Small Wars Journal

Nation Building at the Barrel of an American Gun?

Sun, 09/13/2009 - 9:19am
Nation Building at the Barrel of an American Gun?

A Short Reply to the Dubik and Kagans' Washington Post Oped

Lieutenant General James Dubik, Dr Kim Kagan, and Dr Fred Kagan, the three authors of a Sunday Washington Post oped titled The Afghan Illusion: Kabul's Forces Aren't Yet a Substitute for Our Own, conclude their Oped with this statement:

"Building Afghan forces dramatically is part of a strategy for succeeding in Afghanistan and permitting the reduction of foreign forces. It cannot, however, be the whole strategy."

And to ask this reoccurring question one more time, what is the "whole strategy"? Although the authors do not come out and say it, armed nation building is clearly the "whole" strategy.

Why do we think nation building at the barrel of an American gun can work in Afghanistan? The authors cleverly tell us at the end of the article that the building up of the Afghani National Forces will allow the Americans to "begin" to reduce their footprint in 2011. But then again, that statement is followed by the idea that building Afghani forces is part of a larger strategy of (implied) nation building which I infer from the piece actually requires a generational effort. Realistically and being blunt and honest how could building an Afghanistan Nation up from what it is now take anything less than a generation?

Again, back to my original question, why do we think armed nation building in Afghanistan will work. Naturally these three authors fall back on the flawed understanding produced by the Iraq Triumph Narrative that underpins current hopes for Astan: It worked in Iraq because we said so, so listen to us, try harder, give us just a bit more, and we can make it work in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is a country wracked with internal problems; tribal conflict, backwardness, corruption, tension that produces endemic violence, bitter regional disputes, dysfunctional national boundaries, etc. So why do we think we can solve their problems in a matter of a few decades through foreign occupation? Could any outside force have come into the United States in the 1850s and resolved its internal conflicts at the barrel of a gun? Actually, the British tried to resolve internal conflict in North America about 80 years earlier during the American Revolution and lost, or gave up trying because strategy demanded for them that it became not worth the cost of trying to do it.

The question about the efficacy of nation building in Afghanistan is important for strategy because it is the underlying and supremely powerful belief that we can make it work that continues to push us down the present operational path of population centric Coin that we are on. Sometimes it does seem that "wicked" tactical and operational problems in a place like Afghanistan requires not necessarily more experts and "scary smart" army officers to tackle them, but clear, astute, and resolute thinking about strategy and national interests.

Just like the coherent and logical thought that General (ret) Krulak displayed in his very recent letter to George Will on strategy, national interests, and Afghanistan.


LPierson (not verified)

Sat, 11/21/2009 - 5:44am

I just finished reading COL Gentile's other article "A Better Understanding of the Vietnam War." Again Strategy. We certainly spend a great deal of time looking in the rearview mirror.

Thomas P.M. Barnett stated we have no capacity for nation building period. Especially when the collective policy organs of the US govenment don't want to.

Allow me to toss some more gas on this emotional subject and strike a match to it. Why don't we all just admit that we should have never gone forward with a war on terrorism; that we should never have gone forward into any region from The Philippines, thru Africa and of course Afghanistan and Iraq. And that it is useless to argue the merits of Dubick, Kagan and Kagan's article.

Our safe and certain "strategy" lies in the pattern established prior to 9/11/01.

Thats what I am reading here. Time to go, time to allow some other entity like LE solutions, Intelligence Agency managed combat, or other countries(Pakistan, with Holbrooke perhaps, or even better Putin and Iran...) to take on this effort. Time for us to quit. We are damn good at that.

Although I personally am a believer in COIN, arguing COIN has become pointless because we do lack will. And I think it is a very safe to assume anything we have done COIN wise will be undone.

I feared back in early 2002 that we were beat before we got started. What I am seeing now does not give me basis for confidence.

