March 31, 2009

Foust on COIN in Kapisa Province

Josh Foust got stuck in Kapisa Province and, with nothing better to do, started asking around about COIN efforts there. The result was this piece in World Politics Review that digs down deep on what counter-insurgency looks like from the perspective of one province near the Afghan capital:

Examining the past and current failures of coalition operations in this tiny province near the Afghan capital shows that effective counterinsurgency does not have to be overly complicated. For short periods of time in Kapisa, special operations forces and even conventional units have been hugely successful, but none have been able to properly capitalize on those gains and to make them permanent. As the pendulum of power in Kapisa continues to swing back and forth between the coalition and the insurgency, war fatigue is in danger of setting in. Before that happens, the coalition should begin to pay attention to the lessons it has already learned and avoid repeating its past mistakes . With minor changes to current operations, the coalition could permanently improve the security, political, and economic situation in Kapisa.

The same principles that would make permanent these halting and temporary security gains in this tiny province need to be applied to the country as a whole. Holding territory, incorporating domestic security forces, and having an understanding of the social and political fabric of the local population are all tenets of counterinsurgency theory. Unfortunately, these ideas are only being applied by U.S. and coalition militaries sporadically, without regularity and follow-up. Until the effort is concerted and systematic, the United States and its allies should dramatically lower their expectations of success in Afghanistan.