Archive for July, 2008

Afghanistan Doesn’t Need a Surge

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

Afghanistan needs many things, but two more brigades of U.S. troops are not among them.

Barack Obama said: “We need more troops, more helicopters, better intelligence-gathering and more nonmilitary assistance to accomplish the mission there.” Mr. Obama should have supported the surge in Iraq, but that doesn’t mean that advocating one in Afghanistan makes sense.

Afghanistan’s problems are not the same as Iraq’s. (more…)

Madrassas Built With Your Taxes

Monday, July 14th, 2008

THE US Army’s combina tion of development with counterinsurgency in Af ghanistan is admirable in all but one regard: We’re building mosques and madrassas, too.

When it comes to building roads, bridges, dams, schools and clinics in the 14 eastern Afghan provinces under de facto US Army protection, our military has done far more than any charity, the US Agency for International Development or the Afghan government.

In Khost Province, the model for US counterinsurgency, we built 50 schools last year alone and broken ground on a 200-bed hospital. But we’ve also finished four mosques, with four more in the works, plus three madrassas, with plans for one in every district (typically areas of 60,000-120,000 people).

The Army is building mosques and madrassas with good intentions. But it’s far too likely to backfire in the long run. (more…)

“It’s Not Rocket Science”: An American commander explains why Afghanistan is winnable

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

The British press seems to begin with the presumption that the Afghanistan war is a lost cause – partly for understandable historical reasons. Americans – or at least the Americans you encounter in Afghanistan – tend to be more optimistic. Certainly US Navy Commander Dave Adams, 41, exuded confidence when he told me about his twelve months as the commander of the Provincial Reconstruction team (PRT) in Khost Province.

Khost is a province of about a million ethnic Pashtuns that has a 180 km long border with Pakistan. It is now considered the “model province” among the 14 eastern and central Afghan provinces under direct American oversight.

From March 2007 to March 2008, Adams led a team of 83 military, 10 civilians, and 57 local nationals that changed the province possibly more than it had changed since people started living there. On my own three visits to Khost during that time, I had heard good things about Commander Adams from the American officer in charge of purely military or ‘kinetic’ operations in the province, Lieutenant Colonel Scottie Custer, but we never met. I finally caught up with him in Washington DC and asked him about his experience of provincial reconstruction and counter-insurgency.

“It’s presence plus projects,” Adams explains. “Afghanistan is winnable if you get off the FOBs (Forward Operating Bases) and live with the people, in the district centers.” (more…)