Barry (not verified)

Wed, 11/18/2009 - 11:33am

CDR R: "To break the cycle AFG has endured <b>for at least twenty centuries</b> now, it is necessary to create a civil society from the bottom up."

Was anybody else reminded of the solution to U-boats that some group came up with during WWII - 'boil the oceans'?

"Creating ties that bind people together and provide them with more valuable opportunities and a better way of life than the tribes can afford them is one way to do this."

IOW, go into the tribes' grounds, and out-compete them in the tribes' own game.

I must correct myself: It seems that McChrystal has indeed requested a few hundred thousand extra troops for Afghanistan, indicating that this is a serious estimate. The question now is whether the President will live up to his rhetoric about Afghanistan being a necessary war, not an optional one.

The argument now seems to be: "A Surge for Afghanistan can't work, because the Surge didn't work in Iraq, either." I remain unconvinced by the critique of the Iraqi Surge. No, the Surge wasn't sufficient to bring about success in Iraq, but it was necessary. None of the other factors would've sufficed without the Surge.

If it were really true that hundreds of thousands more troops were needed for victory in Afghanistan, then the proper response to that fact would be to advocate sending in that many more troops. The fact that no one does that indicates to me that this estimate is greatly exagerrated.

I remember the debate about the Surge before it happened, and I remember all of the same arguments being made against its feasibility then as are now being made about its applicability to Afghanistan.

I've still not seen any articulation of a relevant distinction between pacification and COIN campaigns.

To turn back to the Philippines for a moment, the claim that the US was the government of the Philippines at the time of the Philippine War is quite a stretch, especially when it comes to Moroland. The US didn't simply take over where the Spanish left off, as the Spanish had never conquered the Moros. The US had to do that from scratch, conquering for the first time people who'd never before been conquered by Europeans. The Moro Rebellion lasted longer, too - until 1913, well after the other islands had been pacified.

Rob Thornton (not verified)

Thu, 09/17/2009 - 12:08pm

A couple of things related to this blog entry that warrants discussion I think. One is the SWJ blog post by Starbuck on Operational Design in Afghanistan and specifically those responses to the issue of the practice of OD there. The second is the news article ref. the White Houses issuance of measures of progress or bench marks that they plan on establishing to gauge effectiveness of efforts there.

For every problem (political or military) to which a desired outcome, an end or an objective is assigned there should be a set of directly related conditions outlined which represent the components of problem which must be changed in order to support that end. You can think of these as sub objectives, or simply as conditions, they could also be the purposes to which you apply effort or actions.

Changes in these conditions represent how effective you are being wrt achieving that end. They are the MOEs (Measures of Effectiveness) that directly correspond to that end/objective/outcome. If they are not established, and are not directly related to that end, then you dont really know how you are doing, and will have difficulty communicating that you are. These are also the measures of progress anyone should be interested in. MOPS (measures of performance) being another thing entirely as they simply tell you how well you are doing a task, not if you are doing the right tasks. MOEs on the other hand provide you a way to consider if you are doing the right things.

This relates to this discussion because there are often supporting conditions to each broader condition. Some of these are in fact enabling conditions - they may take the form of establishing a literacy rate, changes in laws, political development, changes in culture or they may be focused on the enemy, an ally, a partner or even on our own policies. Laying out those supporting conditions and understanding where there is contingency, e.g. one cant happen without the other; or where there is sequencing, e.g. one must happen before the other is part of the operational art associated with campaign development.

I have not seen much discussion here on specifically what conditions must change to support a defined end (there is also a question of what the defined end is, or should be). Unless we know what conditions should be changed, it is difficult to understand what tasks must be done (the "ways") to support changing those conditions. Unless you know what tasks must be done its difficult to know what capabilities you require (a capability simply being the ability to do the task(s)). The capabilities are in fact the "means" or resources allocated.

With respect to the "surge" I think there are two questions. One is what were the conditions in Iraq late 2006/2007 which led the leadership to apply some of those "ways" being used in varying degrees elsewhere in theater previous to that decision and helped shape the numbers and types of resources requested? The second is what are the conditions associated with other problems which might call for the application of means and ways?

