Saturday, February 13, 2010

New Offensive in Helmand

This article provides a good perspective on how this effort is different--not the size of it but what the effects will be afterwards.  It is less about clearing and more about holding and building, so it is less about NATO forces in play today (US, UK, Canadians, Danes, Aussies and others) and more about the capacity, resolve and intent of the Afghan officials who move in afterwards. 

Still, this is the kind of effort that is only possible after Obama's decision last spring (not this winter) to reinforce the US contribution and SecDef Gates to put Gen. McChystral in as head of ISAF.  His predecessor might have been inclined to do the same, but the statements by all involved reflect a coherence and adherence to a particular playbook that was not there last year.

Too early to tell how this will play out, but at least it looks like they are applying the appropriate strategy and vigorously so this time.  The enemy does get a vote and do the people, but, again, the most important actors in all of this will be the Afghan government at all levels.  Will the Afghan police act professionally or rapaciously?  Will the Afghan National Army perform well or not?  These are the big questions not just for today but for the long run.  Again, see the cliff notes version of Kilcullen that Ricks has posted over the last week.

1 comment:

Chris C. said...

I wonder how these specific tactics fit into a larger model; is the clear-and-hold strategy a way of making a credible commitment for the long-term? Is it a way of increasing the reputation of the Afghan government and lowering that of the Taliban (thereby affecting loyalty/sovereignty)?

And to go with something you mention above, what motivation do the Afghan officials/soldiers have for acting in accordance with NATO interests (principal-agent problem)? It doesn't seem like there are too many measures in place to actually hold the Afghan government accountable and the US has shown that it's fine with keeping Korruptzai in power in the name of stability. Our relationship with the Afghan government just seems structurally unsound and I'm worried that no matter what NATO does militarily, we're not going to make any real headway politically.