Sunday, October 24, 2010

I have talked before about fundamental misunderstandings about what counter-insurgency doctrine entails. Max Boot sets us straight again:
A number of commentators such as Fred Kaplan, David Ignatius, and Joe Klein have claimed that General Petraeus is abandoning counterinsurgency doctrine in Afghanistan in favor of a more kinetic counterterrorism approach designed to generate faster results. As evidence, they can point to an increase in air strike and Special Operations raids. This represents a fundamental misreading of counterinsurgency doctrine, which hardly eschews killing the enemy; rather, a proper counterinsurgency strategy has to be about more than simply killing the enemy — it has to have political, economic, diplomatic, legal, communications, and other elements to be successful. But that doesn’t mean you can ignore the imperative to kill or lock up insurgents — and Petraeus hasn’t, in either Iraq or Afghanistan.

Max points to an excellent note by Paula Broadwell on Tom Rick's blog at Foreign Policy:
One of the big ideas Petraeus embraced when he moved to Afghanistan last summer was "the need to change the COIN math, to figure out how to increase the numbers of ISAF/ANSF and to reduce the numbers" of fighters. The kill/capture roll-up rate mentioned above is one side of that ledger, and the other side is the now-complete surge of ISAF troops and the increase in ANSF troops. Though questions remain regarding their quality, the military and police training program is, in fact, ahead of October 2010 goals...

Petraeus has also placed increased emphasis on reconciliation and reintegration efforts in his first four months. "Reconciliation" focuses on senior Afghan leaders, most of who are hiding in Pakistan leading by cell phone. News of recent negotiations with senior Taliban this week indicates that small reconciliation efforts may be underway. "Reintegration" is conducted with those who are on the ground in Afghanistan -- mid-level leaders including district shadow governors and below. The objective, Petraeus said in a recent interview, "is to take away as many of the rank and file, take them off the battlefield again turn them from bad guys to good guys" or at least prevent them from "trying to kill our troopers and our Afghan partners and civilians." Intel chatter interdicted via low-level voice intercepts has shown that some senior-level insurgents feel coalition force pressure across their networks. Some reports indicate they may be willing to "cut a deal," as the recent negotiations between the Afghan government and Taliban portend.
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