Reflections from the Valley’s Edge: A Year with the Pashtuns in the Heartland of the Taliban

Interview with Daniel R. Green

Motto:The ability to simultaneously have an affinity for and sensitivity to the people and their concerns while aggressively pursuing insurgent fighters has produced a unique type of Soldier, Sailor, Airman and Marine; adroit at waging war, they are equally capable at building local councils, constructing schools, and mediating tribal disputes”. Brig. Gen. H.R. McMaster

You have extensive experience on the ground at a PRT in Afghanistan. Does counterinsurgency work?

Absolutely. I think counterinsurgency works based on my experience and is better than any other alternative strategy. When I say counterinsurgency I do not mean only counterterrorism direct action raids (although that is a part of it), or only clearing operations (although that is an element of it). What I mean is that a sustained population protection posture that enlists the community in its own defense, and that wants to be protected, is, on average, more successful than any other approach.

Who from the classic COIN practitioners influenced your philosophy of countering an insurgency the most?

I would say that David Galula’s books were incredibly influential to me. I was reading Galula’s books, The Pacification of Algeria and Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice, when I was in Fallujah in 2007 and a lot of the things he talked about were being implemented on the ground. Once Coalition and Iraqi forces started to provide population protection for the city in a sustainable way that also enlisted community residents, it had a major, immediate, and palpable effect. Besides creating a physical distance between the insurgency and the people it had a more important impact in creating a psychological break for them as well where there was hope for a new and safer future. And I was reading about the same thing in Galula’s book on Algeria that widely explained what we were also doing in Fallujah. Bernard Fall was also highly influential for me. One of his insights was that the fighting element of the insurgency was simply “a tactical appendage of a far vaster political contest and that, no matter how expertly it is fought by competent and dedicated professionals, it cannot possibly make up for the absence of a political rationale”. He helped me understand that we needed to find a counter-political rationale to defeat the insurgency and to advance a political strategy that encouraged the people to support their government, that we needed a positive, enduring political program in order to secure the loyalty of the people to their government.

Are their broad historical experiences still valid today?

Yes, I think so. One of the great principles in this type of work is that humility and humbleness are important when it comes to analyzing a situation on its own terms. But having a conceptual toolbox of past experiences also available to you is also important so you can try alternative and possibly competing approaches. There is no silver bullet in counter-insurgency and you cannot simply take the lessons from one insurgency and apply them directly to another. But it is extremely helpful to have these things in your mind.

You can’t kill your way out to victory” became the hallmark of a cultural organization that until 2007 was perceived as being too conventionally minded and too kinetic. Has the U.S. Military succeeded in balancing this culture of being too enemy-centric and becoming more comfortable with the drinking-tea side of the spectrum?

The idea of balance between kinetic and non-kinetic approaches is very important but we also need to appreciate how the insurgency fights, so it could be predominantly kinetic or non-kinetic although it is constantly changing. I would think that in general we are far better now than we have ever been in conducting counterinsurgency operations. But the roots of reform are very shallow and the institutions of the U.S. Military, State Department and USAID are still very much focused on conventional warfare, conventional diplomacy or conventional development. You cannot just overcome the institutional interests and their way of looking at the world even if we had a decade of war. However, I am hopeful that some of the lessons of the past decade will be institutionalized. The real challenge is that, regretfully, the central tendencies of our bureaucracies and their old ways of thinking only adapted to the unique demands of insurgency through either failing, a slow evolution based upon individual-level lessons learned, or through simply good leadership that took a while to emerge.

What makes an effective expeditionary civilian counterinsurgent effective on the ground?

You have to have a strong leadership presence, a natural curiosity about the population and their concerns, an engaging personality, a good smile, in good physical shape, you have to be open minded, conceptually complex in order to understand the human terrain, familiar with small unit tactics, and have a background in political and social science because, at the end of the day, you have to develop an understanding of how politics at all levels works. And keep in mind the words of Julien Bryan quoted in “Britain and the Arabs: A study of Fifty years” (John Bagot Glubb): “when you break bread with people and share their troubles and joys, the barriers of language, of politics and of religion soon vanish. I liked them and they liked me, that was all that mattered”. 

How crucial is understanding local politics and leaders that are the key centers of gravity in their communities?

