Emerging Counterinsurgency Doctrine

As we have been discussing here, the subject of "Counterinsurgency" is the flavor of the month in the Army and Marine Corps.  People who could not spell "Counterinsurgency" three years ago are now busy reading TE Lawrence, Mao Tse-Tung and even more obscure texts from the corpus of "Counterinsurgency" literature.  A political appointee in the DoD recently asked me with great and serious solicitude if I had ever seen "The Battle of Algiers."  The implication was that seeing this movie would make all clear.

It often happens that desperation leads to a willingness to listen to people who would, in other circumstances, never get an official hearing.  As General (Retired) Keane said on the Newshour a while back, the army that he ran went into Iraq without a clue on "Counterinsurgency."  It is now playing "catch-up" in its own ponderous, committee-bound, acronym, and general officer burdened way.  The US Marines seem better at such problems of intellectual introspection, somehow.

In this muddle of frustrated brooding, a cogently written document on "Counterinsurgency" has an enormous appeal as a kind of "open sesame!"  It helps if that document actually informs.

The writings of this Australian are now the flavor of the week.  Good!

Pat Lang

Download Panel5-kilcullen.pdf

Download twentyeight_articles_edition_1.pdf

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48 Responses to Emerging Counterinsurgency Doctrine

  1. mrsinger says:

    Col., It is virtually impossible to believe the tale you just told about,”The Battle of Algeries.” It is pathetic, disgusting that we have have a military worth hundreds of billions and the officer corp knows nothing about the enemy that in part defeated them in VietNam is now tearing Iraq apart, murdering young Americans who probably never even heard of the FLN or Viet Cong, Che. Malaya, the Tupemaros. It is sickening for the loss of life out of ignorance. West Point, VMI, etc. ought to be “forced” to teach the History of Insurency to every cadet for four years running. This criminal tragic lack; it is just another nail in the coffin of American hegemony. Michael Singer

  2. W. Patrick Lang says:

    The man who said that to me was quite sincere. He was also a civilian.
    I heartly agree that “Counterinsurgency” should be a major study at all service schools, including the service academies (West Point in this case).
    As a matter of possible interest, my alma mater, VMI, is a state college and not the property of the armed forces.

  3. dan says:

    I am not as versed in military affairs as many of you all seem to be. But, I was wondering if any of you all has read the article, “THE LESSON OF TAL AFAR,” about Colonel H. R. McMaster.
    I have been in favor of a withdrawal of troops for some time, but this article gave me pause as he seemed to be making some “progress” in his area. Perhaps this is just a drop in the bucket…

  4. SSG says:

    When I was in Iraq, challenging our dogmatic mindset and questioning our tactics was seen as disloyal. Nobody ever listened or even cared- I hate the f*&ken army

  5. rpe says:

    This is deja vu all over again. Someone said that Iraq is Vietnam on steroids and this is right out of the American war in VIetnam. The same sorts of cluelessness. The passionate love of acronyms.The search for the silver bullet that will turn it all around for us. The utter inability to understand the enemy point of view. The Sunni tribesmen hate us for religious reasons, nationalistic reasons, and cultural reasons. No amount of painting school houses, distributing soccer balls, or making nice with the local sheiks is going to change the fact that we are infidels who invaded their country to put a government in power that would do our bidding.The Al Anbar tribes have fought us to a standstill and they are begining to see victory on the horizon.They have no reason whatsoever to give up now.They sense that it is only a matter of time before the Shia turn on the Americans too.
    There is a bizzaro nuttiness to much of what passes for thinking by the Counterinsurgency types that springs from the sincerely held notion that we are good people doing the Lord’s work and once this has just been properly explained to the benighted heathen, they’ll fall right into line. I suspect that this is a uniquely American conceit. Americans want to be loved and admired by the “little brown brothers” wether they were Phillipinos who needed Christianizing, Vietnamese who needed saving from Godless communism, or the various Central American peoples we’ve saved from honest government, decent working conditions,dignity, and real independance.
    I don’t imagine for one minute that the British, the French, the Spanish, or the Romans ever had a need to be liked; feared, respected, and feared worked well enough for them. If we are going to be the new Evil Empire our centurions are going to have to start thinking like Darth Vader. To quote an American military axiom that was popular for a while in Vietnam ” If you have em by the balls, their hearts and minds are sure to follow,”. We’ll just have to take it on faith that, though our ideas didn’t work in Vietnam, they will in Iraq. All we have to do is close our eyes and wish real hard.