I understand that within our leaders there is tacit experience that allows them to judge what the problem calls for, and I understand that many of the pundits have done some analysis, but I just think for the rest of us it would be useful to establish what the conditions are and what tasks and what resources are required to meet a given end.

Best, Rob

also anonymous (not verified)

Thu, 09/17/2009 - 10:50am

Gian P. Gentile,

"I could write a short paragraph..."

Why did you stop short again?

Some of us don't have a lot of free brain cells anymore (namely me), and any attempt by me to piece together your words into a paragraph would utterly fall short of what your driving at.

So please, for those of us on the south side of genius, write this short paragraph, as I think it would add greatly to the discussion here.

gian p gentile (not verified)

Thu, 09/17/2009 - 8:55am

But nobody that I have seen in positions of influence or authority is asking for the numbers of troops that General Krulak in his letter stated would be needed ("hundreds of thousands"), as a matter of strategy, to carry out a population centric coin campaign of the type that we are on in Afghanistan.

Now the stock answer to this huge and unrealistic troop increase is to say we really dont need that many troops, a few more brigades over time will do; but here is the kicker to the stock answer, they will do because they are armed with better Coin doctrine under new and inspired senior Coin leadership, and they will implement that doctrine under a new and better operational plan (often times referred to erroneously as a "strategy"). It is in this sense that I say we use the idea of better Coin doctrine to replace the mass of troops that are actually needed to carry out such an operational approach.

Accordingly when this stock answer is provided, the Iraq Surge Triumph narrative is usually deployed by stating that we have proof that we can make this work in Astan because we say it worked in Iraq with the Surge. No, no, no; that was not as primary cause a few more brigades as part of the Surge practicing better population centric coin doctrine under inspired new leadership that reduced violence. To be sure, the increase in Brigades played a role, but that role was subsumed in a complex mix of conditions that combined to reduced violence starting in summer 2007. The complexity of the causation of the turnaround in Iraq, however, is muddled into a singular causative explanation: the Surge did it, and the Surge is defined as a few more brigades practicing better Coin doctrine under new and inspired leadership. That simplistic explanation has become a trope, and is deployed, as I said, to justify and rationalize this a-strategic approach that we are on now in Astan.

The distinction between pacification and counter-insurgency seems to subtle for it to make any relevant difference to my argument. I would appreciate an attempt to articulate the difference this distinction is supposed to make.

Every COIN advocate I've seen has called for increasing the resources devoted to the war effort in Afghanistan, including the article to which Gentile was responding. I've not seen anyone advocating the replacement of resources with doctrine, as Gentile puts it.

gian p gentile (not verified)

Wed, 09/16/2009 - 8:35am


thanks for the post.

Just to clarify my historical example with the British they did not really start to move toward a grand strategic choice of India (and the overall maintenance of their empire) over the colonies until after the defeat of Burgoyne's Army at Saratoga in late 77 which produced a shift in their strategy to the South, but clearly set the seeds of doubt whether their efforts in the colonies were worth it. My example of the British military strategy was for the year 1777 and what they hoped would produce political victory and end the rebellion; Saratoga of course changed much of that.

In a different thread on this Blog I stated that I could write a short paragraph that I think would present the outlines for a functional strategy for the United States in Afghanistan that would align means with political ends and provide coherence to our current operational approach of population centric coin in Astan. But such a strategic conception would involve terms and ideas like:
* generational struggle;
*exhaustion of the enemy's will;
*acceptance for an extended period of lacking of the initiative;
*and a requirement to higher headquarters to provide much more resources for the many years ahead in order to bring tactics and operations in line with political goals.

For whatever it is worth, I see none of those terms and concepts in current official statements on Afghanistan today. I might be wrong, but these are my thoughts on the matter.

Thanks for the discussion.


Easy guys, not sure, but I think we've only closed comments once or twice in the last several years. Keep on topic and non-personal - thanks - consider this a fire for effect..

--Dave D.


Tue, 09/15/2009 - 9:17pm

Say, Anon - 22:19:

Why would you assume the Col. had a strategy other than not being there in the first place (at least for the last couple of years)?

There are numerous thinking persons who advocate a presence of SOF in country (with attendant air and log support), to focus on the AQ part of the problem.

Methinks your example of The Brit choice of America versus India is a tad strawmannish. The US does not own Bananastan, nor Iraq. Last I heard , colonialism is dead.

Big Army does not want a SOF/JSOC solution to this Goat rapine. You can't get your straight leg officers' tickets punched that way. It is not about terrorism, nor the goatherds and their imaginary quest for democracy, nor (dare I say it....World Peace); It is about advancement, pure and simple.

PS: I am not, nor have I been, a Snake Eater.

Anonymous (not verified)

Tue, 09/15/2009 - 7:35pm

So, Gian, enlighten us. Let us worship at your font of knowledge instead of the COIN Bunch. What strategy should we use? You always want to be critical and want people to explain things to you, yet you offer no solution. Is the schoolmaster quizzing the class again? Or maybe you just like to read your name in the paper...

The irony is that you conveniently left out the greater strategic context with your American Revolutionary example. The British were forced to make a strategic choice in what had become a world war: the Colonies or India. They chose India.

Tim Starr:

Gian beat me to this one. I would add and like to point out that the use of the Philippines "model" from the last century may not necessarily be a good one when we consider the fact that in truth we did not conduct a COIN campaign but rather a Pacification campaign as an occupying power. Because of the political decision we made (and in effect breaking our promise to Aquinaldo) to not grant the Philippines independence we helped to flame the fires of an insurgency as an occupying power.

Yes we pacified the Philippines and yes, it was a brutal campaign for both sides, and yes we learned a great deal and adapted our tactics, techniques, and procedures. But in the end, as I said, it was a pacification to quell an insurgency against an occupying power (the US).

gian p gentile (not verified)

Mon, 09/14/2009 - 9:33pm

Or a realist.

The United States was the Government in the Philippines when it defeated the insurgency there, so too were we the government in the South during Reconstruction. Are we the government in Afghanistan? Maybe if we were I might buy into the possibility that we might be able to make nation building work. I mean heck, in our own country with our own government it still took us a pretty good while to solve the fundamental issue that divided the country: slavery. So if it took us nearly one hundred years to solve our biggest problems and a major, world changing civil war, why on earth do folks think we can do something similar (in terms of resolving the major conflicts in the place) in Afghanistan with a handful of hard working combat brigades?

If you have read some of my other posts I have argued that nation building in Afghanistan might be possible if we were willing to recalibrate American commitment to a generational, near total effort. But in the absence of that possibility good strategy demands alternatives. Problem is that the Coin Bunch wants to replace the masses of resources needed to do nation building in Afghanistan with clever, high minded doctrine. Sorry, Tim, I dont buy it and I dont see it, nor does history support it either. Call me a "defeatist," I would like to think though that realism is what I have in mind, and it is realism that premised General Krulaks recent letter.

Gentile's argument is defeatist in the utmost: Armed nation-building won't work, because it can't work, because it has never worked. In fact, it's the only type of nation-building that has _ever_ worked, anywhere. I've brought the example of the US occupation of the Philippines to his attention before. The Philippines had everything "wrong" with it than Afghanistan does, and yet US "armed nation-building" was successful there - in large part because we didn't simply give up after only 8 years.

To take up his other example of the mid-19th-century USA, the Union occupation of the South greatly improved things there while it lasted. It was only after the anti-occupationists won the political struggle that segregation arose to re-instate slavery by another name.

>>Again, back to my original question, why do we think armed nation building in Afghanistan will work.<<

What makes this question so pointed is that many development experts have come to the conclusion that we know precious little about "nation building" even the nation in question is essentially at peace. William Easterly's work on this issue is a must read on the economic development side of things.

