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Fighting on Afghan Time: The Other War Heats Up
As rising U.S. and NATO casualty counts attest, the war in Afghanistan is heating up. It is doing so on Afghan time, which is to say slowly. When you have all the time in the world, why hurry?
An April 7, 2006 study by the London-based Senlis Council, "Insurgency in the Provinces of Helmand, Kandahar and Nangahar," paints a somewhat alarming picture. I do not know who or what the Senlis Council represents, or what axes it may grind. The style of the report suggests English is not the first language of those who wrote it. But facts are still facts, and its report tracks with what I've seen elsewhere. The study states,
The Insurgency Assessment Report collates notes, evidence and facts gathered during a field visit of the three provincesduring the months of February/March 2006.
The visit was conducted by an independent field team, which met with civil, military and religious leaders in each of the provinces but also gained access to farming communities and other grassroots actors, with whom interviews and group meetings were conducted.
Speaking of all three provinces, the study says in its Executive Summary,
government control over the Pashto Belt, even at a limited level, is rapidly diminishing, with political volatility now reaching urban areas.
Volatility indicators such as the free movement of insurgent groups in daylight and in the main cities reveal that increasingly large areas of the South are falling under the influence of non-state actors.
At the core of this failure by the U.S., NATO and the Afghan government is a common and often fatal military phenomenon: conflicting objectives. On the one hand, the U.S. and its allies want to defeat the Taliban and other "terrorists." But at the same time, they also want to stop opium production. If the Senlis Council's analysis is accurate, attempts to pursue the second objective are pushing us away from attaining the first.
Looking at Helmand province, the report says,
In eliminating the sole survival strategy of many of the farming families, eradication in Helmand is fueling the insurgency. Anti government forces are winning over the dilapidated farmers by offering economic assistance including the cancellation of debts and providing military protection from eradication.
The Coalition forces mandate covers counter insurgency and support to counter narcotics activities. It is being widely reported that eradication activities are being supervised by the US and British military
Eradication is blunting counter insurgency efforts by pushing the local population toward the extremists
The local population has now come to identify international troops with eradication activities rather than with reconstruction efforts.