big piece missing in all of this is demonstrable progress. This strategy is a long-term approach, and that may be exactly what is required. But if we want to be intellectually honest with ourselves, the American people are quickly losing the stomach for this struggle. An approach based solely on long-term progress is doomed to failure by the court of public opinion, whether we wish it were so or not.

Finally, by pulling back into a few strategic hubs, we yield vast swaths of terrain to the enemy. While this may not seem a huge loss, it sets the conditions for a rural insurgency, which is far more difficult to defeat. A rural insurgency can simmer for decades, witness the FARC in Colombia, in areas that have no incentive not to provide it support. We started seeing the first signs of this with al Qaeda in Iraq, as they moved out of the big cities and into the rural belts. They became immensely more difficult to identify and target, allowing them to become more entrenched. Creating these conditions in Afghanistan leaves us with only two options: continue fighting a well-entrenched insurgency in the rural areas, or depart, essentially ceding the country to the Taliban. Neither of these sounds appealing.

I believe what will be required in Afghanistan is a balanced approach utilizing some of MAJ Meher's ideas. It will however, require a commitment to the country as a whole, not a few select hubs. Yes, this is resource intensive, and yes it does take a long time. But it also allows for some "quick wins" that the American public so desperately needs, and shows a commitment to the Afghan people writ large. Afghanistan is not simply a permanently failed state, as evidenced by decades of relative peace and stability before the Soviets got involved. It is a nation that needs help getting on its feet and moving forward. What it looks like when it "arrives" is anybody's guess, but wouldn't it be great to say that we helped the Afghan people build a nation of their own design (i.e. democracy)?

solution wonk (not verified)

Thu, 10/15/2009 - 4:44pm

I agree with Major Khan but i would also like to add that the united states should have a strategy for the region. My input below.

The strategy in afghanistan should be a multi-national south asian force able to hold the peace and build a nation with us for decades.
This force should be able to go across the border between afghanistan and pakistan and fight AQ and taliban. This force should be able to do that because it would compromise of military personnel from pakistan and india and srilanka and bangladesh and china if willing. The force should be at 200,000 strong. The force will be large enough to implement the COIN strategy. The key thing that this force does is a step forward to the thought that india/pakistan should start considering themselves more of an ASEAN union where they can make progress as a region vs the competitive mentality that they have currently.

But how do we get both india and pakistan on-board. It is simple, we play that competitive mentality into offering carrots not as seperate pieces but together to the region. The terrorists inside pakistan not only pose a danger to pakistan (now) but also to india. The as is situation would be a continuation of the cross border terrorism in india and in border terrorism in pakistan.

The threat of putting all our eggs into one basket needs to be shown. If Pakistan doesn't come on-board then we will increase military co-operation with india on a very high level giving the pakistanis no choice to be part of the solution. India has to be waived the carrot of more military arms supplies, visas and business co-operation and nuclear co-operation to the stick of cutting of the co-operation that we have already and putting the indian economy at risk because us/india economies are very co-dependant.
There has to be many other ways we can strong arm these two countries in contributing troops and to the idea of joint counterinsurgency/anti-terrorism force. This force needs to be used as stepping stone towards creating a ASEAN union and economy.

The war in afghanistan has a seperatist more than a terrorist agenda. Pashtun populace is not represented and marginailized by both pakistan and afghan governments. Second leg of the strategy requires creating an pashtun government independent of hardcore taliban and allied with both afghan/pak central government. This is where Major Khan strategy comes in. We creat this central pockets of government like structures and keep it safe deep in pashtun territory.

This government should be able to sent representatives to both afghanistan/pakistan central government and be able to enforce law and order across the border regions. Law and order can be based on sharia law/tribal law whatever the pashtun populace wants.

The idea for the long-term being a creation of ASEAN union like the european union with strong democracies supporting and economically uplifting the weak. Not only united states but india and pakistan supporting afghanistan together.

The current strategy is bound to fail because it relies on pak military destroying taliban/AQ from the pakistani side. Its doing a half-ass job, because as long its doing a half-ass job we will be contributing money. They do not want to fight their own country-men and know that our appetite to stay in afghanistan is low. Pakistan military is defined by its conflicts with india and will funnel the money that we give to its military interest in fighting india. Once we leave they will go back to fighting proxy war in afghanistan and india via the taliban/AQ/Pak terrorist nexus. The truth is that the pakistan military cannot fight the taliban alone and there are not enough troops to implement the COIN strategy on the afghan and pakistan side. Its time they start to think of their democratic neighbours as allies instead of enemies.