But the COIN theorists are so busy fetishizing Galula, misinterpreting Kalyvas, and fear-mongering on anything and everything to actually think about the foundations of their argument.

I'm tickled also by Col. Gentile's use of "wicked." It has indeed become the new way of deflecting any criticism, as in, "well, I acknowledge it is a wicked problem, but that is no reason not to plow ahead heedlessly."

Re foreign fighters: Most of the ones from various Arab countries and elsewhere who make it into Afghanistan can be considered AQ. However, once they cross into AFG, they are unlikely to find refuge for long and usually end up captured or killed. AQI had (and has) enjoyed a more successful safehaven in parts of Iraq than AQ currently has in Afg, probably because it is much easier for an Arab to be an Arab in IZ. But the Arab AQ in PAK have successfully established sanctuary among the tribes and done so through bribes, marriages and time.

To answer your question directly -- why did AQ find safehaven in AFG before we arrived and why doesn't ISAF? Simply, because there were only a few hundred AQ max there before we invaded and they were hardly invading or occupying, just living there. But now there are 100k+ ISAF troops and growing daily. As with Iraq, a segment of the insurgency fights against the GIROA, others against foreign occupiers.

You did catch me in a contradiction of sorts on my points concerning ANSF. I don't think nation building from the top down is necessary nor likely to succeed, at least not with a lot of time, blood, and treasure. But I mentioned the ANP/ANSF growth since that is such a key aspect of current operations there -- and SEN Levin's recent remarks seem to indicate more pressure to build them more rapidly. And short of a wholesale withdrawal, which is unlikely to happen for at least another year, indiginous security force build ups will continue in one form or another. I just think we should do them the right way.

But I don't think the absence of a strong national government will lead to AQN finding sanctuary, as long as our CT forces are present, as proven by the past 8 years.


Sun, 09/13/2009 - 9:47pm

Good to see you here. Long-time fan of your blog with Nader.

Okay, that clears it up a little, but I have to ask about the omissions.

I think that the elements whom we wish to deny sanctuary to in Afghanistan <I>largely</I> include al-Qaeda and elements of the Taliban who hail from locales other than Af-Pak. For the purposes of this thread, I'll refer to them as "foreign fighters." Are the "foreign fighters" invaders? I would say yes. Agree? If you agree, then why are the ISAF invaders having so much trouble occupying, whereas the "foreign fighter" invaders enjoyed safe haven in Afghanistan before we arrived and, to some degree, still do?

Just to clarify - COL Gentile calls into question the assumption that nation building is necessary or even remotely likely to succeed. It appeared in your first post that you think nation building is necessary. It seems that you believe this because the absence of a national identity is impeding the creation of a national government, and the absence of a national government means that we will be unable to deny sanctuary to AQ and others in Afghanistan. Am I getting this right? If so, why does the absence of a nat'l gov't pose such a quandary to us, but not the other invaders? The fact that AQ found sanctuary in Afghanistan seems dispositive to your assertion (if I understand it correctly).

Mark Pyruz

Sun, 09/13/2009 - 8:29pm

CDR R, national police forces are not unusual for that part of the world. Case in point, Iran employs a professional national police force (not to be confused with the IRGC or Basij).

"But, assuming that I am wrong, and accepted your statement, what about the Taliban and/or al-Qaeda? Are they not invaders? Are you suggesting that we are? Why are we having such difficulty when al-Qaeda was able to enjoy a safe haven?"

Taliban tried to govern -- unsuccessfully by any reasonable measure. Whether the Taliban are currently invaders is difficult to say. I guess it depends on how one defines the Taliban. Some Taliban participating in the insurgency in AFG are driven from actual Taliban senior leaders in Pak. Other "Taliban" are really Haqqani folks, also from Pakistan. More and more seem to be just Afghans pissed off at foreign occupiers who keep showing up in their villages in big armored vehicles with lots of fire power, so in that case, yes we are invaders.