You absolutely have to understand local politics in order to navigate and leverage factions, family connections, tribal ties and personal friendships. This is vital to understand. For example, you need to be able to discern the dynamics of tribes and factions and the sources of conflict the insurgents exploit to separate the people from their government. You have to be comfortable with talking to tribal leaders, to genuinely want to understand their needs, the history of their problems, and how their relationships work. You have to work simultaneously to have a good relationship with both the leaders and the population. If there is a soldier at a checkpoint, for example, he is the reality for most of the local population about what the U.S. government is all about.  And sometimes, how you are perceived in the eyes of the local population is more important than how you are seen by local politicians. However, having a good relationship with the local population is not the only goal. At the same time, it is highly important to improve governance and to limit the predatory behavior of local government officials as part of a political strategy to defeat the insurgency.

You are a critic of the nation-building models and theoretical constructs that have been used in these wars and were largely developed in the safety of national capitals. Could you describe the organizational mindset or framework that sent on the ground development officials, policymakers and soldiers unprepared for the task of counterinsurgency?

All of our institutions are oriented around conducting conventional warfare, conventional diplomacy, conventional intelligence gathering, and conventional development.  We have lost some of the frontier and immigrant mindset that has made our country great. The problem is that our officials are products of their conventional experiences and they process new challenges based upon this familiar institutional framework. We have created these theoretical constructs and tried to implement them using the bureaucratic structures and experiences of our government that were acquired in the well ordered world of traditional, formal, state-to state relations. We tend to throw money at problems, to have a force protection mindset and to be risk adverse in terms of putting our personnel in harm’s way and by doing that sometimes we prevent solutions (large FOB vs. living among the population), and we tend to embrace high technology solutions. We have a short-term mentality for our approaches instead of long-term solutions for long-term problems. For example, because of our surface level and generally simplistic understanding of Afghan history, early in the war, we supported  a warlord strategy in many parts of the country which totally alienated the population since the warlords were often corrupt and abusive.  This decision greatly contributed to the resurgence of the Taliban in 2006.

How critical is the development part (robust good governance, reconstruction efforts) in the counterinsurgency spectrum?

Good governance is essential. But good governance is not only about having a competent mayor or a city council. It depends also on the orientation of the population towards the insurgency. Do they see them-as liberators, freedom fighters or enemies? If the population is oriented against the insurgency an approach focused on providing good governance and reconstruction efforts could be very effective. If the population is opposed to you and doesn’t want you there, it won’t work as well and may be impossible. 

How do you assess the US efforts in creating sustainable self defense communities?

It is an excellent idea. They work very effectively, they are legitimate in the eyes of the community, locally oriented, they provide an employment opportunity for the male population and consolidate the coherence of the community against the insurgency. At the end of the day, the idea of having local communities participate in their own security could become the model for a long term strategy of protecting Afghans.

How do you win the loyalty, the support of the local people? How do you earn their trust?

A lot depends upon how and why you invaded the country.  If you are seen as liberators then you already have a wealth of goodwill to capitalize on.  The crucial element going forward, however, is enlisting the whole community in good governance, development, and security efforts.  I think it is essential to quickly grow a locally-based, bottom-up government as well as a set of security services and not be hijacked by predatory officials or officials of convenience.  It is essential to privilege your manning in the country so that people with an affinity for the local population are empowered.  It is also essential to craft a political strategy that prompts the people to support their government as well as marginalizes the insurgency. It is also important to resource this completely and for the long-term. 

What kind of development and reconstruction projects do you prioritize? How do you avoid creating a culture of entitlement?

In many respects, we exported aspects of our own culture of entitlement to Afghanistan and Iraq. Their behavior is as much a reflection of us as it is a commentary on the local population.  I believe you have to be as closely organized as you can to the insurgency you face which is to say locally-based, long-term, blending civil and military approaches seamlessly and tightly organized from the village-level up to the national level.  This is completely contrary to how our bureaucracies are organized but it will, in my view, work better than any other alternative.

In your experience, under what conditions would a community or a village choose a side? Which are their core driving motivations?

I think it all begins with the strategic orientation of the population to the foreign counter-insurgent.  Are we seen as liberators or something else?  Additionally, how do the locals see the insurgents?  In Afghanistan, the population knows what the insurgents can offer and we are seen as liberators.  That being said, local communities are very pragmatic.  They don’t like the Taliban, but if we aren’t going to help them defend themselves, they will sit out the conflict.  We have to enlist the community in its own defense with locally-based, well paid, vetted, and accountable security forces.  We may have to play the role of tribal mediator and even conduct some village-level politics to make sure the local forces are representative, legitimate, and relatively honest.  We can do it, we are doing it, and it is working.

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Comments

I just finished Mr. Green's book. I liked it and look forward to reading his next one. The Valley's Edge got me to thinking a lot and I have some questions and comments.

