"More troops are all very well, but what exactly are they going to do?"
by Bronwen Maddox, Chief Foreign Commentator
from THE TIMES ONLINE UK
[Excerpts from the TimesOnline article]
General Stanley McChrystal . . . . in Britain to make [a] pitch [for more troops] privately to politicians and military before yesterday’s speech at the International Institute for Strategic Studies
[in his] assessment. . . the general [said], . . . the US “lagged” in the years while the Taleban regrouped. In calling for more troops, to stop the slide, [he said] it doesn’t encourage thoughts of a Plan B.
[Gen. McChrystal further said] that it’s all but impossible to act and be sure of the consequences. Similarly, his prescriptions imply a level of immersion in Afghan culture that seems out of reach for foreign forces, even if they stayed for ever, and they can’t. He wanted to get young soldiers who’ve been trained to protect themselves and their vehicles to talk to villagers, not to point guns at them as they ride through. That is a radical change, and demands language and cultural skills few will have.
His best point, not much more than an assertion, but powerfully made, was that “Afghanistan is worth it”, because of the threat that it still posed, and for the sake of its people. His second-best was the need for more troops. His weakest was what, exactly, he thinks those troops should do.
". . . . his [Gen. McChrystal's] prescriptions imply a level of immersion in Afghan culture that seems out of reach for foreign forces, even if they stayed for ever, and they can’t. He wanted to get young soldiers who’ve been trained to protect themselves and their vehicles to talk to villagers, not to point guns at them as they ride through. That is a radical change, and demands language and cultural skills few will have."
--The TimesOnline article
Few young men and women enlist in our armed forces to play "Peace Corps" and engage in such activities as "helping Afghan villagers build better wells and elevate their lifestyle--speaking in one or more Afghan languages to them and showing how friendly and what 'good guys' we are."
The Marines that I talk to are trained to fight--and kill--and that is, and should be, their purpose. They are warriors not civilian administrators and "do-gooders."
When you read assessments of Afghan police and Afghan supposed-military-forces by Americans, you find that culturally there is a huge chasm between our and their (Islamic) values. The boy-rapes by Afghan policemen that are a common occurrence, the weeekly male-on-male sex, that is the result of the burka-clad, forbidden women, are not taken in stride as normal by American troops.
As to Gen. McChrystal's remark that "Afghanistan is worth it," if we pull out, it will again be ruled by Taliban and a haven for Al Qaeda, then it is that. To have our troops sacrifice their lives for the "sake of [the Afghan] people," however, is not a good enough reason--even if it is only part of their mission.
As concerns troop strength, Herschel Smith says in his The Captain's Journal
Counterinsurgency doctrine says that you must have the support of the population in order to flush out the insurgents. But what the doctrine doesn’t mention is that force projection is the necessary pre-condition for any of that other doctrine to obtain. The population will not ally with the weaker side, and not only are heavy kinetics necessary up front in any such campaign, but the troops necessary to pull this off must be in place.
While it might be easy to point the finger at failing to win hearts and minds, it’s much more difficult (and more salient) to ask why any counterinsurgent would be able to win hearts and minds by continually placing platoon-size forces into hostile provinces to be overrun by half-Battalion size enemy forces?
The desire for more troops as in the "surge" in Iraq, assumes that the situation in both Islamic countries is the same. It is not. Afghanistan is a different ball of wax--or should I say rather a Gordian knot (a knot that no one so far in history has been able to untie).
TimesOnline article arrived at via ISW News Roundup - October 2, 2009