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August 13, 2010



Close, but no cigar. First, there is nothing essentially different between the current COIN strategy and that espoused by Arquilla. Those tactics directed specifically against the insurgence are primarily network-based and certainly involve partnering with friendly indigenous forces. The large footprint in Afghanistan is by and large logistical and directed towards civil support.

Second, invoking Kilcullan against McChrystal and Patraeus is absurd--Kilcullan was one of the central intellects behind the current COIN doctrine.

The central misunderstanding in this op-ed is betrayed in the following paragraph:

"Forget about winning the hearts and minds of Afghans and building a stable democracy there. That was and is a pipe dream of those neo-conservatives that pushed for the Iraq War at the expense of finishing the mission in Afghanistan in the first place."

This is the darling argument of the opposition cum majority, but is fundamentally flawed (and really, this op-ed comes "this" close to revealing why). The current fiasco in Afghanistan was lost regardless of Iraq. There aren't enough troops to accomplish the mission because the mission can't be accomplished. Bush was absolutely correct when he announced "mission complete," he simply needed to act on his own realization.

The real culprit here is the Army's own momentum. The US has no business conducting invasion operations--we simply don't have the stomach for it. Not that it really matters in the case of Afghanistan--the Soviets absolutely had the stomach for it, but the Afghans proved indomitable. The US Army, in its quest for relevance in an increasingly Air Power world, sold the administration on the nation building mission (though we can't call it that, can we?). And now here we are.

Kilcullan is right--our presence creates accidental guerillas. Had our horse soldiers ridden into Kabul with Dostum, Ata Muhammed et.al., and handed them the keys to the city along with a stern and credible warning that their destruction would be next should they fall out of line, this would all be over. The Northern Alliance would have rounded up the crazies for public execution in the Kabul Soccer stadium. Afghanistan would be the brutal place it is today, but utterly inhospitable to Al Queda and their ilk.

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