The thing that really stood out for me was that the Taliban was depicted in the book as sort of a faceless force. They were there, they did things and took advantage of situations but they didn't have names and exactly how they took advantage of things wasn't spelled out. They were certainly part of the political environment but detailed info about them wasn't provided as it was for other players. Mr. Green, was that part of your purview as a political officer? Were you allowed access to info about them? I find it puzzling that they weren't included in descriptions of the political scene as the other non-Taliban players were.

In several places in the book various spec ops forces killed the wrong people to the disadvantage of the war effort. Something similar was also described in Owen West's The Snake Eaters. Mr. Green, could you elaborate on how badly this affected the war effort in Uruzgan in 2005-2006 and is it still happening?

A thing that struck me was every organization in the province seemed to be doing its own thing without much reference to what everybody else was doing. PRT did its thing, Spec Ops did theirs, Green Berets did theirs, seed distributors did theirs etc. Mr. Green, am I getting the wrong idea or was there not much coordination?

Early in the book, mention was made of concern for the safety of a Mullah who was making radio broadcasts on behalf of the gov because the Taliban threatened to kill him. Then a few pages later this Mullah is killed by the Taliban. That seemed to me to be a disaster for the gov and a great victory for the Taliban. How seriously were the threats against him taken and did people see keeping him alive as something important before his death?

The Kabul segment, with all the multiple organizations and teams and ambassadors seemed to describe a hopeless bureaucratic attempt to do with organization and process what is best done by talented, interested people staying on the scene for a long time. But we won't go the good people on the spot for a long time route. Am I getting that right or wrong? My impression is buttressed by your writing in the book that ability to get things done was largely the result of individual personalities.

One of the most important things said in the book was that "Our country has become a theoretical empire..." Mr. Green goes on to say that political elites make their plans in the safety of national capitols and don't care much for what happens on the ground nor for history. That observation is profoundly important and goes beyond small war fighting. Charles Murray says much the same thing in his latest book. The elites just don't know much about the actual world and neither know nor care that they don't. (Mr. Green, I hope I have paraphrased what you wrote accurately.)

Mr. Green, I have one last question. You say the ALP program in Uruzgan is working well. Are the various efforts better coordinated in the province now than they seemed to be in 2005-2006? If so, is that one of the reasons for the success of the ALP? If not, is the program succeeding in spite of that?

Hi Mark,

There are plenty of "obvious evidentiary, causative link[s] between the assertions made about 'success' and the actions of second-party counterinsurgents." Just because you haven't found them doesn't mean they didn't happen. Here is an article I wrote for the British journal Small Wars & Insurgencies about The Fallujah Awakening which may be useful to you in your research:

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/09592318.2010.518860

There is a similar article by Bill Mullen in Joint Forces Quarterly which may prove fruitful.

If this isn't sufficient, you can also read my book which will be coming out from the U.S. Naval Institute Press titled "Fallujah Redux: The Anbar Awakening and the Defeat of Al-Qaeda." I am c-authoring it with the Marine Lieutenant Colonel who was in charge of the city of Fallujah in 2007, and was recently selected for Brigadier General and, while obviously using Operational Design, facilitated, coordinated, led, and participated in the application of a population-centric campaign in the city of Fallujah. It only worked, of course, because the population was ready for it and it would not likely have worked in 2005-2006 when the Sunni Arabs felt that the insurgents were better than the Americans. I address most of the many factors contributing to the 2007 Fallujah Pacification in my longer Small Wars and Insurgiences article. It was never exclusively about just doing "hearts and minds" although that was an aspect of it nor was it just about killing a bunch of people, although that was a component of it as well. The real key is the disposition of the population and it had clearly changed by 2007 and other approaches to defeating the insurgency became more useful.

As assertion of having been in Iraq in 2007-2008 doesn't necessarily mean you understand what was going on in Fallujah. Like all of us who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan repeatedly it would be useful to know (1) what was the nature of your job, (2) how much did your job entail working with the Iraqis/Afghans on a daily basis, and (3) what experiences in either Iraq or Afghanistan provided an amplifying example to compare your tour against.

I remember when I was doing my dissertation for a Ph.D. in Political Science, struggling to come up with a topic that would help me stand-out from the crowd. Sometimes my colleagues seemed to diminish reality in order to force it into an academic construct that neither explained what really happened or proved useful to future planning. Of course, such inchoate behavior is never helpful.

