Counterinsurgency Techniques Can Work Against the Taliban

Question: Can the US’s counterinsurgency strategy work in Afghanistan?

Jere Van Dyk:  It's possible that it may work in the long\r\n run, but it will never work until such time as the United States—and it\r\n surely must know this—until the United States levels with the military \r\nleadership in Pakistan and tells it in unequivocal terms to stop \r\nsupporting the Taliban.  There wasn't a man along the border in the \r\nmonths that I spent there who didn't say that we would be at peace if \r\nPakistan stopped supporting the Taliban. The United States must surely \r\nknow that we are spending billions—we have given billions of dollars \r\nsince 2001. Apparently, according to the newspapers, about 10.5 billion \r\ndollars.  We don't know how much money has secretly gone to Pakistan.

Many\r\n people along the border say that the one reason why this war is going \r\non and that Pakistan is fostering the growth of and behind the Taliban \r\nis to convince the United States that it's in the United States' \r\ninterest to prevent the rise of the Taliban again because out of the \r\nTaliban would become that element of Al Qaeda which would attack the \r\nWest.  Therefore, it's a way for Pakistan to gain money from the West.  \r\nThis is how men talk along the border.  I don't think that the United \r\nStates has leveled with us to the degree to which Pakistan—it's very \r\nclose ally since the 1950's who was always with the United States in \r\ntrying to contain communism—may be not just an ally, but may be in part \r\nan enemy in that part of the world.
Question: How well is the Obama administration handling the war?

Jere Van Dyk:  It's very clear that under President \r\nObama, the war in Afghanistan, and particularly in Pakistan, has become \r\nfar worse.  And by worse I mean it's become more lethal.  President \r\nObama has unleashed I don't know how many but a tremendous... far more \r\ndrone missiles on Pakistan than President Bush ever did.  President Bush\r\n was concentrating on Iraq.  President Obama is concentrating clearly on\r\n Afghanistan.

We currently today have as many soldiers and \r\nmarines in Afghanistan as the Soviet Union had during its 10-year war \r\nthere, when I was there as a much younger man as a newspaper reporter.  \r\nThe worst month of the war over nine years was last month, when more \r\nAmerican soldiers were killed.  The Taliban told me that "the more \r\nsoldiers that you send, the more we will kill."  So the more... the \r\nlonger we are there, the more this war continues, the more that we send \r\nin more soldiers, is not going to bring the war down.

As \r\nSecretary of Defense Gates, General McChrystal, and all those soldiers \r\nsurrounding him have said, "We are not winning, but we're not losing."  \r\nWhat is critical is that... there was an article in the Washington Times\r\n not so long ago where a brigadier general U.S. said, "We do not \r\nunderstand the Pashtun mind."  Major General Flynn, who was the \r\nIntelligence Officer to General McChrystal said, complaining about the \r\nlack of intelligence that he's getting—I don't know if was a CIA / \r\nPentagon turf war—but the point is that we know after nine years so \r\nlittle of Afghanistan.  We do not understand the culture, we do not \r\nunderstand the mindset, we don't understand the language... which is one\r\n reason why we're having such a difficult time.

In the 1980's, \r\nwhen you watch Soviet soldiers go through villages, they had allies.  \r\nCommunists were in those villages.  I've sat with Afghans in villages \r\nand I've watched American convoys come through, and children don't \r\nsmile.  Children don't wave.  And those soldiers are afraid.  The United\r\n States has got to find a far better way to win these people over and to\r\n show them that we are different from the Soviet Union, we are there to \r\nhelp them, and that we don't want to stay.

Recorded June 29. 2010
Interviewed by Max Miller

It's possible the U.S. will succeed in the long run in Afghanistan. But first it must prove that it is not the Soviet Union—and that it does not want to stay permanently.

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