Wednesday, June 30, 2010

McChrystal, COIN, and Pakistan

None of us can forget the tell-all Rolling Stone article  in which McChrystal deployed the unwise military tactic known as shooting oneself in the foot. Besides displaying insubordination and a definitive lack of PR tact, McChrystal also highlighted through the interview a fundamental problem that existed under his command. Self-absorbed and war-hawkish, he proved to us that he could not be a capable leader of the Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan (known as COIN).

The original intent of COIN was to develop a symbiotic relationship between the military and non-military organizations, underscoring the importance of social, political, and economic functions in the re-stabilization process. If McChrystal can't hold his mouth about his political counterparts such as Joe Biden, there is absolutely no way he is working effectively with them to instate COIN and stabilize the region. Fareed Zakaria points out that Petreus always made public appearances with the Ambassador and respected his civilian counterparts. At the end of the day, both McChrystal and Petreus were calling the shots in their respective regions -- McChrystal's inability to "play the game" indicates that he truly wasn't willing to diminish military control in an effort to actually save Afghanistan.

COIN as a military strategy also needs to be revised for Afghanistan. The country has less money and a longer history of war than Iraq, and most importantly, its insurgency is homegrown. Pashtuns are 50% of the population and 100% of the insurgency - pulling a McChrystal and trying to kill or eliminate these people is an unwise and unattainable goal. Instead, Petreus needs to redirect McChrystal's war efforts with the Pashtuns and begin making deals. Like the Good Friday agreement of 1988 in which the British established the Northern Ireland Assembly  and essentially got the insurgents to lay down their weapons for a seat on the political table, Petreus needs to work on bringing insurgents into the folds of government before and tactical change will be effective.

Finally, this brings me to my last point. Last week, the London School of Economics published a paper in which researchers discovered that the Afghani Taliban is funded and trained by the Pakistani ISI (equivalent of our CIA). Although this was assumed for a very long time, by finding verification amongst Taliban leaders, the LSE provides invaluable insight for Petreus to plan his next steps. We now know that the problem doesn't stop at Afghanistan and that Pakistan has a vested interest in seeing its neighbors unstable. Pakistani intelligent remains the world's biggest threat today. 

My opinion? Enough is enough. America needs to take a hard stance against the two-faced game we're seeing from Pakistan and superficial negotiations like this one can't cut it. Without Pakistan as a committed partner, the ridiculous war we're in doesn't have a full stop.

Petreus has a long and hard job ahead of him.

....back to the books. Ciao.

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