I have finished reading Afghan Gen.-in-charge Stanley McChrystal’s “assessment” on the Afghan war and am somewhat blown away by how thoroughly nation-building it is. I probably shouldn’t be surprised. McChrystal was chosen because he’s supposed to be an expert on counterinsurgency, and this assessment basically consists of plugging what can be garnered from the facts on the ground into classic counterinsurgency doctrine. The trouble is that while the doctrine is well-established among military intellectuals (if that isn’t an oxymoron) it has hardly ever worked in the real world. Basically, it involves winning the “hearts and minds” of the populace first by protecting them and offering economic development (roads, infrastructure projects, etc.) and effective, credible governance, thus neutralizing the appeal of the insurgents — as opposed to seeking out and killing the insurgents. The traditional doctrine, however, dictates force levels that would transfer to something like 500,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan (there are 68,000 now) and at least 10 years of patient nation-building.
Herewith a few key excerpts:
“To execute the strategy we must grow and improve the effectiveness of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and elevate the importance of governance.”
“Our strategy cannot be focused on seizing terrain or destroying ninsurgent forces; our objective must be the population.” [an admission that neither the government nor the coalition forces "have" the population now]
“the objective is the will of the people, our conventional warfare culture is part of the problem”
“resources will not win this war, but under-resourcing could lose it.”
“the international community must provide substantial assistance to Afghanistan until the ASfghan people make the decision to support their government and are capable of providing for their own security.”
“The second threat [the first is the existence of the insurgency] … is the crisi8s of popular confidence that springs from the weakness of GIRoA [Afghan govt.] institutions, the unpunished abuse of power by corrupt officials and power brokers, a widespread sense of political disenfranchisement, and a longstanding lack of economic opportunity.” In McChrystal’s view, the US must fix all this — good luck — for success to be achieved.
“There are no clear lines separating insurgent groups, criminal networks (including the narcotics networks) and corrupt GIRoA officials. Malign actors within GIRoA support insurgent groups directly, support criminal networks that are linked to insurgents, and support corruption that helps feed the insurgency.”“Hard-earned credibility and face-to-face relationships, rather than close combat, will achieve success. This requires enabling Afghan counterparts to meet the needs of the people at the community level thrugh dynamic partnership, engaged leadership, de-centralized decisin-making, and a fundamental shift in priorities.
“Success will be achieved when GIRoA has earned the support of the powerful Aghan people and effectively controls its own territory. This will not come easily or quickly. It is realistic to expect that Afghan and coalition casualties will increase until GIRoA and ISAF [international forces] regain the initiative.”
“GIRoA cannot fund its operations because of its inability to raise revenue, a situation made worse by the illicit economy. Poorly paid officials may resort to petty corruption, contributing to the peoples’ crisis in confidence. The international community [us taxpayers] must appropriately supplerment revenues until these problems are addressed.” The fact that foreign aid usually increases corruption rather than reduces it isn’t addressed.
And so on. It’s a heck of commitment. No wonder Obama is trying to buy time before he makes a decision. I’m guessing it will be a commitment to 2-3 years to make Obama appear serious before starting to withdrawal. If McChrystal is right, that’s just a half-hearted commitment enough to guarantee failure, with serious loss of U.S. lives and treasure.