  6. W. Patrick Lang says:

    coupla things
    -The guys who wanted to get’em by the balls were not the counterinsurgency types. they were the “”big army” guys who were fighting the NVA army out in the woods. They had very little to do with anyone’s balls except the NVA.
    – The author of this paper is an Australian.
    – He rightly observes that in insurgency/counterinsurgencythe struggle is for control of the minds of the population. Means to that end are varied and they are never always nice. They are usually mixed. The VC/NVA did not control the parts of the country that they owned by being “nice.” They were sometimes “nice,” but their AGITPROP teams usually combined that with a program for the extermination of small property owners, school teachers, mayors, etc. One of their favorite techniques was a people’s court in which everyone was required to vote as a jury, the accused was then required to dig his own grave and stand in it while someone chosen by lot from the village shot him/her (equal opportunity) in the head. The VC were local, not foreigners. Let’s keep it real. pl

  7. angela says:

    I think we need a reseve force of the best and brightest, light infantry (not elite) crosstrained. My solution no federal funds to elite colleges for research or anyting unless they reserve 50% of their slots to veterans (of all forces) or those who will make a committment. We need to be able to field significant numbers with high IQs who can learn languages and figure complex technical problems.
    The regular forces would act as backup for heavy military problems and support infrastructure for these units.

  8. ckrantz says:

    What is considered examples of successful counterinsurgency campaigns where the conflict was won by winning the hearts and minds? The only campaings that comes to my mind as successful in fighting an insurgency are the spanish-american war in the philippines and the boer war. Both which used methods that I suspect wouldn’t be politically or morally possible today.
    Also there seems to be a contradiction in Iraq in that if we win the ‘hearts and minds’ of the sunni insurgency we will certainly piss of either the kurds or shia elites.
    Is it the case that the real conflict comes from a sunni political elite that never accepted defeat or being turned into second class status in what they considered their country? That would make the whole winning one village at a time a pointless exercise.

  9. ali says:

    “Engage the women, beware the children.”
    Certainly was true in Belfast; kids were always a menace. But Basra isn’t Belfast. I do wonder if a Sheila trying to turn Muslim women against their husbands is a recipe for stability.

  10. avedis says:

    Col. Lang,
    I don’t doubt the veracity of what you have said here. I just find it a little puzzling, at least at far as the Marine Corps is concerned.
    The Small War Manual dates back to 1940s. Counter Insurgency is to date part of the cirriculum at the Basic School. There were several publications and a fair amount of training that were developed as an ammalgamation of the Corp’s counter insurgency experience in Vietnam.
    While it’s true that the late seventies and early eightees saw a move to prepare for a confrontation with the Iron Curtain (and as part of a NATO force), the Marines did not ever totally abandon their operational capacity or their orientation to engage in counter insurgency campaigns.
    Perhaps in the ninetees counter insurgency was further de-emphasized? Again, puzzling, but maybe explains what you see as their faster learning curve today.

  11. W. Patrick Lang says:

    The US Marine Corps has done a better job in this.
    I admire Chesty also.

  12. W. Patrick Lang says:

    How about the campaign against the Huks or the Malayan Emergency? How about the British campaign against the Revolt in Iraq in the 20s or the British Campaign against the Palestinian Revolt in the 30s? How about the Guatemalan govenment’s suppression of the rebellion in Yucatan in the 60s? I can go on… pl

  13. rpe says:

    Col Lang,
    The VC were engaged, as they saw it, in a war against the American Imperialists, another war against the quisling ARVN government, and, last but not least, class struggle against the running dog, reactionary, feudal land owners and other class enemies. They were busy little killers.
    The fighters we are dealing with are, for the time being at least, Sunni tribesmen who are fighting to retain their traditional role as the rulers of Iraqi society with the aid of various Salafi religious fanatics. We are fighting against a fairly cohesive group of people and as the ethnic cleansing gathers speed they will become more cohesive. The Iraq conflict is in the process of degenerating, in part, into a religious war between the Sunni and the Shia. This is happening in conjunction with a Jihad against the American crusaders and, coming soon, a war with the Kurds over Mosul.
    A counterinsurgency campaign in, theory at least, would be directed at convincing the Sunni community by a combination of violence, bribery, and diplomacy to give up armed struggle against America and the Shiite government in Baghdad. There is nothing we can offer the Sunnis that would make this acceptable. They hate us as the new crusaders, the enemy of God himself. As for the Shia they consider them ignorant heretics in the pay of the detested Persians. We have no real leverage over the new Iraqi government to induce them to give anything to the Sunnis. The money to rebuild Iraq has already been wasted and we know and they know that nothing more will be coming. The Shia government in Baghdad will be perfectly happy to have us fight the Sunnis for them. Our threats to leave are just that. The Bush administration can’t leave without the complete collapse of the whole Neocon agenda.
    A classic counterinsurgency program would include carrots and sticks. We’ve only got sticks and the sticks haven’t worked so far. As time has gone on and the death squads, which may have started as part of the so-called Salvadoran Option, have done their grisly work, more and more Iraqi Sunnis are being forced by the ugly realities on the ground to align themselves with the resistance. The original idea behind the Salvadoran Option was to terrify the Sunni supporters of the resistance into passive or active cooperation with us against the insurgents. It seems to be backfiring very badly. The Sunnis in Baghdad have formed neighborhood militias, often in alliance with the resistance, to protect themselves from the Shia police/police commandos/whatever death squads. I suspect that in Salvador when this tactic was used the killers were not facing a society as highly militarized and as heavily armed as Iraq. Butchering thousands of unarmed Salvadoran labor leaders, peasants, teachers, priests & nuns, along with the odd archbishop gave some fool the idea that this was a winning strategy for Iraq. It doesn’t seem to work as well when the intended victims are heavily armed and, in many cases, veterans of 8 viscous years of trench warfare.
    In the final analysis, I believe all we have to offer the Sunnis is death. We have people planning the second “ liberation of Baghdad” which will consist of American troops attempting to forcibly disarm the Sunni neighborhoods. This will quite likely succeed in ethnically cleansing Baghdad of its Sunni inhabitants.
    You don’t need fancy new acronyms or arcane theories for this. Like Agricola’s campaign in Scotland our counterinsurgency doctrine is “ to make a wasteland and call it peace.”

  14. Happy Jack says:

    Col, for the purpose of this discussion, wouldn’t we have to focus on your first two examples? As per the methods used that is.
    The Huks were dealt with by an indigenous force. Might that make a difference in understanding the enemy?
    As for Malaya, it’s my understanding that the British required a longer tour for foreign service, at least 2.5 years(?). Can we be successful rotating people out every year,like McMaster?

  15. ckrantz says:

    Col Lang please correct me if I’m wrong but I understood counterinsurgency as mainly a war for the support of local population and being able to enforce a prefered political solution. I cant see that in any of the campaigns mentioned. At best a political compromise with a local elite like in malaysia or at worst total withdrawal but no political victory.

  16. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Happy Jack and CKRANTZ
    Ckrants – Not for the SUPPORT of the local population. It is a struggle for CONTROL of the minds of the local population. For that reason the propaganda of both word and deed is critical; hence both “land reform” and people’s courts. You won’t understand this phenomenon by over-idealizing it. This is war, nasty, cruel war on both sides. Pretty it up as you will but it is still war. You will never win in this kind of war if you think that nation building is a goal or end rather than a means.
    In Malaya, the enemy was limited to the Chinese community and the British successfully wooed the Malayan majority, then isolated the Chinese Terrorists from their own people and hunted them down. In the Phillipines Magsaysay had the active support of the US with money, supplies, advice, etc. In Greece after WW2 the Greek governemnt had the active support in the field and with money of both Britain and the US. I see “a war for the support of local population and being able to enforce a prefered political solution” in all these campaigns. If you list some I will tell you how in each case.
    As for the point that indigenous forces were the major element in many counter-insurgency campaigns, that is the preferred way to do it. Foreign advisers and money – local forces. That is the preferred way to conduct such a campaign. It is exactly what we did all over Latin America against leftist insurgencies led by the Cubans. Our effort was symmetrical to theirs.
    We had great success in this. That is why you have never heard of it except in the form of memorial T-shirts. pl

