Counterinsurgency is a Long Term Process, Not an Event: McChrystal

Afghan commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal didn’t give away much on the pending Kandahar offensive in today’s presser at the Pentagon, predicting a “difficult” fight against a “smart” insurgency that constantly probes for openings where it can slip fighters into villages and towns and intimidate the local population through assassinations and “night letters” under the noses of U.S., NATO and Afghan troops.

Special operations units are targeting insurgent networks and leaders in Kandahar, he said, prepping the terrain for the coming offensive. But he cautioned against expecting a D-Day like offensive. That’s not how wars amongst the people are fought, he said, channeling a bit of the Rupert Smith; fighting a war in the middle of somebody’s home isn’t easy.

He plans a gradual “rising tide” of security that will, over time, convince the local people to side with the Afghan central government against the Taliban. “They have to see it to believe it, but they can’t just see it once, they have to see it until they believe it’s durable.” The people remain to be convinced, he said.

“A counterinsurgency effort is long term, it’s a process, it’s not an event.” He described a classic counterinsurgency ink-blot strategy: “The intent is to create security bubbles or security zones that expand until they’re contiguous.” He said the change in security in the Helmand river valley since the American led offensives there has been nothing short of “dramatic.”

While Kandahar has a heavy insurgent presence, it was safe enough that he and Gen. David Petraeus took a stroll through the streets buying bread the other day, he said.

— Greg Grant

  • AAK

    Well at least he can articulate exactly what ‘victory’ in Afghanistan looks like, and has a plan to get there. Whether it’ll work out like that given religious/tribal situation there, I’m not optimistic. And no I don’t have any better ideas, sometimes there is no solution, trying is as good as it gets.

  • Nathen

    AAK.. The solution and your so called “victory” is very simple. We will stabilizer the region and allow governing power to preside. The law of the land should stand for the betterment of the people, not the persecution. While it doesn’t not have to be and will not be an American model, a “Pakistani” model will suffice, and will be better than the obvious alternative if we left tomorrow.

  • Riceball

    “. . . convince the local people to side with the Afghan central government against the Taliban.” Goo luck on that one, from what I’ve heard and read the central gov’t. there isn’t very well trusted over there because it’s corrupt as all hell. I don’t think that there’s an overabundance of love for the Taliban or AQ but neither do they care for Karzhai and in Kandahar they don’t care much for his brother. Sadly, if we can’t clean up the Afghan government and get the people to trust it then I don’t think that we can ever truly win over there.

  • J Weich

    I’d also like to point out that the US has now been in Afghanistan longer than the Russians, and have accomplished far less. When the Russians were in Kabul, women drove cars, wore western clothes, went to a Russian built and funded university to study to be doctors and lived in Russian built apartment buildings.

    The US has built massive military bases complete (up until recently) with fast food outlets for the troops and a few schools, many of which have been closed due to Taliban pressure.

    The US has also repeated the same military mistakes the Russians made, but their casualties are far fewer. There are lots of reasons for this, better weapons, better protection, better medical evacuation and care, but the main reason is fighting style. The Russians fought up close, the US makes contact and then withdraws and calls in air strikes or artillery. This ends up with a lot more innocent Afghans killed and a lot more local resentment to the occupation and their not very well strung puppet government.

  • Byron Skinner

    Good Morning Folks,

    There were no lessons learned in Vietnam. The best commentary on Vietnam is by a retired military officer who said that: “The war in Vietnam existed only in the American mind.” The same can be said for the war in Afghanistan against the Taliban.

    The old argument that applied to Vietnam once it became apparent that we were not going to win anything and in fact entered the conflict under falsehoods was that we are to involved, and can’t quite now.

    Of course, as in Vietnam, the people who now support this position of national vanity in Afghanistan have nothing at steak nor have paid any price for the follies of going to war against the Taliban. In fact more then likely they have economically or politically benefitted for there wars.

    Like the war in Vietnam there is no evidence supported reason(s) for us to be fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. That the Taliban are bad people is not an American problem, it is an Afghanistan problem, if it is a problem in Afghanistan. Either case we have no business interfering.

    Nor was there any reason(s) that could be supported by undeniable evidence for the US invasion of Iraq. That Saddam Hussein was a very, very bad man just is not a reason for going to war and over throwing an elected government.

    The media and entertainment industry has shrouded the war in so may myths that any truths were long ago killed. If you repeat something that is untrue long enough it becomes a truth, then it becomes a leap of faith and a religion.

    To end with one aging peace activist said recently with a sigh. “We gave Peace a chance, and we didn’t like it.”

    Byron Skinner