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One Tribe at a Time

chApter i

defining win

We have killed thousands and thousands of the “enemy” in Afghanistan and it clearly has not brought us closer to our objectives there. We could kill thousands more and still not be any closer five years from now.

E VERYONE TALKS ABOUT “WINNING” in Afghanistan. But what does that mean? e most current denition from President Obama is to, “disrupt, dismantle, and defeat” the terrorist network, al -Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan. More importantly, the President also added, “and to prevent the return of al-Qaeda in either country in the future.”

We will be totally unable to protect the “civilians in the rural areas of Afghanistan until we partner with the tribes for the long haul. eir tribal systems have been there for centuries and will be there for many more. Why should we ght against not only what they have been accustomed to for centuries, but what works for them? ey will not change their tribal ways. And why should they?

Although a topic for another paper, US forces in Afghanistan have accomplished that mission and could continue to do so until our national or political will to stay there runs out—and everyone knows this time is quickly approaching.

B : “Winning” in Afghanistan will be an elusive prospect until we base our operations within the cultural framework of the tribal systems already in place. 

We cannot make progress in Afghanistan through a war of attrition or a war of exhaustion. As I have said and will continue to say, time is on their side. In an insurgency, all the insurgents have to do is not lose. All they have to do is wear down the will of the coun- terinsurgent and in this case, the will of the American people and the American politicians.

Either approach (attrition or exhaustion) will not work. We have killed thousands and thousands of the “enemy” in Afghanistan and it clearly has not brought us closer to our objectives there. Just as important is the fact that we could kill thousands more and still not be any closer ve years from now.

My denition of “success” (that is, “win”) includes the one currently in use. I would add: “. . . to facilitate security and prosperity for the Afghan people.” In other words, the tribes.

My ODA 316 was based at Asadabad, near the Pakistan border (gray line on map). Many tribal domains in that area straddle the border, making them valuable as intelligence gatherers of Taliban and al-Qaeda activities on both sides of the line—another critical reason to make them our allies.

(© 2009 Google maps)

Time is on their side. In an insurgency, all the insurgents have to do is not lose.

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