The counterinsurgency mafia here in Washington would have you believe that the way to win the kind of asymmetric struggle we face in Afghanistan and elsewhere is by turning the U.S. Army and Marine Corps into a hypertrophic neighborhood watch. The idea is that our forces should focus not on fighting the Taliban but on positioning themselves between the civilian population and the insurgents. This would dry up the support for the Taliban and allow the civilian population to begin to live normal lives – or so the theory says.
It turns out that the reality in the field may be failing to match the theorizing going on along the banks of the Potomac. A recent McClatchy News Service report suggests that American troops may have to be pulled out of some remote outposts in that country’s eastern region, places to which they may have been deployed in recent weeks. According to this report, “the presence of American troops has fueled insecurity by embroiling them in local feuds and driving some local tribes to align with the Taliban.”
The failure of another grand theory of future warfare when it meets reality is nothing new for Washington. What makes this story significant is that the Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, is pressing the military to alter their operating style, organization and procurement of hardware so as to conduct more of the kind of counterinsurgency operations that appear to be unsuccessful in eastern Afghanistan. Perhaps he and the counterinsurgency mafia need to rethink their enthusiasm for social work by soldiers.
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