Tag Archives: One Tribe at a Time

Been there, done that. . .

Just a few billion dollars more to go before we can claim the t-shirt. 

That is just one of the several cliches that come to mind when reading a paper circulating NTM-A by Mr. Lester W. Grau.  Like “One Tribe at a Time,” Breaking Contact Without Leaving Chaos:  The Soviet Withdrawal from Afghanistan is an easy and enlightening “must read” for anyone that has any interest in the U.S. and NATO involvement in Afghanistan.

Some random musings. . .

I never thought of the coalition in Afghanistan as occupiers.  But the Soviets were in Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989 and were called occupiers with a force of 100,300.  With the U.S. and coalition troops have been in Afghanistan since 2001 with 130,000 troops in country–it’s tough to call us anything other than occupiers. 

Even though we’ve been in Afghanistan longer than the Soviets, I still don’t think of us as occupiers.  I’m fairly certain Hamid Karzai is not ‘our man’, but the coalition does support his election (even if of questionable validity:  The Telegraph, The Washington Times, and CNN).  Regardless, I recognize the apparent duplicity of thinking that our presence here is something different than an occupation. 

The Soviets trained, armed, and built an army;  We are training, arming, and building an army.

The Soviets put in place political leaders that supported their objectives;  We are supporting political leaders (although I’m not sure that they all support our objectives).

The Soviets built schools, hospitals, roads, and infrastructure; We are building. . . well, you get the idea.

The Soviets withdrew physically and then crumbled effectively withdrawing support.  The supported government fell shortly thereafter and Afghanistan erupted into a bloody civil war.

I have no personal interest or affection for Afghanistan and think we are wasting billions of dollars and thousands of lives by being here.  But when we leave, I hope it doesn’t crumble into another civil war.

To paraphrase the movie Charlie Wilson’s War, I hope we don’t screw-up the end-game.

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em

Ecclesiastes 1:9, “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

Nothing should be a surprise by now.  The Afghan National Police (ANP) (the other half of the Afghan National Security Forces) has appointed the warlord Mattiullah Khan as the Provincial Chief of Police for Uruzgan Province, just North of Kandahar, in the central part of the country. 

On my “Support your local warlord” post, I discussed Khan’s influence throughout the North Kandahar and Uruzgan Provinces.  As the articles above address, there is some fear of reigniting rivalries and targeting neutral tribes which could create security issues as the U.S. (and NATO) begin to draw down.

Most of our problems in Afghanistan stem from a lack of decentralized authority.  Quite literally, if a one-star general in Herat wants to replace a door-knob, he has to get about 13 signatures and approval from the Minister of Defense.  Larger purchases require President of Afghanistan approval. 

This may sound crazy but this reflects the tribal culture of Afghanistan–the Tribal Elder(s) make all the decisions.  This is how Afghanistan has operated for thousands of years and continues to operate despite our best efforts to westernize it. 

Proverbs 29:1, “He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.”

If we really want to succeed, our best route is to embrace the tribal culture.  Creating a unipolar government will make that government either powerless (due to tribal tendancies) or a constant target for overthrow.  There is disagreement by the experts whether a multipolar society can be stable.  But we aren’t willing to spend the time (generations) and money (trillions) to convert the prevalent attitudes. 

By embracing the natural multipolar culture, we don’t look like occupiers, establish truly recognized leadership throughout the country, develop relationships with more than one organization and thereby reduce the risk associated with our alignment with the often questioned validity of any one organization.

An excellent read is “One Tribe at a Time” by MAJ Jim Gant.  This is the view from a guy on the ground, working with tribal leaders who understands the personal and embedded motivations of the Afghans (as opposed to a chump that sits in air conditioned office spending billions of taxpayer dollars pontificating on the trade-offs of various forms of nation-state governance).

Proverbs 6:23, “For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life:”