I also remember how academic theory, while sometimes useful, was no substitute for other experiences well within the vein of scholarly research such as (1) interviews with key participants (e.g. Iraqis, Marines, other U.S. military personnel), (2) participant-observer analysis (e.g. I worked as a Tribal and Political Engagement Officer with the U.S. Navy and met with most of the key tribal leaders in the area and certainly all the Fallujah municipal leaders), (3) stuyding primary documents (e.g.Operational Design documents, After Action Reports, SITREPs, Intel Reports, etc.) among other efforts, (4) following up an area you've studied by follow-on interviews with key participants.

I wish you the best in you dissertation and if you ever make it to Afghanistan, stop by my base in the south, perhaps I'll be in but I might be working at a Village Stability Platform applying a balanced approach of kinetic and non-kinetic strategies against the Taliban and establishing plenty of "obvious evidentiary, causative link[s] between the assertions made about 'success' and the actions of second-party counterinsurgents."

Sincerely,
Dan

Daniel, how would you describe the differences between COIN delivered by external entities (ISAF-US partners) and one delivered by the host nation government?

No matter how we like to dress it up the locals in AFG are not fooled. They easily discern that few parts of the COIN are being delivered by GiROA. An attack on an arm of GiROA is really an attack on the US and its Coalition partners. True, that stage may be about to begin.

But what is the difference in your mind and how does it affect success?Would the level of insurgent activity change. Perhaps after the majority of Coalition forces have withdrawn we will find out. This is not an organic COIN program i.e. implemented from and by the host nation government – not in the eyes of the locals anyway.

Look forward to your reply.

Thanks
Jason

Hi Jason,

Great questions, let me see if what I've experienced can be useful. I think the crucial challenge is actually enlisting the local population in its own defense while facilitating village-based governance (shuras). I think "external entities" can do a lot but their effects will be temporary without local buy-in and a sizable, Afghan holding force. I think an Afghan-delivered COIN strategy can probably work now, but I think it works because we are working very closely with them. I think some mix of a Coalition Forces/Afghan approach works the best as long as there is a glide-path to eventual Afghan control. Perhaps an example would be useful.

In the province I am working in, we have a pretty robust Afghan Local Police (ALP) program. All the ALP are recruited locally from the villages they will protect, are vetted and trained by SOF and the Afghan Government, and receive a regular salary and any equipment they need. They are purely defensively-oriented and man checkpoints in an around their own villages. Because we employ military-aged males through this program, we are helping to eliminate a ready pool of recruits for the Taliban. Additionally, because the ALP are only trained once a local shura vets them, you are getting improved security through effective village governance. This approach helps to eliminate many aspects of the Taliban's village political strategy. Our role in all of this varies. We certainly train the ALP and help with logistical support. We do shaping operations against the Taliban through partnered raids with Afghan forces. We sometimes facilitate the travel of the Afghan National Police (ANP) chief in charge of the district, that the ALP report to, around the district he is responsible for protecting. We sometimes help to fix their trucks, share strategy, and coach, teach, and mentor their leadership. We also provide some construction supplies for check points, medical help, etc but increasingly the Afghans are doing it all on their own.

I think the days of us doing everything on our own are pretty much gone. The Afghans have more professionalized security forces that are also larger and, with the ALP, we are now organized as the Taliban and defeating them on their own terms: village-based, long-term, blending civil-military approaches relatively seamlessly, and enlisting the community in its own defense. I hope this helps!

Sincerely,
Dan

Hi Daniel,

Thank you for your reply.

First, I am well aware of what it feels like to live in a village and watch violence drop significantly; however, the immediate feelings are often mutually or at least partially exclusive to the actual causation and correlation.

Second, I think that one must be willing to ask tough questions in order to examine success/failure. For example, currently in Iraq, based off collection from the UNHCR, over 10% of the population is either internally displaced or refugees.

As for my opinion, in retrospect, one can argue that second-party counter-insurgency works to temporarily suppress or pacify an area, but it does not provide the long term structural changes or growth that we seek. Moreover, the second and third order effects are often worse than if we had not intervened at all. Back to Fallujah, I wonder how many of those refugees are combat veterans now fighting in Syria?

When the final analysis is done, I think that we’ll find that we maximized our efforts through about June 2003 in Iraq. Regime change was about the best that we could give them. As far as A’stan goes, I have no idea.

