Monday, August 02, 2010

Complementary and Not Conflicting

Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! I don't get this analysis:

When President Obama announced his new war plan for Afghanistan last year, the centerpiece of the strategy — and a big part of the rationale for sending 30,000 additional troops — was to safeguard the Afghan people, provide them with a competent government and win their allegiance.

Eight months later, that counterinsurgency strategy has shown little success, as demonstrated by the flagging military and civilian operations in Marja and Kandahar and the spread of Taliban influence in other areas of the country.

Instead, what has turned out to work well is an approach American officials have talked much less about: counterterrorism, military-speak for the targeted killings of insurgents from Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Faced with that reality, and the pressure of a self-imposed deadline to begin withdrawing troops by July 2011, the Obama administration is starting to count more heavily on the strategy of hunting down insurgents. The shift could change the nature of the war and potentially, in the view of some officials, hasten a political settlement with the Taliban.

I've mentioned my worry that our focus on counter-insurgency and protecting the people would neglect the necessary component of killing the bad guys.

And I often mentioned this in regard to Iraq. All too often it seemed that proponents of the oil spot strategy of protecting civilians forgot that killing insurgents and terrorists is as necessary to protecting those civilians as is standing with them physically.

Further, the two strategies are not in conflict. Killing bad guys makes it easier to protect civilians by encouraging them to cooperate with us. Just as valid for those who just want to kill bad guys, it is not possible to have a really effective killing strategy without the cooperation of the people providing information--and that requires classic counter-insurgency to protect the people from retaliation.

Forget that talk of going to a "counter terrorist" strategy and abandoning "counter-insurgency." This is chicken-and-egg stuff, here. Killing bad guys requires protecting the people; and protecting the people requires killing bad guys.