No comment from Londonstani on this, but read the article and comment at will.
Ok, maybe a few excerpts would be useful:
"Foreign Secretary David Miliband was under pressure today to explain why there had been cutbacks in counter-terrorism programmes in Pakistan because of the falling value of the pound.
"...The Foreign Office (FCO) is trying to deal with a shortfall of £110 million, a figure expected to grow in 2010-11, due to fluctuations in sterling.
"...Baroness Kinnock caused astonishment by disclosing that programmes to tackle terrorism and radicalisation in Pakistan had been hit as a result.
"...Her revelation in the House of Lords came hours after Prime Minister Gordon Brown told the Commons that the "crucible of terrorism" on the Afghan-Pakistan border remained the "number one security threat to the West".
And, in case you thought this was due to some sort of unforseen international economic situation:
"Mr Hague said the cuts were the "direct consequence of Labour's decision to remove the FCO's protection against exchange rate movements".
"Kim Howells, a former foreign minister who is now chair of the intelligence and security committee that oversees MI5, MI6 and other intelligence agencies, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning that he was surprised at the timing of Kinnock's comments, but not the content.
"It is well known that obviously if a currency devalues against other currencies than you buy less than your money," said Howells.
He did not believe these cuts would affect "the hard end" of counterterrorism activities, he said, before adding: "Undoubtedly what it will affect are those softer diplomatic efforts ... for example, trying to convince the Pakistani government and the regional governments in Pakistan that they should try to improve the material lives of people that will make them less susceptible to the overtures of al-Qaida, the Taliban and so on."
So like in the areas where many analysts think we have the best opportunity to make substantial changes
My readers are geniuses. They would have this debate sorted in no time, even if it took the Thunderdome:
Maybe we could handle it another way, taking a clue from classic Greek warfare and playing to the President's interests. We get the best COIN basketball player and match them against the best CT dude and winner gets to make the call on CT or COIN for the rest of this Presidential term. We get a quick and final decision and the WP can have a twofer writing Afghanistan and the President's latest basketball team(s) in the same story. We have Ex, Col Gentile and Charles Barkley do the TV color. Pay per view bonanza.
Meanwhile, staying on the same subject, I read this yesterday and thought it pretty smart.
Credit goes to reader and enthusiastic supporter of all things counterinsurgency Michael Cohen for sending along this piece by the very serious and very smart Austin Long that escaped my view earlier this week. Austin makes a case for a counter-terror campaign in Afghanistan and, bless him, gets down to the specifics. The people who have actually led and executed counter-terror operations in Afghanistan -- Gens. Stan McChrystal, Mike Flynn, Scott Miller -- are the best people to explain why such campaigns will not work. In the words of Gen. McChrystal, “You can kill Taliban forever, because they are not a finite number.” And in my mind, these kinds of CT strategies ignore the political dimension even more egregiously than do most counterinsurgency strategies. But read it yourself and draw your own conclusions. You guys may think I'm so far down the road of counterinsurgency that I am not open to alternatives, but I really am. I'm just wary of those which are more conceptual than operational.
A few more things for the readership:
1. The leader in this week's Economist agrees with us imperialist war-mongers, so go direct some of your hate mail in their direction.
2. Easy on the Vietnam analogies, gang. There are a lot of good books on Vietnam, and what historical conclusion one draws from the war depends on which books one has read. (Of course, we have actual veterans of the war who read this blog, so they can probably skip the reading list.) Who do you read? Krepinevich? Karnow? Goldstein? Sorely? Fall? Those who suggest advocates of counterinsurgency in Afghanistan have not read their history need to explain exactly what history we need to read that we have not. Regardless and whatever you think of the current U.S. administration, the decision-making process of Barack Obama's national security team could not be more different than that of Lyndon Johnson.
Currently watching President Obama speak to the UN General Assembly. Of note to readers of this blog, he reiterated his stance about not allowing al-Qaeda the use of any safe havens from which they can plot attacks. "We will permit no safe-haven," the president said, "for al Qaeda to launch attacks from Afghanistan or any other nation."
I have written on safe havens before, and I'm still not sure if the president realizes the ambition of what he's saying. Are we going into Yemen next? The Horn of Africa? What does this mean for U.S. operations abroad? Will we use commando raids? Drone strikes? Indirect approaches? Again, because I'm not a real strategist and tend to think operationally, when I hear him say stuff like this I wonder how, exactly, we're going to execute the polcy he is articulating. There is a big difference between disrupting al-Qaeda activities in safe havens and denying them the use of safe havens to begin. And -- and here's a bone for all you realists out there -- it's not as if we have unlimited resources to do all this with.
