Saturday, November 15, 2008

Kilcullen on GWOT

Australian counter-insurgency expert David Kilcullen advocates smart strategy in dealing with Islamic extremism in a Q&A with George Packer of The New Yorker.

First, the draw-down in Iraq needs to be conditions-based and needs to recognize how fragile our gains there have been, and our moral obligation to Iraqis who have trusted us. As I said, we don’t want to un-bog ourselves from Iraq only to get bogged in Afghanistan while Iraq turns bad again. Second, our priorities in Afghanistan should be security, governance, and dealing with the Pakistan safe haven—and we may not necessarily need that many more combat troops to do so. Third, the Afghan elections of September 2009 are a key milestone—we can’t just muddle through, and the key problem is political: delivering effective and legitimate governance that meets Afghans’ needs. And finally, most importantly, this is a wartime transition and we can’t afford the normal nine-month hiatus while we put the new Administration in place: the war in Afghanistan will be won or lost in the next fighting season, i.e. by the time of the September elections.

The situation in Afghanistan is dire. But the war is winnable. We need to focus our attention on the problem, and think before acting. But we need to think fast, and our actions need to involve a major change of direction, focussing on securing the population rather than chasing the enemy, and delivering effective legitimate governance to the people, bottom-up, at the local level. Do that, do it fast, and we stand an excellent chance of turning things around.

Kilcullen notes many differences between conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan (Aghan tribes vs. Iraqi tribes, Taliban vs. AQI, Pakistani safe haven). However, the broad strategic goal should be similar: devote available resources to protecting Afghan citizens and ensuring good governance rather than "chasing bad guys." He also says more troops in Afghanistan would help but are less essential than a change in strategy. "We need to be reducing overall force commitment everywhere, not just moving troops from Iraq to Afghanistan."

--Ballard Burgher

No comments: