Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Reality of an Influence Strategy in Afghanistan

The more I read about the situation in Afghanistan, the more I stand by my previous analysis of the bottoms up rural nature of the country. The Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA) the ‘trade association’ for the Signal Corps and IT in general has an electronic newsletter called NightWatch. Their December 8 edition had a particularly good analysis of Afghanistan which I commend to your reading at:

Photo by Bruce Hoffman and Seth G. Jones, (

“Winning” in Afghanistan needs to be defined as establishing a secure enough environment that the country would no longer be a safe haven for Al Qaeda and other enemies of the United States. Our goal is not and should not be for Afghanistan to become a modern, democratic state. That being said, the key mission is to bolster local governments at the village level to the point that the Taliban are no longer to establish their dominance nor are Al Qaeda or other foreign enemies be able to exploit the country or its people.

We must recognize that a Taliban lead insurgency is a chronic condition much like a disease. However, the major of Taliban are not militants and are probably not ‘anti-American’ by nature as much as they are anti- stranger and anti-occupier. Consequently there are a number of key messages that must be transmitted:

1. Local Governments Have The Integrity & Wisdom Needed to Govern and Provide Honest Justice
This mission means key villages must be identified and local governments installed that can offer a viable alternative to the Taliban shadow governments. It means that these governments must be corruption free (in a relative sense because a certain level of corruption seems endemic to Afghanistan) and able to provide the quick justice Afghans have found so appealing in the Taliban shadow governments.

2. The Taliban Way is Not the Afghani Way
This would reassert the need for a people oriented justice system rather than the Sharia law or law based on the Quran. History has shown that the people of Afghanistan are fiercely independent and have no taste for these draconian legal systems.

3. NATO and the US are Not Occupiers
The ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) is there to help the people of Afghanistan restore security and peace. The mission of ISAF is to train Afghani’s to handle their own security and law enforcement and will leave once the mission is accomplished.

These messages need to be transmitted at the local level more than any other. This will require the entire force to be cognizant of how to work with the local villages and require the Department of State to cajole or catalyze the Karzai government into the same mode. It is clearer than ever before that the only way to succeed in Afghanistan is from the Bottom Up. As a former precinct organizer, let’s hope that President Obama insures that this philosophy is core to our strategy and operations.

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