Saturday, August 1, 2009

'Afghanizing' the war

Either Shields or Brooks (I don't remember offhand which one) said last night on the NewsHour that Americans by and large are not paying attention to Afghanistan despite the fact that there were more ISAF casualties in July than in any month since the initial invasion in 2001. Gen. McChrystal is calling for much larger numbers of Afghan forces (and, perhaps, still more U.S. forces), more U.S. civilian experts are needed to work on development and related reconstruction issues, and the presidential election of Aug. 20 is approaching. One would hope that the attention deficit diagnosis is incorrect.

Writing in the current Foreign Affairs, Fotini Christia and Michael Semple say that "the 'patriotic' Taliban [i.e. those willing to break with al Qaeda and similar elements] must be allowed to claim some of the success for the Afghanization of the country's security. Commanders and fighters should be formally associated with or absorbed into the police or the army, for example, which would allow the foreign troops to slip into the background." Christia and Semple understand that this is not going to happen soon and they suggest that there should be a U.S.-supported "low-profile but intensive dialogue between internationally backed mediators and the networks of [Afghan Taliban] commanders in Pakistan.... Insurgent networks cohere at least as much on the basis of social and economic interests as on political and ideological grounds; thus, the success of engagement will depend on building confidence. Much tea will have to be drunk to persuade commanders to realign."

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