  17. W. Patrick Lang says:

    “Counterinsurgency” is a “Term of Art” developed in the 20th century revolving around theories and methods largely worked out by the French in combating “Wars of Liberation” as they used to be called.
    Your comment, althought interesting, is more about war in general and not particularly about “counterinsurgency” in this sense.
    In any event you give the people who screwed up Iraq more “credit” than they are due in imagining that they actually planned to apply whayt you call the Salvador Option against dissidents in Iraq.
    Firstly, they really are not as beastly as imagination is free to paint them.
    Secondly, they never saw somethiing like this politico/insurgent mess coming and for that reason did not plan anything. pl

  18. canuck says:

    Canadian troops in Afghanistan would probably approve of the Australian strategy. They do circulate among the people using them as a resource against the Taliban. No longer are they strictly peacekeepers, they are also prepared to kill the Taliban.
    It has been suggested that one of the ways to defeat the Taliban is to ensure the economic prosperity of the population. A recent assessment of the insurgency situation in Afghanistan:
    How are the people to support themselves if their crops are destroyed and there is nothing to put in its place? If innovative suggestions such as licensing the production of opium isn’t acceptable what is a long-term solution? Troops can’t stay in Afghanistan forever!
    Yes I did read there is resistance to the plan, but all I saw was criticism of the plan without any other solution proposed.

  19. W. Patrick Lang says:

    what “plan” are you referring to? pl

  20. Curious says:

    Counterinsurgency after losing the populous. Nice.
    By now the Pentagon should be preparing for a low level war with Iran and major regional wide instability. The way Bush is doing the diplomatic move, we are certianly will go to war against Iran one of these days.

  21. rpe says:

    Col Lang,
    I stand corrected. I’ll try and learn to take comfort from the thought the our national leadership are not a cabal of evil geniuses but a pack of evil morons.

  22. canuck says:

    Colonel Lang,
    The plan to license opium growing in Afghanistan for legal medical usage so the population won’t be lured by the Taliban insurgency or come under the influence of radicals in Pakistan.
    Feasibility of Opium Licensing
    Even if all the opium crops weren’t needed for medical usage, it serves five purposes: gives the farmers an income, thwarts the drug lords, it’s a much cheaper way to control illegal drugs in the world, it weakens local support for the Taliban. And it wins the hearts and minds of the people in Afghanistan.

  23. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Don’t know what you mean by “low level.” Looks like pretty frisky level to me if it happens. pl

  24. avedis says:

    Given the immense profits to be gained from the *illegal* opium trade it is hard to imagine the Afghanis opting out of that revenue stream even with opium growing for legal purposes permitted.
    Why not enjoy revenue from both legal and illegal consumption?
    Also, I would think that allowed growing for legal purposes would make it difficult to distinguish which plants are destined for which market. No?
    Thus confusing the control of opium production even more.

  25. canuck says:

    As is the usual case with farmers, it is not the grower that gets fat and rich:
    “In 2003, the average income from poppy (US$12,700 per hectare) was much higher than from wheat (US$222 per ha) or other agricultural products.
    The average net income for a ‘poppy farmer’(cultivating poppy and other crops) was some US$2,520 in 2003, against US$670 for a non-poppy farmer.
    The average net income for a ‘poppy farmer’(cultivating poppy and other crops) was some US$2,520 in 2003, against US$670 for a non-poppy farmer.
    However, not all poppy farmers can be considered rich; the highest proportion of poppy farmers (31%) earned only between US$200 and US$500 in 2003; and the highest proportion of non-poppy farmers (29%) earned between US$500 and US$1000. This reflects a concentration of poppy farming both among small-scale
    farmers and large-scale farmers, while non-poppy farmers tend to have medium size landholdings.
    More than 60% of the income of poppy farmers is from opium, followed by cereals and wages earned.”
    Poppy growing

  26. avedis says:

    Canuck, If that’s your perspective and underlying theory, why not just hand the Afghanis money and skip the poppies altogether.

  27. canuck says:

    Obviously, you don’t agree. How would you go about defeating the Taliban in this very poor country, where the majority of the people grow poppies in an attempt to support themselves? Insurgents are taking back all ground that was previously won. The drug lords are supported politically–17 of them have been elected to their parliament.
    Millions of dollars> have been spent. Dynacorp, a private Texas Company received a contract for 174 million to no avail–the crop in one province is expected to increase by 100% this year. The opium trade fuels the insurgency. It’s a cycle that has to be addressed. The entire country’s economy and insurgency revolves around opium.

  28. canuck says:

    Please focus your reply on the lives of the troops who are there from many different countries.