Pre-Oct 2001, AQN wasn't really governing Afghanistan, just existing there. Now they are existing in their safe haven in parts of Pakistan, although I wouldn't call that existence any sort of governance.


Sun, 09/13/2009 - 3:56pm

<blockquote><I>My presumption is that Afghanistan's tribal culture has repelled countless invasions, not caused them. In order for the current occupation to have a different outcome from the previous dozen or so, something in Afghanistan's cultural DNA is going to have to fundamentally change.</I></blockquote>
I would assert that the tribal political organization - rather than the presence of a strong central government - is what facilitated, perhaps even prompted some invasions. On the other hand, the tribal organization made occupation too costly. There was no central authority who could call and end to a conflict and get everyone to stop resisting; no existing government bureaucracy in place for the occupier to rely on in order to exert governance over the country. The tribal organization makes Afghanistan ripe for invasion but nearly impossible to govern. But we don't want to govern it. The Taliban does.<br />
But, assuming that I am wrong, and accepted your statement, what about the Taliban and/or al-Qaeda? Are they not invaders? Are you suggesting that we are? Why are we having such difficulty when al-Qaeda was able to enjoy a safe haven?
<blockquote><I>"Name one country today where tribal rule predominates that can be considered a success based on measures such as economic progress or security and stability?"</I></blockquote>
Not sure. Would Kuwait qualify? Whatever the case, why does it matter? Maybe the Afghan people dont give a hoot about our ideas of success. Maybe they value their tribes, with the greater family cohesion.
<blockquote><I>"Africa can be seen as a parallel. The few countries there that are doing well today are not predominantly tribally oriented."</I></blockquote>
But is that the root of the problem? If we could solve the problems in Pakistans FATA, it seems that Afghanistans problems would be far less significant.<br />
How about another parallel? Afghanistan suffers from a porous border, an inability to purge its land of noncitizens who are not there for purposes of leisure or lawful commerce, a pervasive drug trade that moves narcotics, firearms, and drug-traffickers across its borders with impunity, and interstate criminal organizations that commit countless murders on both sides of the border. Now replace "Afghanistan" in the preceding sentence with "the United States" and the sentence remains correct. One is tribal and one is not. Both have the same problem. The difference is that the narco-gangs on our southern border are smart enough to not piss us off by flying planes into buildings - the only reason we bothered with Afghanistan.
<blockquote><I>Finally, I have no clue if these ideas have merit, because my thinking has only recently evolved in this direction.</I></blockquote>
Boy, can I can relate. The only reason that I did not name my blog "The Stupidest Man on Earth" is because <a href="">somebody else</a> beat me to it.

Sorry, that last post was from me.

Anonymous (not verified)

Sun, 09/13/2009 - 2:13pm

Ken - That nation building is our goal is my assumption, given the current lack of policy and strategic direction in the war, but gleaned from my experiences there and subsequent chatter from various circles.

As to how long it might take - I don't know, but probably no longer than current COIN and generally top down development efforts, which could take generations to achieve some sort of worthwhile governance. And governance in itself isn't the goal. The Taliban seemed to administer law and order decently enough, but at a high cost to the average Afghan. Civil society, defined as rule of law, economic progress, and opportunities for the average Afghan to better his families lot in life is the goal.

WRT Schmed:
"your reasoning is that the problem is foreign invasion, so the solution is to address tribalism (presumably because Afghanistan's tribal nature is what made it vulnerable to countless invasions?)."

My presumption is that Afghanistan's tribal culture has repelled countless invasions, not caused them. In order for the current occupation to have a different outcome from the previous dozen or so, something in Afghanistan's cultural DNA is going to have to fundamentally change. I recon that can be done by marginalizing the sway of the tribes. Name one country today where tribal rule predominates that can be considered a success based on measures such as economic progress or security and stability?