Mike

. How many civilians were displaced internally from their homes from 2005-07? How many came back? Several thousand came back, not to pre-war levels but a lot.

b. How many civilians from Fallujah fled Iraq from 2005-07? Where did they go? How many returned? Well, the military forces in charge of the city and surrounding area of Fallujah in 2007 can't control everything but when you see the violence go down significantly in part due to a population security campaign in the city and a tribal-partnership strategy in the countryside I think it's very encouraging. I'm not sure what other approach would have worked in 2007.

c. How many civilians were killed or injured in Fallujah as a result of conflict from 2005-07? As I understand it the military didn't want to "take" the city as the battles for Fallujah eventually became but wanted a softer approach. What approach should have been used in 2007?

d. How did the remaining civilians in Fallujah fare after 2007? The numbers of civilians increased as people returned home due to improved security. Not all of them did but most did and that's pretty good.

e. How many civilian leaders who formed the Sons of Iraq were/are assassinated/targeted by both government and anti-government groups? We didn't have sons of Iraq in Fallujah, that was closer to Baghdad, we had more of the Anbar Awakening. From what I've been able to follow stateside not many or perhaps even none have been killed in the immediate Fallujah area.

f. Today, is the average civilian in Fallujah represented by the government? The local government was doing quite well when we departed in 2007 and from what I understand it continues to do well.

g. Today, is the average civilian in Fallujah find employment and opportunity in Iraq? Perhaps not as well as before the war but better than in 2004-2005.

h. Today, is the average civilian in Fallujah continuing to rebel against the government? Not against local government although there is some al-Qaeda presence.

i. How much did Fallujah cost the United States taxpayer? What was the return on investment? Many lives, but we eventually got it right. The military does the best it can with the political guidance it gets.

j. How did Fallujah’s infrastructure fare to the tens of thousands of pounds of ordinance drop on it? What was the return on investment of this action? Well, we didn't drop too much of that in Fallujah in 2007. Again, the military didn't want to take Fallujah the hard way as I understand it but it was forced to do so. Good questions but I'm not sure what alternative approach to our policies of population protection and tribal engagement in 2007 would have worked. Lots of good questions, many of which the military either can't affect or only can do so minimally.

We will fight the next war more to your exacting standards...however, since it deals with people we still won't get it perfect. It's not about absolutes but tendencies and we eventually got it right. What alternative strategies should we have used in 2007?

Hi Daniel,

I think that the frustration in your argument falls along these two quotes,

1. “I think counterinsurgency works based on my experience and is better than any other alternative strategy. When I say counterinsurgency I do not mean only counterterrorism direct action raids (although that is a part of it), or only clearing operations (although that is an element of it). What I mean is that a sustained population protection posture that enlists the community in its own defense, and that wants to be protected, is, on average, more successful than any other approach.”

2. “I was also privileged to witness Fallujah change in 2007 and see it go from 750 security incidents in March of 2007 to less than 80 in December which gave me another experience to compare my Afghanistan tours against.”

During the same time period (Mar-Dec 2007), median home prices in the United States dropped from $262,600 to $227,700 (a). While this information is significant, it does not tell us what happened, why, or what approach worked or did not work. Looking at this dramatic drop does not give us any insight into derivatives or sub-prime loans.

If we want to look at Fallujah in a holistic manner, then I would suggest at least addressing these factors:

a. How many civilians were displaced internally from their homes from 2005-07? How many came back?

b. How many civilians from Fallujah fled Iraq from 2005-07? Where did they go? How many returned?

c. How many civilians were killed or injured in Fallujah as a result of conflict from 2005-07?

d. How did the remaining civilians in Fallujah fare after 2007?

e. How many civilian leaders who formed the Sons of Iraq were/are assassinated/targeted by both government and anti-government groups?

f. Today, is the average civilian in Fallujah represented by the government?

g. Today, is the average civilian in Fallujah find employment and opportunity in Iraq?

h. Today, is the average civilian in Fallujah continuing to rebel against the government?

i. How much did Fallujah cost the United States taxpayer? What was the return on investment?

j. How did Fallujah’s infrastructure fare to the tens of thousands of pounds of ordinance drop on it? What was the return on investment of this action?

The answers to these questions might suggest to some that there are better approaches.

(a) http://www.census.gov/const/uspricemon.pdf

This sentence of Mr. Green really struck me "We have lost some of the frontier and immigrant mindset that has made our country great." Back in those days, we could do these small wars. The small war in the Philippines was fought by guys who were from the frontier Army. The small wars between WWI and WWII were fought by guys who knew the frontier Army guys. Then that generation passed and we haven't done so well since.

Anyway Mr. Green seems a very sensible fellow and I was very impressed by what he has to say. I guess I'll have to place my book order too.

He probably has undercut his case in the eyes of some people (you know who you are GG) by saying Galula is useful but I can never understand why people object to that. If a guy who has been there and done that says something is useful, it's useful.

