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 Post subject: More harm than good
PostPosted: Tue Nov 24, 2009 3:04 pm 
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Having a go at Mary Riddell is a bit like pulling legs off flies – after they have been swatted with fly spray (the flies, that is). Even then one wonders though why her newspaper bothered to send her on a jolly to Afghanistan, for what good her vapid piece actually does.

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 Post subject: Re: More harm than good
PostPosted: Tue Nov 24, 2009 8:24 pm 
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Might be interested in this article.

US strategy may soon focus more on the tribal groups.

Quote:
Filkins, one of the most intrepid war correspondents, reports that special-operations forces have begun to help anti-Taliban militias in southern and eastern Afghanistan, where the insurgents are concentrated. These militias have risen up spontaneously in certain tribal groups, but U.S. commanders hope that they can use the example of these revolts "to spur the growth of similar armed groups across the Taliban heartland."

The interest, even excitement, in this development stems from two sources. First, it is reminiscent of the Anbar Awakening in 2006-07, when Sunni tribal leaders in western Iraq formed alliances with U.S. forces—whom the Sunnis had been shooting just months earlier—to beat back the bigger threat of al-Qaida.

Second, it has drawn high-level attention to a 45-page paper by Army Maj. Jim Gant, the former team leader of a special-ops detachment stationed in Konar province. The paper, called "One Tribe at a Time: A Strategy for Success in Afghanistan," recounts his experiences with organizing "tribal engagement teams" to help local fighters beat back the Taliban—and it spells out a plan to replicate these teams across the country.

...

The premise of his paper is that Afghanistan "has never had a strong central government and never will." Rather, its society and power structure are, and always will be, built around tribes—and any U.S. or NATO effort to defeat the Taliban must be built around tribes, as well.

The United States' approach of the last seven years—focusing on Kabul and the buildup of Afghanistan's national army and police force—is wrongheaded and doomed. The tribal approach also has many risks. But the case for it, Gant argues, is this: "Nothing else will work."


Read this "One Tribe at a Time: A Strategy for Success in Afghanistan (pdf)"? I haven't, just going to have a look now.*

My guess is it isn't much of plan IF the end goal is still Afghanistan, rule from Kabul, end to Taliban and other regional insurgencies. Afghanistan is not Iraq. If it doesn't solve the Kandahar/Kabul problem or the nomad/settled problem it will have no impact.

Now, if you combine the "One Tribe at a Time" approach with a Pashtun King ruling from Kabul... that could work. I could imagine some of the nomad population being roped in on the side of a Pashtun king.

nice quote

Quote:
The Pashtun can go from brother to mortal
enemy—in 60 seconds. It is one of the things I
respect and enjoy most about the Pashtun culture.
It is also important to remember that most of the
insurgents are Pashtuns. In many cases the Taliban
rule of law (Shar’ia law) is in direct conflict with
Pashtunwali. We currently are not using this to our
advantage.

Ask a Pashtun what comes first, Islam or Pashtun-
wali, and he will invariably answer: “Pashtunwali.”

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 Post subject: Re: More harm than good
PostPosted: Wed Nov 25, 2009 12:42 am 
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The author Gant is a Major in the US Special Forces. He made special reference to the fact he had a good translator - educated, middle aged, and Pashtun.

p.17

nomad/settled dynamic
Quote:
The one that concerned him [tribal leader] most was a bad situation within his own tribe. I will not get into the specifics of the different clans and sub-clans but there was a "highland" people and a "lowland" people/ Noorafzhal's tribe included people whose physical location is on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. The highland people had taken and were using some land that belonged to the lowland people. The Malik told me the land had been given to his tribe by the "King Of Afghanistan" many, many years ago and that he would show me the papers.

I told him he didn't need to show me any papers. His word was enough.

He then told me he had given the highlanders 10 days to comply with the request or he and his men would retake it by force. Here was the critical point for me and my relationship with Malik Noorafzhal.

It is hard on paper to explain the seriousness of the situation and the complexity we both were facing. He had asked for help, a thing he later would tell me was hard for him to do (especially from an outsider) and I had many options. Could I afford to get involved in internal tribal warfare? What were the consequences if I did? With the tribe? With the other tribes in the area? With my own chain of command?

I made the decision to support him. "Malik, I am with you. My men and I will go with you and speak to the highlanders again. If they do not turn the land back over to you, we will fight with you against them." With that, a relationship was born.


That is one dynamic of the conflict at its smallest scale. Writ-large the "highlanders" team up with the Taliban to further their interests against the more civil "lowlanders" who have teamed up with the Americans. Local actors are inviting foreign "game changers" to swing local conflicts in their favour.

Hence we have on P.22

Quote:
My biggest regret

Over time, it became very clear that the relationship we had built with the tribe was causing them to become a target for HIG (warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's armed party, Hezb-e Islami) in the area. We could not stay in the village 24 hours a day due to our other mission requirements. In retrospect and with many more years of experience under my belt, not setting up our base in Mangwell was a mistake.

Since we could not maintain a 24-hour presence in the village (which they asked us for on two separate occasions), I decided to give them as many weapons and as much ammo as I could get my hands on. I felt like not only was it the best thing to do, but the moral thing to do as well. I had asked them to risk so much-what else was I supposed to do?

I am comfortable with the decision for two reasons. First, the tribe needed more weapons to help defend themselves and, more importantly, Malik Noorafzhal and his people viewed these weapons as great gifts. These were gifts not only of honor but trust as well. These gifts bound us together even more than we already were. Power in this area was about the ability to put armed men on the ground to attack an adversary or defend their tribe. Guns were the ultimate currency.

A principal tenet of the One Tribe at a Time concept is that US Tribal Engagement Teams "advise, assist, train and lead" the tribal forces they are paired with. Under "assist," we need to add "arm and supply."


Lots of photos in the piece.

You get the idea. Overall rather niave, typical of the sort of "been there" journalism you have been criticising. Too close to the action, doesn't upscale to the "big picture".

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 Post subject: Re: More harm than good
PostPosted: Sat Nov 28, 2009 9:47 pm 
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Gordon Brown interviewed on Radio 5. Seemed to understand issues much better than the journalist (John Pienaar?). For example, he called the fight an insurgency, while the journalist talked about "war".

After what seems to have been an "ultimatum" to Kazai, to counter corruption and train army and police, interesting he stressed.
Quote:
"If we can't make progress at a national level we will have to do more at a local level".

He also mentioned "tribes".

Information filtering through.

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