Africa can be seen as a parallel. The few countries there that are doing well today are not predominantly tribally oriented. To paraphrase someone involved in these types of activities on a small scale, this isn't about "us and them," but "them and them."

Finally, I have no clue if these ideas have merit, because my thinking has only recently evolved in this direction. I appreciate the discourse and criticism though.

Ken White (not verified)

Sun, 09/13/2009 - 1:34pm


Interesting post. A few questions. First:<blockquote>My take is that no nation can be "built" (assuming that's our goal, and it apparently is) as long as the existing tribal structures remain the predominant form of governance in Afghanistan.</blockquote>Is that our goal or an assumption? There could be a difference and that could affect desired actions.<blockquote>To break the cycle AFG has endured for at least twenty centuries now, it is necessary to create a civil society from the bottom up.</blockquote>Without addressing the arrogance of power assumed in this comment, not by you personally rather by the presumed power to do that, or without considering the wishes of Afghans, how long do you think that might take?<blockquote>This strategy is obviously easier said than done, but not without precedence.</blockquote>Precedents, yes. How about time and resources consumed -- and success?


Sun, 09/13/2009 - 1:09pm

Why marginalize the tribal order? Why not work with it?

If I understand what you wrote, your reasoning is that the problem is foreign invasion, so the solution is to address tribalism (presumably because Afghanistan's tribal nature is what made it vulnerable to countless invasions?). I think that omits a significant variable: the nature of the potential invaders.

Anonymous (not verified)

Sun, 09/13/2009 - 1:01pm

CDR R - "but not without precedence." Might you elaborate please?

Schmedlap - I agree a strategy that attempts to impose central goverment authority over the tribes is unlikely to work, but should a strategy assume that maintaining the status quo with the tribal structures providing governance is preferrable? In other words, is there a way to marginalize tribalism in Afghanistan from the bottom up?

My take is that no nation can be "built" (assuming that's our goal, and it apparently is) as long as the existing tribal structures remain the predominant form of governance in Afghanistan. To break the cycle AFG has endured for at least twenty centuries now, it is necessary to create a civil society from the bottom up. Creating ties that bind people together and provide them with more valuable opportunities and a better way of life than the tribes can afford them is one way to do this. Then as a civil society emerges organically from Afghans working with Afghans, there is less need for a top down approach. This strategy is obviously easier said than done, but not without precedence.


Sun, 09/13/2009 - 12:22pm

COL Gentile, I suspect that your voice mail doesnt record many offers for think tank fellowships, as you are clearly unwilling to fall in line.
<P>The stakeholders with the most salient interests in Afghanistan are the tribes. Thus far, their interests have been our lowest priority. We are using them as a means to an end. Our plan seems to be to create a central government in the image of what we think a central gov't should look like, and then inform the tribes - oh, by the way, this central gov't now has power over you. Don't worry, you voted for it.</P>
Any staff that presents a COA proposal to a commander with an endstate that includes a viable Afghani government, but does not give highest priority to the interests of the tribes, should have their SAMS diplomas revoked and be sent back to their respective Career Courses for remedial physical and scholastic training.
<P>America had to teach itself that the confederation model was flawed. Britain could not have imposed that lesson upon us. I see no reason to believe that the Afghan tribes can be taught a similar lesson by ISAF.</P>

Spot on, COL. What is even more disconcerting is the fact that it appears we are going about building up the ANSF in completely the wrong way. Listening to CSTC-A (the guy in charge of training ANSF nationally) the other day, it was easy to see we are attempting to mirror image the Afghan security forces after the US Army. They need "more modern equipment," and "a stronger NCO Corps," etc. Really? Afghans are great fighters, not so great soldiers. They always have been and probably always will be. Let's use that culture to bring security, not impose our own.

Conversely, why do we think an Afghan national police force is a good idea when it won't even work here? Do we have NYC's finest policing the good old boys in southern Alabama? And vice versa?