October 28, 2009

COIN at the Political Level

Yesterday, I wrote the following in an op-ed which ran in the Daily Beast:

The Obama adminstration has, I believe, some leverage at the moment, which it could use to affect the composition and behavior of the next Afghan government. As long as Afghanistan’s ruling politicians—Hamid Karzai especially—think the United States might reduce its commitment to Afghanistan, they could be willing to accede to U.S. demands on key ministerial and provincial-level appointments. Just as an Afghan government consisting mainly of those politicians thrown out by the Taliban in 1996 would spell continued insurgency and mission failure, a more inclusive and competent Afghan government would enable the success of a counterinsurgency strategy.


As Steve Biddle and others have noted, though, the primary weakness of U.S. counterinsurgency doctrine is its assumption that the interests of the host nation will line up with those of the United States. In Afghanistan—as in Iraq and Vietnam—U.S. military officers and diplomats have dealt with host-nation governments whose composition and behavior has often been at odds with U.S. objectives and interests. So while countless memoranda and manuals exist instructing U.S. servicemen on how to wage counterinsurgency campaigns at the operational and tactical levels, there is currently little guidance for how U.S. policymakers should use leverage over its Afghan partners.*

Mark Moyar notes that his new bookir?t=abumuqa-20&l=as2&o=1&a=0300152760 has exactly this kind of guidance for policy-makers, and as I plucked it off my shelf, I discovered that yes, yes, it does in the final chapter. I have not yet had the chance to read this book, though it has been on my list and even traveled with me to Palo Alto a few weekends back. But if you are so inclined, you can buy it hereir?t=abumuqa-20&l=as2&o=1&a=0300152760. Gian Gentile reports that it is excellent, and Gian moonlights as a darn good historianir?t=abumuqa-20&l=as2&o=1&a=081473135X when he's not being a skeptic of counterinsurgency doctrine, so you can take his word on it in lieu of my own.

*This sentence, obviously enough, was not underlined in the original op-ed. But that grammatical error? Yeah, that was there. Mama Muqawama will no doubt let me hear about that one...