Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Military Leadership Lacking in Afghanistan?

Locals react to US burning of Qurans

Click here for related story [USA Today]

Today's news carries still another story of an egregious action by our military inflaming the local populace in the Middle East War Zone.

In this case, a truckload of Qurans and other religious materials ended up in the trash and were then burned as rubbish.  Indigenous laborers discovered the incident and raised holy hell - literally, resulting being massive demonstrations around Bagram Air Base [near Kabul].

[We can understand this outrage, particularly when we recall the bilious US religious response when Muslims sought to build a mosque near Ground Zero.]

This incredibly stupid incident follows a series of drone air strikes in which non-combatants [women and children] were killed, and written off as "collateral damage".

The net result, all our troops there are now at heightened risk since the insurgents will exploit this incident, once again painting the US as the "oppressor."

The US Commander of the International Security Assistance Force, Marine General John R. Allen, apologized to the Afghan government and local populace for the Quran burning incident, and has apologized for the "collateral damage" incidents as well.

The Buck Stops Here!
Unfortunately, it seems his tour has consisted of a series of apologies for egregious incidents which have alienated the population of the country he is supposed to be "assisting".  He can blame his troops, but, he's failed to implement the Truman Doctrine.

He's the commander, and unfortunately, if it happens on his watch, he's responsible.

Allen has a fairly notable political ticket-punch career, rather than earning his stripes/stars through combat service.

We note the absence of combat awards, and his extended time in academia, to include residence as a Fellow at CSIS, and selection as a Term Member with the Council on Foreign Relations -- both key avenues to political ascension -- perhaps contributing to his meteoric promotions from Brigadier to four stars in less than four years.

Serving as the aide to the USMC Commandant and in the office of the SecDef certainly did not hamper his advance.

General Allen just might, in fact, be a sterling officer.

What he seems to lack is the ability to convey to his staff and subordinates the necessity of winning the "hearts and minds" of the local populace.  He was awarded a Masters degree in Strategic Intelligence from the National Defense Intelligence College [NDIC], which theoretically might have taught him something about operating in an insurgent environment.

Apparently not!

You don't succeed in an insurgent environment by alienating the local population.
A quick read of Mao Tse Tung teaches the insurgent to "swim with the fishes to defeat the oppressor" - and the US seems to have assumed the role of "oppressor" rather than "liberator".

An effective Counter-Insurgency operation involves a dynamic Civil Affairs program with Americans fully fluent in the local language, customs, and culture, working with the locals on a variety of productive projects [e.g., schools, hospitals, roads, business enterprises, and effective indigenous defense forces].
Ultimately, you achieve success by creating a credible indigenous military and police force which supports and assists the people, and demonstrates that they are better than the local insurgents.

The US role is to be an invisible hand in supporting the indigenous government with military equipment and intelligence gathering and processing; our visibility lies in Civil Affairs, and emergency back-up for government forces targeting the insurgents.

We've failed miserably in this concept.

Perhaps it's time to either implement an effective civil affairs program along with a well-thought out counter-insurgency program, or pull out and turn the country over to the Taliban.

Full Disclosure:
[I ran a successful US counter-insurgency program in NE Thailand in the 1970s, where we worked hand-in-glove with the local police and military -- and eliminated the insurgent threat using the methods I've described above; that followed my time in Laos in unconventional operations.  I developed the Army Doctrine for CI in unconventional environments in 1977. I was also a DCI Fellow at CSIS, and am a graduate of the NDIC.]