April 05, 2009

COIN in Colombia

I'm sure most of you who read the Washington Post saw this article today on the lessons we can take from the COIN campaign in Colombia and apply to Afghanistan. The lessons are interesting -- I am sure there are more than just four -- and I was particularly struck by the one suggesting we de-emphasize the counter-narcotics mission.

First, a surge of U.S. combat forces to Afghanistan may be less useful than further increasing the number of military trainers being deployed to help build a viable Afghan army. Second, the administration should focus less on stopping the heroin trade and more on establishing functioning state institutions -- from schools to health clinics. Third, efforts to seal off border sanctuaries do not work and divert military resources from the central job of protecting civilians. The fourth lesson is a stark one: It will take time. The Colombian effort has taken nearly a decade and counting.