A compliment to Mr. Manea on his series of interviews. They are worth compiling into a Small War pamphlet of their own.

You might be right there Carl. How would we fight if stripped of technological and asset superiority - back to the bare minimum? Think about our pioneering ancestors. Separated from their Colonial base of money, power and equipment, especially as supply lines were stretched, the pioneers had to adapt very quickly with minimal resources to survive the environmental and physical terrain challenges let alone any kinetic engagement from local antagonists.

In the West we are so spoilt for wealth, technology and complex solutions that many of us have forgotten our ability to be adaptable and resourceful. If there is one thing I’ve learnt from working in two war zones and leading groups up the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea, it’s the simple things that get you; like the habits of life when operating low profile outside-the-wire or not drinking enough water even though you are wearing $500 trekking boots. It’s the small things that have a big impact. Simplicity, not complexity, is the key when it comes to asymmetrical strategy, operations and tactics. The post Afghanistan conflict environment, regardless of whether it is counter terrorism, counter radicalisation or stability operations, is going to require more simplistic driven resourcefulness than ever before. This probably looks like a small teams approach with a light footprint in sensitive environments. A very clinical operational style that rewards the simple in places where we may not be at war but if we curl-back then non-state actors will manipulate and exploit the vacant terrain to our severe expense down the track.

We seek comfort in what is complex and yet we see intellectual weakness in the simple. Certainly, like to think we have evolved considerably and unrecognisably since our pioneering ancestors. Oscar Wilde wrote to a friend saying “I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” In fact being able to see the simple beyond the haze of complexity takes intellectual rigour and courage to make the case in a group and yet highly effective when executed.

I've been trying to figure why the modern military doesn't seem as adaptable as the old military. You have hit on something I didn't think of (what else is new), modern machines and technology. In the old days, they had to figure it out. Now everybody screams for a machine to do it, let somebody else do the thinking. Need some intel? You don't have to learn the language so you can talk to people or send out some patrols, we'll send up a drone or and pluck phone calls from the ether. That maybe is worse than not knowing what is going on because the machines blind you from your ignorance. If you don't know you don't know anything, there is no need to adapt so you can know.

Another disadvantage modern tech, airplanes, gives us is the ability to get to and from the conflict area quickly. You can rotate people in and out easily, which makes them happy but means almost nobody sticks around long enough to know what going on. The Army probably wouldn't have left Pershing in the Philippines for 3 years if there had been airplanes around.

Modern comm tech helps kill imagination because the higher ups can watch people closely and shut them down easily.

Small wars, in my forever a civilian view, require adaptability, imagination and hanging around for a long time. Modern tech militates against all three.

P.S. I've always wanted to go on the Kokoda track. What group do you guide for?

Octavian missed adding that Daniel Green went onto serve in the US Embassy, Kabul 2009-2011 and it is worth reading the interview alongside the reviews here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Valleys-Edge-Pashtuns-Heartland/product-review...

I noted one reviewer highlighted this: 'My favorite anecdote involved Mr. Green's return to Uruzgan in 2011. After spending a year there in 2006 he kept in touch via email and knew things had not really improved. He was however aghast when he learned that after nine years of US led intervention that Uruzgan still has only 3 of its authorized 89 judges working. With no law, there is no order or stability and therefore the Taliban will continue to exploit the lack of local political, economic, and security (police & army) strength to bide their time and continue to use terror tactics to win the day'.

One wonders how history will compare the value of the diplomats / PRT in Afghanistan today with the - sometimes rosy - Imperial India era equivalents, the Political Agents. There is a relevant SWC thread on Political Agents, The Role of the British Political Officer on the North West Frontier: http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showthread.php?t=7518

There's also a SWC thread Socio-Political Assessment of Uruzgan Province: http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showthread.php?t=9756

I will now consider buying Daniel's book!

Is Daniel Green a disruptive thinker?

Gian,

I doubt it, but it seems he likes the Kool Aid...

Mark

Hi Mark,

It's not so much "drinking the Kool Aid" as much as I've focused on an area of Afghanistan for quite a while (2005-2006, 2009-2010, 2012) and seen a number of the approaches people have traditionally advocated either not work, fail miserably, or exacerbate the situation.

