Saturday, May 8, 2010

Bullets and Taxes

Tom Ricks points to some COIN literature from the 60s. This gets to the heart of why I continue to be quite bearish on Afghanistan. Our military can kill anyone and blow up anything, but that won't win the war. In fact, it could lose it. What will defeat the insurgency is building a government that can properly protect the population, enforce laws, collect taxes, and do everything else a government does. Currently, in many parts of the country the Taliban is better at this than the Afghan government. The US has its hands full trying to get the Karzai government to act in a way that will assist the counterinsurgency efforts. Unfortunately, as Andrew Exum points out in a new report for CNAS:

[As] Stephen Biddle noted almost immediately following [the publication of FM 3-24], much about the doctrine is politically na├»ve. When the United States wages counterinsurgency campaigns, it almost always does so as a third party acting on behalf of a host nation. And implicit in the manual’s assumptions is the idea that U.S. interests will be aligned with those of the host nation.

They almost never are, though.

Without a working, legitimate, and only mildly corrupt Afghan government, we will never defeat the Taliban. Just how likely are we to get that kind of government? I'm not optimistic.

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