Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Afghanistan Counter-insurgency and Poor US Intelligence

Both the Washington Post and The Nation's Dreyfuss Report today spotlight a new report from Major Gen. Michael Flynn, "the deputy chief of staff for intelligence for the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan" and "highest-ranking U.S. military intelligence officer in Afghanistan," calling for
a shift from collecting information to help with capturing or killing insurgents, and said more resources should go toward gathering facts about the political, economic and cultural environment of the population that supports the insurgency.

But as the WaPo report also hints at, who's gonna do it?  Notably, at least some small-unit commanders have assigned such fact-gathering to their own soldiers in the absence of specialists trained for the task.  It will bear watching to see if Flynn's recommendations are implemented, and how.  But if they are, and the job is indeed going to be handed off to young "grunts," it seems to me that its going to demand a significant shift in the US military culture - how soldiers are trained, or at least "oriented" - before they deploy to Afghanistan.

Unless my impressions are completely mistaken, their training has focused almost entirely on learning how to "engage and defeat" (i.e., kill) the enemy. What Flynn is recommending will require a less coercive approach to "engagement," I should think - perhaps something more akin to how British troops approached their engagement with the locals in Iraq's Shii south, where they were deployed from 2003 until their departure.  As I recall, the US commanders were not especially enamoured of that approach, even if the US adopted a version of it during the Petraeus-led "Surge" in 2007.

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