  29. libs0n says:

    Back in January of 2005 Newseek had an article on a new approach being considered in the Pentagon for dealing with the Iraq insurgency called the “Salvador Option”. It would replicate the tactics used in El Salvador, for proponents of the plan believed those tactics were successful in dealing the insurgency there. About a year and a half since that article was published, it seems clear to me that that option was indeed put into practice. I don’t even consider it surprising, or a beastly option to them, it just seems to be their modus operandi. For a lack of a better way to describe it, they have a very wrong view of the world, for instance that getting intel on a growing insurgency by using sexual blackmail on detained suspects is fine idea, and they act on that viewpoint while blinding themselves to possible repercussions that don’t fit into their viewpoint, or ignoring people who ‘don’t get it’. Focusing on missile defence and withdrawing from the ABMT rather than focusing on terrorism, the invasion of Iraq, the dumb ideas behind Guantonimo, applying what worked in El Salvador to Iraq, Iran if it happens, its all the same process, and thats why I don’t consider it far off.
    Google turns up more articles on the Salvadore Option as well.

  30. JustPlainDave says:

    Because the Afghanis are a proud people. I’d rather not hand the Taliban a ready-made propaganda lever on this one – much more difficult to sell the notion of western welfare than the notion of the west paying a fair price for what is widely considered to be a valuable commodity.
    Management of the counter-narcotics strategy seems to me to be the single most determinative element of any COIN effort in Afghanistan. Anything that we can do to increase our connection with the local peasantry and decrease the financial supports and political control of the regional warlords working against the establishment of better national institutions is a good thing.

  31. avedis says:

    Canuck, I wasn’t being sarcastic with my last.
    My first born attends a military college and he has been accepted to jump school this summer (Fort Benning). Believe me, the lives and well being of our troops is always prominent in my mind.

  32. avedis says:

    I hear what you’re saying. However, are you telling me that there is a defficiency in the global legal opium supply?
    Flooding the legal market with Afghan opium would cause prices (the value of a kilo of raw opimium).
    This would further discourage Afghan legal production and it might encourage a shift from legal to illegal somewhere else – like Turkey – where some other insidious form of narco-terrorism would arise.
    Plus, I think that you should give the Afghanis more credit for being intelligent people. If you’re simply paying them for opium and then burning the opium, they will figure out.

  33. RAM says:

    I just heard a report on CNN saying that U.S. forces will be gradually withdrawn into those “superbases” we’ve been building in Iraq to lower their profile. Exactly how does this line up with Rumsfeld’s “transformation” of the military? What kind of small war doctrine is this? It sounds more like what might be called the Custer Doctrine that we used on the Great Plains. Fort Apache returns! At least in the 1860s and 1870s, the U.S. Army was forted up on its own soil. I’m confused about what this, if it’s true, is supposed to accomplish. I think these people have well and truly lost their minds.

  34. W. Patrick Lang says:

    The military posts in tha West in the 1860s and 1870s were patrol bases.
    The Army was not “forted up” in them.
    In contrast to that, a withdrawal of forces to a series of defended air bases in Iraq would amount to the creation of a series of defended and isolated “islands.” pl

  35. rpe says:

    The American approach to drug use is to attack supply and suppliers. It has failed disastrously at home and abroad. We have the highest incarceration rate in the world and some of the lowest illegal drug prices. Isn’t the market wonderful? If we wish to do anything serious about the long-term problem, the demand side of the equation must be dealt with first. The approach we are taking towards Afghani opium is the same one we took with Colombian cocaine. In Columbia we have failed disastrously and there is no reason to think that we won’t fail again in Afghanistan. The Afghani farmers who are heavily armed, deeply religious, and fiercely nationalistic are not going to let us burn their crops or poison them with pesticides without retaliating bloodily and effectively against us. Afghanistan is a really big place. We have very few American and client state troops in country. There little chance that even a very aggressive campaign against opium farmers will seriously dent the supply and, paradoxically, if we did dent the supply, the inevitable rise in opium prices would keep the flow of money to the Taliban /warlords at the present rate or even higher. We are embarking on a policy that is bound to be either ineffective or, more likely, counterproductive, which is par for the course for our regime of rule by the dumbest and the dimmest.
    A saner policy would be to pay the Afghani farmers generous subsidies to not grow opium and pay large bribes to the tribal leaders to aggressively pursue and punish those that do. We should adopt the ancient Imperial policy of “ If you can’t beat em. Bribe em.”
    Not that this will end the bloodshed in Afghanistan directed against us. There will be those pious and honest souls who will never rest until the last kafir is driven out from Afghani soil. As long as we are in Afghanistan, we will pay for our presence in American blood.