I was also privileged to witness Fallujah change in 2007 and see it go from 750 security incidents in March of 2007 to less than 80 in December which gave me another experience to compare my Afghanistan tours against. My general argument is that a balance between kinetic and non-kinetic approaches is what is usually required. I don't think for a minute that the tribes in Al-Anbar came over to our side because we became more focused on "hearts and minds" although it helped nor do I think they came over because we killed a lot of them. I think the truth is somewhere in between but shifting as conditions changed. Many of the strategies I've seen used in Afghanistan are (1) use warlords, (2) direct action missions, (3) lots of clearing operations, (4) importing security forces from outside the area. The funny thing is, the Afghan Local Police program we are using in many parts of the country has a mix of many of these strategies but the real enduring one, the one that I am seeing work with my own eyes in Uruzgan at present (I am here for an eight month tour as a Tribal and Political Engagement Officer) enlists the community in its own defense, recruits vetted and registered police through a local shura, is trained by SOF, is defensively oriented, nested into the Afghan National Police, and blends civil and military approaches relatively seamlessly. Uruzgan has the most mature ALP program in the country and we are winning.

I don't know what approaches you'd recommend but I'm open to hearing them.

The funny thing is, the Afghan Local Police program we are using in many parts of the country has a mix of many of these strategies but the real enduring one, the one that I am seeing work with my own eyes in Uruzgan at present (I am here for an eight month tour as a Tribal and Political Engagement Officer) enlists the community in its own defense, recruits vetted and registered police through a local shura, is trained by SOF, is defensively oriented, nested into the Afghan National Police, and blends civil and military approaches relatively seamlessly. Uruzgan has the most mature ALP program in the country and we are winning.

To all,

How does the ALP (the theoretical idea of it, anyway) compare to the firqats in the partially excerpted abstract below? How does the Sultan compare to the current Afghan leadership in terms of relationships to the third party that is involved (British, NATO)? I know the Hazelton paper is "hot" among critics of pop-coin, so to speak, and I am curious.

The conflict ended with the state’s military victory after a campaign of selective force wielded to meet political as well as military goals. Military success was made possible by narrowly targeted accommodations that left the sultanistic state unreformed. The military campaign focused on securing territory and cutting the insurgency’s lines of communication to its safe haven in Yemen. The army’s ability to take and hold territory was based on the co-optation of surrendered guerrillas formed into militias. These militias, the firqats, helped the state separate the insurgency from the populace and target insurgents militarily, and facilitated the provision of food, water, and medical care to the populace. This analysis includes a number of policy relevant findings: Successful COIN does not necessarily require good governance, political development, increased popular participation, or a strong state; security may need to precede development; military efforts, including the use of heavy firepower in civilian areas and force-on-force contact, may play a significant role in success; and building local militias requires special skills, a long-term commitment, and recognition of the militias’ strengths and weaknesses.

- Hazelton abstract

http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1451758>

As a civilian and a layperson, I tend to get turned in circles regarding the various intellectual claims and counterclaims by practitioners and scholars.

(Also, can anyone point me to papers on the subject of the medical care delivered that was referenced above? As a physician, I am always interested in medical operations. I refuse to use the various acronyms, I find them confusing).

Madhu - I think it is overly simplistic to talk about ALP as if it were homogeneous (not to put words in your mouth). In reality, ALP is a reflection of the security, economic, and political conditions of a given area as well as the adroitness of the battle space owner to understand and navigate the terrain in their AO.

In my experience (Fallujah & Helmand) working with the Sahawa & ALP, these forces were not solely made up of defectors from the insurgency. In fact, the core of these idigenous counterinsurgents did not come from the insurgency. This point may be debated by some but I argue that just because a local leader has ties to insurgents and/or takes part in the illicit economy does not make him an insurgent. However, defectors are part of the equation. As these indigenous counterinsurgent leaders begin to show viability, they are generally able to drain support from the insurgency and apply it to their (read our) cause. How to apply these defectors to the problem is generally a local agreement...clear as mud?

@ J.T - Thank you for taking time to answer some of my questions. Interesting point about the definition of an insurgent and not automatically including anyone with ties to the insurgency.

Your point about heterogeneity makes sense given the various experiences and claims. It might explain why some view the program positively and others view the program with real alarm.

Unfortunately, it seems that the very nature of small wars is to be as clear as mud.

Hi Daniel,

Thank you for your reply, it has clarified my understanding of your view a little better than the interview did.

My main issue remains, much as it seems Mike Few's is, that there is no obvious evidentiary, causative link between the assertions made about 'success' and the actions of second-party counterinsurgents.

I was in Iraq in '07 and '08 as well and saw a fair bit of the 'success' that you discuss. While the either the 'surge' or 'hearts and minds (HAM)' narrative may account for the relative pacification ( which I think is perhaps a more accurate term than 'success')witnessed, there are many other plausible explanations. None of which, to the best of my knowledge, have to date been subject to critical evaluation and research. The point is that when we believe in a paradigm, we are more likely to interpret the observable world and draw inferences in light of our understanding of the paradigm.