We have to convince pakistan the only war worth fighting is the one within its border and india that it has to support pakistan's civilian government, military and better get involved. It should be a part of a greater regional strategy that eradicates terrorism by using the regional powers and our influence.

blert (not verified)

Thu, 10/15/2009 - 12:57pm

Finally, we have a winner.

Well put Major Khan.

Anonymous (not verified)

Wed, 10/14/2009 - 1:44pm

Few Inaccuracies..
If Afghanistan was never a country, was Pakistan ever a country...Geographies keep on changing..?
Empires are haunted by resourceless people ... Mongols are an example for that. Even Moghuls were far less resourced than the armies they defeated...
Though people are pushed by the poor socio econimoics, yet faith is largely a recruiter. The contours of Islamic extremism need to be revised, people like Sayed Qutub, Sayeed Nursi, origin of Takfiri Doctorine, Wahhabi expannsion..all these are not termonilogies and names..they are milestone to this state of affairs.
I agree with the local leadership and justice clause , however, establishing a mosque and FM radio and school remains a wishful suggestion.

shahid amir khan (not verified)

Tue, 10/13/2009 - 12:26pm

Maj Mehar Omar Khan has written an extremely articulate and thought provoking article,its a different approach by the author to resolve the issue in best possible manner.well done khan g.

ROSY (not verified)

Fri, 10/09/2009 - 1:40am

SO, as I see it... NOW Afghanistan is saying that unless we... America... do not continue to help them re-build their country... the Talaban will attack us...

Do you really think that the Talaban is being stopped from attacking us due to a poor country that has no contrubution to them... ANY any fashion...

Yet... we are being black=mailed... and going for it...

HEY... they do not need Afghanistan to attack us... they need nothing...

They are sitting in the comfort of their hills... picking off our kids one by one... laughing all the way...

I am sure we can expect another attack... I think they will make it a bigger slap in the face than the last one..9-11

Imagine... IT cost them NOTHING... we paid for the plane.. the people on the flight paid for the time... the company paid for the fuel...

AND... WE... AMERICAN's TRAINED the pilots...

Feel STUPID...??? I DO...

Not they draw us into a country where they can pick us off one by one...

AND place us in a position where we are trying to say... HEY... Afghanistan... we want to help you so you will be our friend... and not a friend of the Talaban... SO... Where does it stop... THIS is the poorest country in the World... and now we are stuck in the position of getting them out of the 5th century, at our expense... and the death our our kids... OR... the Talaban will take us...

I SAY... TALABAN... take your best shot...

Bring the kids home... protect the borders... and screw the NATA... BUILD those bombs... and say... HEY... THREATEN AMERICA..

NOT SURE WHAT we will do to you...


Scott Frazier (not verified)

Tue, 10/06/2009 - 3:34pm

The author has put together an extremely articulate and thought provoking article on this subject. On face value, it appears to pass the common sense test and begs the question why havent we tried this already? I believe the answer lies in details that are overlooked in this assessment and the assumptions that are made to support this perspective. To start with, the article highlights the flaws in viewing Afghanistan as a whole and instead advocates focusing coalition efforts at the "district level" to build a few model societies. At first glance, this approach sounds eerily familiar to the "strategic hamlet" program attempted in Vietnam. However given all of the execution failures of the program in Vietnam (i.e. inadequate planning and coordination, inadequate resources, an unrealistic timetable, problems with location and construction, and inadequate and falsified evaluation procedures), it is probably more useful to look at the authors approach in comparison to the similar British response to MNLA activities in Malaya from 1948-1960 which had limited success. In the British approach, the civilian population was isolated in "new villages". The British were able to stem the critical flow of material, information, and recruits from peasants to insurgents. The new settlements were guarded around-the-clock by police and were partially fortified. The British also tried to improve the quality of life in the villages by providing them with education, health services and homes with water and electricity. Unfortunately, the success achieved in Malaya would be difficult to replicate in Afghanistan for a number of important reasons that appear to be overlooked in the authors similar approach. The MNLA operated in a confined geographical area and were without external supporters which allowed the British to ultimately isolate them. The Taliban in Afghanistan are not so easily isolated from the population by either geography or support. Malay nationalists generally supported the British efforts because they promised independence in a Malay state and if the British efforts failed, an MNLA victory would imply a state dominated by ethnic Chinese, and possibly a puppet state of Beijing or Moscow. The coalitions efforts in Afghanistan dont appear to have such wide spread support from the general populace who is both fragmented and has vastly differing ideas of what constitutes an acceptable end state. Many Malayans had fought side by side with the British against the Japanese occupation in World War II, including Chin Peng which gave them a foundation of mutual trust and respect. This is in stark contrast to Afghanistan where the population still remembers how Afghan rebels often operated as proxies to battle on behalf of the United States against the Soviet Union and were swiftly abandoned when the Soviets left. This factor of trust between the locals and the British arguably gave the British an advantage over U.S. led NATO coalition in both building trust at the governance level and working together to establish honest, transparent, and most importantly enduring civilian institutions. With all of these considerations, the notion that we can simply pick a few districts in Afghanistan, give them honest and polished leadership, a transparent/efficient court system, and build a model community from a population that may not see the success of these communities as in their best interest is a difficult proposition to support. The final consideration is that if the authors approach is adopted in whole and it is implemented in concert with the current Afghan National government, it is highly likely to be rejected by the average Afghan because the promised reforms wont materialize amid the corruption and bureaucratic inefficiency associated with the current government.

