Saturday, December 04, 2010

A key to a solution in Afghanistan? Or an official daydream?

The Nov-Dec issue of the Army's Military Review features a piece by Lt. Col. Mark Johnson called Reintegration and Reconciliation in Afghanistan: Time to End the Conflict. The title might suggest that the article is arguing its time for NATO to start withdrawing from Afghanistan. But that's not the topic.

Johnson writes about two related programs, one called "reintegration", the other "reconciliation". Reintegration involves lower-and mid-level "Taliban" fighters agreeing to stop fighting for the resistance, going back to their communities and at least passively cooperate with NATO and the Afghan government (referred to in this article by one of those ubiquitous military acronyms, GORoA). Reconciliation involves higher-ranking "Taliban" leaders. Johnson discusses the two in the article as essentially one program.

The article explains how the program is supposed to work and presents it in an optimistic light. But you don't even have to read between the lines to see Johnson's explicit statements about how the effort is underfunded and that confidence in the central "GORoA" isn't great among much of the population. And it requires only a little imagination to wonder whether what is being described is really just a bureaucratic fig leaf on a program for bribing village elders. And when I read things like this, the phrase "wishful thinking" comes to mind:

The Afghan people are tired of conflict and do not really care who provides them opportunity, security, and justice, as long as they can live and raise their children in peace, without fear of being maimed by an insurgent-emplaced roadside bomb or killed in an "escalation of force" incident because they were driving too close to a coalition convoy.
Really? People in Afghanistan don't care whether they are ruled by foreign occupiers from "infidel" countries? I've never been to Afghanistan. But the history of that country just in the last few decades when the US has been actively intervening strongly suggests otherwise.

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