  36. JustPlainDave says:

    “However, are you telling me that there is a defficiency in the global legal opium supply?”
    Actually, yes. My understanding is that due to historical biases in common medical practice opiates are far less used than current pain management practices suggest that they should be. I hasten to add that I am not a physician, so one’s mileage may vary, but I have been told this independently by a number of physicians.
    On the economic side, my view is that it’s far from clear what might happen to the price delivered to the agricultural producer, given that the current market is so heavily distorted by production controls and criminal activity.
    I agree that the Afghanis are highly intelligent – let’s not burn the product, let’s actually use it and use that as a means of more firmly embedding Afghanistan in a modern global system. We’ll know we’ve succeeded when we have our first tariff dispute over the price of raw opium… 😉

  37. JustPlainDave says:

    On a related note, I observe that The Battle of Algiers is actually available on DVD in a 2004 re-release (all the online reatailers seem to carry it). After all these years of reading about it I’ll actually have to see it.

  38. canuck says:

    I didn’t think you were being sarcastic…I was just trying to keep the topic focused on it being a tool to combat the insurgency which benefits the lives of the troops. Sorry, if I gave you impression I doubted you sincerity.
    The feasibility link I gave pointed out the ban on opium production hasn’t proved to be successful. That’s because its success depends on the co-operation of Afghans involved in the industry to look to other forms of livelihood. Opium is a very important ingredient in medical pain killers such as morphine. There is a great deal of material at Senliscouncil about the viability of licensing opium growing.
    All of the crops the Afghans could grow would be converted to needed medical use. Because it would be put to good use, I don’t see licensing it as flooding the market. I could be wrong? The growers would be providing a useful product and could take pride in what they produce. I never did envision the opium as being burned.
    Glad to hear your son is looking forward to his jumper training. My Stepfather told me he enjoyed the tranquil feeling of floating in the air on the way back to earth.

  39. canuck says:

    Oops…Dave we were posting at the same time and I have repeated some of your comments.

  40. Curious says:

    Don’t know what you mean by “low level.” Looks like pretty frisky level to me if it happens. pl
    Posted by: W. Patrick Lang | 26 April 2006 at 05:44 PM
    I meant, not all out open battle, with nukes and missles thrown at each other.
    but, special forces, saboteur, trainers, propaganda officers, diplomats, trade reps. that sort of stuff.
    Iran obviously is winning in the opening salvo, since the oil price is tilting to their favor.
    If Pentagon is not calculating the effect of high oil price on long term mission viability, Then we got some serious idiots running around, thinking we can afford $80B+ annual expenditure after full recession sets in.
    and we are not talking about oil instalation around the world suddenly popping like plump cherry yet.
    Those trans-eurasia pipe better not pop under any circumstances, or we’ll see $75+/barrel easy

  41. avedis says:

    Dave and Canuck,
    I honestly don’t see where there is a lack of supply of legal opium; certainly not anywhere near to the extent that you could base an entire country’s economy on its production.
    Furthermore, I agree rpe that the problem with the illegal drug trade is not there are drugs in the world, but that there are many people willing to pay large amounts of money to consume them.
    As long as such demand exists there will be those willing to take the risk to deliver the supply, regardless of the official penalties.
    So forget stamping out illegal drug trade in Afghanistan.
    We could work directly with the opium producers like we did with the Meo in Laos, but I think the best thing for our troops is to leave nation building to situations where the environment is right. I don’t see Afghanistan as such a place. It was right to go there and kill AQ members and disrupt terrorist training camps.
    It was right to bring in Karzai. It is probably right to send aid.
    Yet, I don’t see any fundementals for economic or social growth in the country. Too much of the land is too poor for farming. The land lacks other profitable natural resources.
    We should bring the troops home and leave Afghanistan to the Afghanis, albeit with the firm understanding that we will return at first sign of militant anti-Americanism being permitted in the country.
    I don’t see a counterinsurgency effort there as being long term sustainable or effective given the opium situation and the lack of viable economic alternatives.