Countering terrorists and extremism requires more than a conventional military approach. Military operations enable you to clear areas of extremist and insurgent elements, and to stop them from putting themselves back together. But the core of any counterinsurgency strategy must focus on the fact that the decisive terrain is the human terrain, not the high ground or river crossing.
Focusing on the population can, if done properly, improve security for local people and help to extend basic services. It can help to delegitimise the methods of the extremists — especially if you can contrast your ability and willingness to support and protect the population with the often horrific actions of extremist groups. Indeed, exposing their extremist ideologies, indiscriminate violence and oppressive practices can help people to realise that their lives are unlikely to be improved if under the control of such movements.
For the strategy to work, it is also necessary to find ways to identify reconcilable members of insurgent elements and to transform them into part of the solution. ...
General Stan McChrystal, the Commander of Nato’s International Security Assistance Force, who has spent most of his career since 9/11 leading the US’s most elite counterterrorist element, the Joint Special Operations Command, is employing a comprehensive, counterinsurgency campaign. He is the first to recognise not just the extraordinary capabilities but also the limitations of counterterrorism forces in Afghanistan.
Does anyone have his full remarks? (UPDATE: My readers rule.)
I just printed the whole thing off to read on the Metro (.pdf). All kinds of good stuff, as usual, and with more geographic diversity than this blog has sported of late.
Bell: So you don't think there was a shift from Priority #1 being "go get the bad guys on this list" to Priority #1 being "protect the people" ...Look, the last thing I am going to do is start telling Gian what his particular unit was or was not doing in 2006. But there is little doubt that, between 2003 until 2007, the U.S. military in Iraq shifted from an enemy-centric approach to a population-centric approach. [American Influence]
Gentile: I -- no -- I don't -- no, I don't agree with that at all. I mean, when I was in West Baghdad in 2006...
Barnes and Noble
2800 Clarendon Blvd.
Arlington, VA 22201
Call ahead to reserve a copy: (703) 248-8244 [we've sold out at most events]
Drinks afterward at the Liberty Tavern from ~8:30 or so.
Two chapter excerpts, the Daily Show video, etc are at http://www.craigmmullaney.com
...you construct a false dichotomy between physical space at the expense of virtual space. Nowhere in the strategy does it suggest that the COIN campaign is the beginning, middle and end of new US counter-terrorism strategy. Surely we can walk and chew gum at the same time, possibly while monitoring jihadist websites on our spiffy iPhones/Blackberries/etc.And from one of our smart interns:
And, as I keep banging on about, how exactly are we going to counter the jihadist narrative globally if we don't deliver something other than HE munitions to the population of that area? There's a demonstration effect that is critical on both sides of the Durand line, and more broadly throughout the world.
I guess it boils down to where one stands in the Sageman v Hoffman Thunderdome:From Thomas Hegghammer, who I mention in the article and who now blogs at Jihadica:
I think you are vastly underplaying the critical role AQ central in NW Pakistan had in the various UK plots in recent years. The organization seems to be not inspiring these plots but directly catalyzing them through in-person training, know-how, etc. On close inspection, these do not appear to be the spontaneous acts of self-radicalized individuals. The AQ organization appears key to the formulation and execution of these plots.
More good comments and criticism come from Matt Yglesias and Jim Arkedis. I'll post more as it comes in. Thanks for the debate, gang!
There are at least two more reasons why there ought to be a virtual dimension to the new AfPak strategy. First, the Pashto and Urdu-language part of the jihadi cyberspace is growing rapidly, and very few people are keeping track of it. Those who do rarely know the Arabic sites and vice-versa. No analyst I know has enough Arabic and Pashto to connect the dots (except Mustafa Abu al-Yazid).
Second, the Internet infrastructure in Afghanistan and Pakistan is relatively poorly developed compared to the Arab world. This is very worrying, because it means that there is a huge untapped propaganda resource which will be exploited as the local infrastructure inevitably develops. This is unlike in much of the Arab world, where the Internet’s potential has been largely taken out by the local jihadi groups. We are seeing the signs of this trend in the spread, on the ground, of semi-virtual propaganda such as DVDs etc - see this brilliant ICG report for details.