I do have an alternative approach in mind, it is the subject of my almost competed dissertation. The approach rejects the central premise of the HAM / pop-centric paradigm that second-party counterinsurgency can succeed through a 'defeat mechanism' of development,governance and liberalisation.
I draw upon a considerable body of literature and evidence to demonstrate that the claims of the HAM / pop-centric paradigm are ahistorical and the underlying 'theory' is inchoate. As Alex Marshall recently noted :

"Counterinsurgency theory today may retain its own grammar, but nonetheless finds itself applied in scenarios where that grammar no longer corresponds to any wider political logic."

Following on from JJ McCuen's challenge:

"Although most authors end their discussions with conclusions on how to fight a revolutionary war, I know of none who has succeeded in evolving a broad, unified counter-revolutionary strategy. This void has left us without any philosophical foundation or point of departure from which to base evaluations or actions in specific situations." My thesis proposes an alternative 'model' for second-party counterinsurgency that is supported by the extant literature and historical interpretation, other recent research by academics, and evalutaion of three structured, focused and comparative case studies - SW Africa, Dhofar and the Surge.

The only claim that I make for my model at this stage is that it seems to explain what is 'done' and 'works' in second-party counterinsurgency. I seek to meet Colin Gray's criterion for social science theory of providing a model gives 'most case understanding'.

Cheers

Mark

oh, and the detail? After submission and assessment.

Mark please go back in time and make HAM go away. The thought of another acronym stalking the land puts me on the edge of panic.

Carl,

Sorry mate,
I blame Jill Hazelton, she used it in a very good conference paper a year ago on coercion, then dropped it from her dissertation in favour of 'population centric coin'.

Cheers

MTO

And to pre-empt Peter...

Parapharsing : " and it works better than any other strategy.."

Really?

Critical thinking requires me to question what other strategies the author / interviewee has observed, measured and qualitatively or quantitatively evaluated in order to make this claim.

Part of my issue with this opinion piece is that it is not an assertion about counterinsurgency per se - it is actually about the 'hearts and minds paradigm'/ population-centric / modernisation as force for good school of counterinsurgency. The assertion that this 'style' of counterinsurgency 'works better' remains highly contestable.

Mark - I disagree with your synopsis of the the interview equating to a hearts and minds advocacy. I read it as an advocacy for operational design in a complex environment.

e.g. **How to you set the conditions to increase incentives for a community(s) to participate in a stable balance of power in line with the commander's endstate better than that of the insurgent?

Dan Green was kind of enough to briefly share some of his practical experience and historical knowledge here. I do not understand the unsubstantiated critical comments above. If you have something to say, then say it.

JT,

Thank you, I guess it again shows that different people can come up with two valid but different interpretations of the same piece.

I must admit that I did not notice either Daniel or the interviewer mention the term operational design....

WRT to having something to say, please feel free to PM me if there is some explanation of the 'something I had to say' in my last post 9May 16, 0843)that you do not understand.

Regards,

Mark

Admittedly, your post with something other than a cheeky comment popped up after I clicked to reply to your earlier 'kool-aid' comment. Operational design wasn't specifically mentioned but that is where the discussion is leading.

Interesting thesis topic in your post above. How many counterinsurgents are their in history that are comparable to the US post 9/11?

J.T,

Obviously, there are no other second-party counterinsurgents historically (other than the US in Vietnam) who have acted on the same 'scale' as the US post-9/11. Thematically (that is the involvement in second-party counterinsurgency) it is a different story. A few examples, some perhaps more obvious than others:

Non- US allies in Vietnam (Australia, NZ, Korea).
NATO (non-US) and other coalitiion partners (non- NATO - eg, Australia and NZ)
MNF - I (the usual suspects, plus some 'funnies' like Romania, Tonga and Japan, for example).
British in Dhofar.
Apartheid era South Africa in SW Africa / Namibia (before any South Africans respond, RSA was not technically and legally internationally recognised as sovereign during the keys years in question).
Apartheid era South Africa in Rhodesia.
Cuba in Angola (v UNITA).
Russia / China in Mozambique (assisting FADM v RENAMO)
Israel variously in Southern Lebanon.
US in various places in Latin America 19th and 20th C
US support to Magsaysay (Philippines)
Contemporary UN force in Eastern DRC (acknowledged that this one may draw some debate...)

Mark

Sir,
Any thought to go with the snark? I know there is substance behind this sideways jab.