Scott Frazier
CGSC 10-01

Hamza Ashraf (not verified)

Tue, 10/06/2009 - 1:19pm

Weldone Major sahib. Maj Mehar Omar Khan is my uncle and he has given a valuable approach for the solution of Afghanistan. He is very intelligent. Major Khan I always pray for your success.

Seaworthy (not verified)

Tue, 10/06/2009 - 10:58am

oldpapajoe - FrederickII's aphorism might aptly be interpreted by Gen. McChrystal to mean: you cant protect everything equally?

Which brings-up the question: what will be the General's criteria for determining which areas to defend and will politics play a driving role insisted upon by Kabul?

Just a quick thought from an old hand at risk management. :)

oldpapajoe (not verified)

Tue, 10/06/2009 - 10:30am

Very interesting piece---classic economy of force analysis and focusing on what is important and achievable. As Fredick the Great reminds us: He who defends everywhere, defends no where.

Major Khan has more knowledge of the culture, the region and the problem than most observers we have heard from in this forum. For "the combat experience is all that counts" crowd, he has that too, for most of his life and with the same enemy in the NWFP. Despite the anecdotal bases for his experiences, to challenge or belittle his perspective is simply "more of the same" in terms of what the problems are that the region faces. In other words, I submit many of the critical comments encapsulate the problem with the western attitude toward the problem. Major Khan provides a detailed approach to the problem that eschews easy answers and western nation building. We would be very wise to take insight from his well-informed advice.

John T. Kuehn, Ph.D.
CDR USN (retired)

Tipu Sultan (not verified)

Tue, 10/06/2009 - 1:23am

The suggestions of this officer can certainly lead to the temporary solution of Afghanistan while, he gives a hint to US policy makers to find and make an exit policy.
The US policy makers can build further on these suggestions in following manner:-
- They should contemplate their measure of effectiveness by establishing model villages and running them properly under uncorrupt leadership (which they can find in these towns/ cities. They may appoint a person with sufficient skills to run the town like a mayor or they can create a team which can run the city/ town). The influence of central government should be curtailed to Kabul only, making it responsible only for handling of major issues like foreign policy of Afghanistan etc. The governance at city/ model town levels should focus on wining the hearts and minds of people.
- Once these models towns/ cities have been established and secured, an effective media campaign should be launched by USA and her partner countries projecting what they have done to a piece of dirt/ establishment of model towns. This will also harness public support from people at home by the US and its allies.
- Trust once established with populace of the town, should not be lost by US and its allies, and no agenda should be pursued by some hard liner Christian community, working underhand to spread her agenda in Afghanistan. It is likely to alienate the hard liner Muslim extremists, who are looking for any such opportunity to exploit on.
-Meanwhile a small but potent ANA be build, which should have sufficient resources to hold on these towns against Talibans/ Insurgent attacks.
- This will be a great time for US to pullout her troops from Afghanistan, with a big face to show to the world as well as to its own public. While the ANA should be supported militarily by keeping a considerably small but potent US contingent in the vicinity of these towns.
- All major border towns should be selected for this experiment, and countries like Pakistan, Iran and Tajikistan be asked to get economically involved so as to build and run them with their money and skilled labour.
- Such measure simultaneously should also be taken in FATA by Pakistan. I will significantly draw the population away from the clutches of Taliban's/ insurgents and all those who want to lead a better life will move to these cities/ model towns and will love to hold them with their last blood as their only hope of a better future and a hope to survive.
This is an outline plan which can be carved further by the US policy makers.

