Another Way in Afghanistan

Another Way in Afghanistan:

Overcoming the Current Flawed Strategy

by John Ubaldi

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All too often, the United States tries to impart a Jeffersonian style democracy into regions of the world which have had no history of democracy or into a complex tribal region of similar circumstance. If the United States Government wishes to be successful in Afghanistan, then it needs to reexamine its current Afghan strategy, understand traditional Afghan governance, and pursue a federal system of governing. Both the Bush and Obama administrations implemented flawed strategies in Afghanistan by focusing U.S. efforts on establishing a strong central government in Kabul as a way to build a cohesive national government. Both administrations failed/fail to understand the complexities of the Afghan tribal structure that resent a strong central government. Ultimately, Afghanistan needs a central government built around a federal system with strong autonomous regions.

For the United States to pursue an effective counterinsurgency strategy the center of gravity needs to be on the civilian population. The focal point of U.S. strategy should be in establishing a federal system of governing in Afghanistan, by centering our focus of efforts on the tribal structure and building up governance at the local level. The Afghan people don't want the return of the Taliban, but they represent something the central government in Kabul has not brought them; security and the end of corruption. As brutal as the Taliban where they were fair and acted in a swift manner, unlike the corrupt governmental officials in Kabul. The tribal structure will act as the governing body in the local areas, they will provide the security. We just have to show that we have their best interests at hand and will not leave them to the chaos that we did before. If we are to be successful in Afghanistan, we as allies need to pursue a successful counterinsurgency strategy which focuses on the tribal level.

Download the Full Article: Another Way in Afghanistan

Master Gunnery Sergeant John Ubaldi is a non-commissioned officer in the Marine Corps Reserves who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Currently, he is assigned as the Operations Chief for 3D Civil Affairs Group at Camp Pendleton California, and he is CEO of Military Briefing Book, an online news & consulting service.

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Comments

Your article brings to puts forward a potential solution to a problem that exists in many regions of Afghanistan, as I understand it. While my direct Afghanistan is a bit stale (most recently deployed in 2006) several guest lecturers during my CGSC education discussed this problem. The problem in question is the lack of performance of the Afghanistan government below the national level. While I understand the national level government has its share of problems, there exists a great disparity of effort below the national level across much of Afghanistan.

This derives from the US / ISAF efforts historical focus on the central government with limited effort directly targeted at lower levels. I understand this focus is slowly changing in most regions but now has the difficult problem of having to compete with Taliban control at the district / tribal level. Your assertion that efforts primarily focused at the federal level due to a lack of understanding or awareness of the traditional government forms in Afghanistan has much merit and seems a data point in a greater issue.

The larger issue is the US tendency to force a democratic form of government on a system without concern for the natural propensity of the system. It seems a thorough understanding of the existing structures is needed prior to injecting change in the system. A better understanding of the propensities and traditions relevant to the region would allow the assisted development of a government system palatable to all parties involved. In this instance, it appears the US effort would need to adjust off the path it is on in order to better align with the traditional forms of government in Afghanistan. In doing this, the US / ISAF should enable a government that would achieve "success" and have staying power due to tribal and / or individual buy-in.