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One Tribe at a Time

Four Implications of these dierences

  • 1.

    Government misrule and warlordism dene the problem in Afghanistan. Without reducing the abusive behavior of the government and their war- lord clients, it is hard to see how security measures will have a long lasting eect.

  • 2.

    Together, the large sanctuary in Pakistan’s tribal area and the poppy trade make the insurgency resilient. ey may have the wherewithal to go round after round, ghting season after ghting season.

  • 3.

    e fragmented nature of the tribal system, the absence of a major rift between tribes and the insurgents, and the feuding of Pashtunwali demand patience and forethought in the planning and execution of tribal engagement eorts. Small- scale community successes are more likely than large-scale province-wide successes.

  • 4.

    Pashtunwali, a rural environment, and the tactical skills of the insurgency call for a re-thinking of the tactics of counterinsurgency. Some tactics, most notably cordon and searches, air strikes, and population control measures may need to be restrained. Because of Pashtunwali, their costs may exceed their benets.

“It’s the Tribes, Stupid”

Steven Presseld’s videos/writings on tribal- ism are the most useful resources I have found on understanding tribalism. e author of Gates of Fire and e Afghan Campaign has a blog called “It’s the Tribes, Stupid,” which provides the historical and conceptual context for a tribal engagement strategy in Afghanistan.

See it at http://blog.stevenpresseld.com.

What scares me most

On a personal note, my gravest concern is that a Tribal Engagement strategy in some form will indeed be adopted and implemented, but that the US may eventually again abandon Afghanistan—and the

I will get on a helicopter tonight, armed with an AK-47 and 300 rounds of ammunition, and put my life on the line and my strategy to the test. Will you do the same?

tribes to whom we have promised long-term support will be left to be massacred by a vengeful Taliban.

  • is is by far the worst outcome we could have.

It is immoral and unethical to ask a tribe to help us and promise them support and then leave them to defend themselves on their own. If our forces do withdraw from Afghanistan, we should decide now to arm the tribes who support us with enough weapons and ammunition to survive after we leave.

A commitment to the tribes and people of Afghanistan

I emphasized at the beginning of this paper that I am neither a strategist nor an academic. I know there will be many criticisms that span all levels of war, from military personnel to pundits.

But I also know this: I will get on a helicopter tonight, armed with an AK-47 and 300 rounds of ammunition and put my life on the line and my strat- egy to the test. Will you do the same?

B : ere may be dozens of reasons not to adopt this strategy. But there is only one reason to do so—we have to. Nothing else will work.


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