  42. JustPlainDave says:

    My understanding is that legal opium production is about 10% of global production. Of the illegal production, the vast, vast majority (I believe it is in excess of 90%) comes from Afghanistan. The bulk of legal consumption comes from quite a small number of industrialized countries. I don’t know whether legal consumption could be boosted in the industrialized world to cover the entire current illegal production, but even moderate increased penetration into the developing world could make a significant difference. Collectively, this may well be enough to make some managed production system viable.
    I do not believe that we have the option of withdrawing from Afghanistan. Based on the accounts I’ve been seeing from Afghanistan, militant anti-Americanism already exists in not terribly small amounts. Contrary to the situation in Iraq, I do think that a sustained COIN programme is possible – particularly given some of the new NATO commitments. I agree that the counter-narcotics strategy is central, but I’m unwilling to say a priori that the situation is hopeless. COIN takes a long, long time and we’re in very early stages – the whole point of Col. Lang’s original post is that the US Army has largely not had nor practiced a COIN doctrine until recently. (For the record, neither do we Canucks, apparently, but there has been by all accounts an awful lot of self-education going on over the past few years. Much of the quotes I’ve read coming out of Kandahar sounds quite reminiscent of the documentation above.)

  43. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I agree that a COIN program played out over a long time with patience and subtlety could work in Afghanistan. pl

  44. avedis says:

    Col. I have no doubt that we could militarily continue to dominate anti-American/terrorist/Taliban forces; probably indefinitely given a continued force presence in Afghanistan.
    But what happens when we leave? With what do we entice the Afghanis to our PoV? How do we show them a better way? I am genuinely interested in hearing your suggestions.
    Unlike you, I have spent the bulk of my adult life *not* in the service. And when I was in the service I did not gain experience in the nuances of COIN operations. So I’m inclined to defer to your expertise in these matters. However, I have been formally educated in the field of economics and have invested a number of years working in that field. It is from that perspective that I commented on the lack of viablility of nation building in Afghanistan.
    BTW, I do not actually advocate leaving Afghanistan at this time because I think that our presence there will be required to deal with an impending uprising in the frontier provinces of Pakistan that border Afghanistan.

  45. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I would not venture to say that ours is a “better way.” The most I would say is that it is our way.
    The Afghans are what they are. Why should they change to be like us? Of course, this is a Special Forces soldier talking. SF has always sought to work with people as they are rather than perform missionary work amongst them.
    I have participated in trying to get various commercial enterprises started in the infrastucture field in Afghanistan. What I have found is that the various Afghan peoples are quite happy with their ancestral ways, do not want Taliban rule back and are not willing to do things our way.
    I think we should leave them to their own ways, build up the ability of the tribes to defend themselves against the Taliban and AQ and do business with people in the country in a robustly capitalist way. pl

  46. avedis says:

    “…build up the ability of the tribes to defend themselves against the Taliban and AQ…”
    Therein lies the key.
    Do they really want to not join the ranks of AQ and/or Taliban.
    If the answer is yes, then I sppose you are on the right track.

  47. Bill Meara says:

    Interesting topic and blog. I just published a book that I think you guys would be interested in. It is about counterinsurgency (and Contra insurgency!). Please forgive this shameless plug, but I do think it would be of interest to readers of this blog.
    Check it out: http://www.contracross.com

  48. taters says:

    Readers here are quite familiar with the results of the Opium Wars on China.
    With most estimates stating that there are well over two million opiate addicts in Iran, could the further flooding of opiates by Afghanistan including heroin assist in the de – stabilization of Iran?
    Or are the addicts so much on the fringe that any effect similar be minimal? Please be aware know I’m asking strictly in the realm of the hypothetical, of course. Not to mention drug addiction already is on the rise in Iraq.
    Iran Focus
    Tehran, Iran, Sep. 24 – A report by the United Nations has found that Iran has the highest drug addiction rate in the world, the Washington Post reported on Friday.
    “According to the U.N. World Drug Report for 2005, Iran has the highest proportion of opiate addicts in the world — 2.8 percent of the population over age 15”, the Post wrote.
    According to the daily, only two other countries – Mauritius and Kyrgyzstan – pass the 2 percent addiction-rate mark.
    “With a population of about 70 million and some government agencies putting the number of regular users close to 4 million, Iran has no real competition as world leader in per capita addiction to opiates, including heroin”.
    The Post added that a government poll had shown that almost 80 percent of Iranians believed that there was a direct link between unemployment and drug addiction.

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