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October 25, 2009


Eric Chen

Professor Nacos,

Did the Soviets employ Petraeus-style COIN? "Pro-insurgency sentiment" about our military presence will largely depend on the perception of tangible benefits from our military to the Afghanis and their community. As such, the COIN peace-building strategy for Afghanistan is meant to employ our soldiers in a manner that encourages Afghanis to make rational choices that favor our goals, in part by creating an environment conducive for GOs, NGOs, and IOs.

Kristof's notion that NGOs can replace the military in Afghanistan is enticing but his cite of CARE reminds me of the CARE aid worker in Iraq, Margaret Hassan. I wonder if CARE agrees with Kristof that their efforts would be helped by removing the US/NATO SASO mission from Afghanistan: http://www.care.org/newsroom/specialreports/afghanistan/20050505_ansocare.pdf

Kristof seems to imply NGO initiatives would be sustained, even improve, without a controlling Western presence on the ground. Maybe. But at that point, the NGOs would be working at the pleasure of whatever force dominates Afghanistan after we abandon the country. It seems you differ with Kristof about the Taliban; based on his use of the schools they haven't blown up as evidence, he seems to prefer the Taliban over US/NATO forces as the chief security provider in Afghanistan. If that's not the case, and Kristof actually believes NGOs can defeat the extremists, I recall a 2007 peace operations conference at SIPA (which, if memory serves, you also attended) where a USAID rep said in substance, if the military expects a follow-on civilian force, don’t, it’s not coming. At the same event, a UN rep said she feared a US "regime change" from the Bush admin to a presidential admin opting for withdrawal would be the death of on-going international efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Finally, as far as “Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace…One School at a Time,” I wonder if Mortensen believes his efforts are incompatible with the COIN proponents' call for more troops. From http://www.gregmortenson.com/biography/ :

Three Cups of Tea is required reading for U.S. senior military commanders, for officers in the Norwegian War College, Forsvarsnett, for U.S. Special Forces deploying to Afghanistan, Pentagon officers in counter-insurgency training, and Canadian Defense Ministry members.

The book has been read by General David Petraeus – CENTCOM Commander, Admiral Mike Mullen – Chairman Joint Chief of Staff, and Admiral Eric Olson – SOCOM Special Forces commander, and several other U.S. military commanders who advocate for building relationships as a part of an overall strategic plan for peace. Mortenson has addressed the National Defense Senior Leadership Conference at the Pentagon, visited over two dozen military bases, NORAD, and been to the Air Force, Naval and West Point Academies.

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