Daniel R. DePetris: The Political Docket

Afghan Residents Growing Angry

Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan/Central Asia by Dan on May 6, 2010

Today, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has opened up a new hearing on the war in Afghanistan.

The mission here is to determine if the President’s new strategy is starting to take hold across the country, four months after the White House switched that strategy from good-old-fashioned “kick ass” fighting to population protection and economic reconstruction.  Last February’s operation in Marjah is the focal point of the investigation, which as you might remember was the biggest military operation against the Taliban in the entire nine-year conflict.

Frank Ruggiero, the top State Department official in Southern Afghanistan, and Brig. Gen. John Nicholson are expected to testify in front of the committee later today.

Judging from today’s festivities, things don’t seem to be all that rosy.  Senator John Kerry, the Chairman of the Committee, opened up the hearing with some strong words about the coalition’s effort in Marjah.  Courtesy of The Majlis:

“Unfortunately, the initial word from hundreds of villagers of Marjah suggests the full measure of our challenge. A recent survey conducted by the International Council on Security and Development showed that a vast majority of villagers felt negatively about foreign troops and that more young Afghans had joined the Taliban over the last year.”

These are not exactly reassuring words for the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.  The ICSD report that Sen. Kerry is referencing is extremely troubling from a counterinsurgency point of view: 67 percent of the Afghans surveyed found the Marjah operation “bad for the Afghan people,” and a vast majority predict that the Taliban will return despite America’s overwhelming “victory” earlier in the year.

This report is obviously a little bit dated, because the Taliban have already re-infiltrated the area.  Residents hardly go out at night, and many of the town’s citizens are intimidated by militants who warn them not to cooperate with coalition forces.  In fact, the Taliban continues to drill these beliefs into the minds of Afghans by unleashing a widespread P.R. campaign across the city.

With Marjah’s economy in the dumps, and with NATO’s less-than-stellar performance in institution building, should we have expected anything different?  15,000 soldiers cleared Marjah in February, only to leave in a month’s time without holding and building: two pillars of counterinsurgency doctrine.  And the last time I checked, we are performing a counterinsurgency in Afghanistan.  Talk about counterproductive.

What does this say for the upcoming NATO offensive in Kandahar?  Easy…don’t make the same mistake again!

-Daniel R. DePetris

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**Comments courtesy of Thomas H. Johnson of the Naval Postgraduate School and M. Chris Mason of the Center for American Defense Studies**


5 Responses

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  1. Khalid Mufti said, on May 6, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    I just wanna sit down and cry.

    Same old same old same old.

    Whether it’s Robert McNamara or Robert Gates, General Stanley McChrystal or General William C. Westmoreland, Henry Kissinger or Hillary Clinton, Richard M. Nixon or Barak H. Obama, it’s the same eyewash, hogwash and mouthwash.

    The Soviet Union disintegrated following its humiliation in Afghanis-Nam. What is in store for us? I shudder to think.

  2. JimBocru said, on May 6, 2010 at 7:05 pm


    Pakistan will ALWAYS have 2 major ISSUES !!

    1. Kashmir — NOT a Religion Issue —> Strictly a WATER issue — All the “headwaters” of the major Rivers in Pakistan Originate in Kashmir !

    2. Durand Line —> 100 year Durand Line Agreement has expired !!!

    So much of the Land “East” of the Durand Line — FATA, Balochistan, and Taliban Areas —> LEGALLY belong to Afghanistan !

    How can we solve the “Taliban” Problem Permanently ?

    1. Have the UN Security Council, pass a Resolution — stating those AREAS belong to AFGHANISTAN !

    2. Like Saddam Hussein, give the PAKISTANIS — 90 Days to Vacate this AREA Permanently.

    3. Drop a Few Daisy Flowers on Prominent Pakistani Military Locations to make a point !

    Pakistani Military has never failed to “tuck its tail between its legs” & scamper away, when faced with a strong military foe !

  3. ItOnlyStandsStoreAscn said, on May 6, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    …Criticism of the Marjah operation demonstrates that they don’t understand the kind of war McChrystal is fighting. They think it is a war of numbers. It is not, it is a war of symbols. The only way to victory (contra Vietnam, where “we had to destroy the village to save it”) is to accomplish what we never did in Vietnam: convince the people to end their support for or fatalism about Taliban rule. Marjah is a proof-of-principles operation.

  4. HeLeadsTheWay said, on May 6, 2010 at 7:07 pm

    So the Pakistanis are helping the Taliban fight our troops in Afghanistan with one hand, and they’re collecting $1.5 billion/yr, drones, and fighter jets from us with the other. Who is coming up with these policies!?

  5. anan said, on May 6, 2010 at 8:32 pm

    Might elaborate on my answer later.

    My question is where are the ANA and ANP for Kandahar?

    The ANA has tied up 3 brigades in Helmand and the ANCOP tied up a lot of their limited assets in Helmand. Plus for a while 3 ANA commando combat bns were conducting operations in Helmand. Notice that these are the most elite units the GIRoA has. Only 7 combat battalions are in the fight. 8th combat commando battalion graduates in the next few days.

    To do Kandahar right; it will take some time to round up enough ANA and ANP.

    Another issue to consider is that only 27 ANA combat bns have received their 4th combat companies [plus some of the new ANA battalions might have been fielded with 4 combat companies]. Part of the ANA fielding capacity is still tied up adding 4th combat companies to existing ANA combat battalions.

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