jordan (not verified)

Fri, 10/02/2009 - 3:07pm

One missing piece: the responsibility of the Afghan people to decide what direction they want their country to go in. Granted they're a complex mix of tribes, cultures and ethnicities, but at some point, they must make a uniform decision, not us.

I understand the problems with illiteracy, poverty and lack of communications, but there should be some way to convey America's position to the populace, not just our military's, not just Obama's, but Americans writ large. No one can speak for all, but for more than a few, the following applies.

We will watch our soldiers court and protect the Afghan populace with aid, development and security for only so long. If time drags on, and Afghans show no signs of recognition that their country is imperiled and that we are throwing them a golden life preserver, it tends to dampen our enthusiasm. If the Afghan people remain oblivious to the fact that America's focused attention today is their only hope for a decent life, it makes the American people want to say, "The hell with you." Of course our soldiers are far too professional and prideful to do so, but the rest of us are not.

America does have vital strategic counterterrorism interests in Afghanistan and Pakistan, it's true, but we also have other means to deal with terrorism without them. Afghans do not.

There needs to be Afghani recognition of this historically unparalleled gift being offered to them by the American people. There needs to be some GD appreciation for the blood sacrifice and precious treasure we are throwing at that country, despite their having hosted and enabled our enemies. That recognition needs to be manifested in concerted actions to support the coalition, rejection of the Taliban, and refusal to allow future AQ inroads. Educated or not, I think the Afghan population is capable of understanding those truths, and deciding where they stand.

To put it simply, Americans are highly unlikely to put up with one KIA after another, on top of a continual stream of criticisms and invectives against U.S. operations from Afghanis, their government or even Pakistan. We are not masochists. We're not interested in running around pleading for everyone's hearts and minds, and begging on our knees for forgiveness with every accidental casualty. But we will give them a chance to reject extremist violence, cooperate with U.S. efforts, and get started on a pathway into the modern world. Given the region's rich history and the enormous capabilities of it's people, as well as the contributions a freer Afghanistan could make to the world, I hope they make the right choice.

Interesting read, and I think some great ideas. His call for fewer troops with greater impact aligns with what many, including myself, have advocated....get our troops off of the big FOBs and out where the people the villages. That's where the enemy is. We, too, ought to be out there interacting with the people, assisting in their protection, and in developing their communities. ANSF would have the lead, of course.

The good major also seems to imply, by citing the notable differences between Pashtuns and everyone else, that the country we refer to as "Afghanistan" ought not be thought of in that way nor should it be dealt with in that manner. Instead, we ought to deal with the seperate groups within that region, perhaps as autonomous provinces with a weak central government (if has a central government at all). Just my thoughts.


Fri, 10/02/2009 - 1:48pm

Major sahib is very articulate and highly intelligent, but the idea that the Pakhtun face is essential means exactly what? This sounds like a sales pitch for the latest ISI project, which is to get a friendly govt in Afghanistan via this route instead of relying on the traditional taliban (I am not saying they shouldnt have this project, thats their job). But how exactly is this Pashtun face to be put in place? and does the ISI have a candidate for the job or is Karzai the person? What will be the constitutional structure of this new government? How will it be different from the current setup? The devil, as usual, is in the details. Also, how exactly will the inkspots be defended if the taliban have free reign in the surrounding districts? Finally, why can't this strategy be overlaid on the CURRENT afghan regime with minor or major corrections at the ruling level? It seems to me that this is great news in the sense that this may mean the ISI is now willing to abandon the hardcore jihadis in exchange for whatever deal Anne Patterson has cut (money, indian concessions?, a role for some of their favorites? who are those people?) but again, the devil is in the details...

Rob Thornton (not verified)

Fri, 10/02/2009 - 12:43pm

This is where we see the great value of the SWJ. It has provided a forum where foreign leaders like Major Khan can provide us with perspectives that are enlightening and clearly spoken.