Late last year, U.S. forces in Afghanistan embraced the contentious policy
of hiring out local militia groups to provide security in remote parts
of the country. But now U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry
is putting the brakes on the program, championed by General Stanley
McChrystal. By resisting the strategy, which Eikenberry and other
critics see as too risky and short-sighted, he is able to significantly
slow its use in the field. Is he right? And what does his dissent
reveal about the strategy and U.S. mission?
- Bigger Split Within U.S. Leadership The Washington Post's Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Greg Jaffe
say Eikenberry "reflects a broader difference of opinion at the highest
levels" over the issue. They write that military leadership wants a
"decentralized grass-roots" approach focusing on local Afghans and
circumventing the troubled Kabul government. But civilians like
Eikenberry worry that "unless there is a detailed plan to connect these
forces to Ministry of Interior oversight, they could fuel the rise of
warlords and undermine the already fragile government in Kabul."
- McChrystal Never Addressed Concerns Spencer Ackerman notes that he has long wondered about the strategy. Ackerman wrote
when it was first introduced, "What will stop the Community Defense
Initiative from yielding militias and warlords? McChrystal professed, a
to awareness of the hazards of partnering with local militias outside
the bounds of the Afghan army and police. But he didn't explain how
he'd mitigate those risks." And he still hasn't.
More Strategic Wishful Thinking Democracy Arsenal's Michael Cohen scoffs
that we "don't understand" militias enough to make it work. He thinks
it was another example of counterinsurgency theory coming before
results. "Military tactics and political strategy should be based, at
least in some measure, on what you can actually achieve - not merely
what you want to achieve. U.S. policy in Afghanistan today sure feels
like more of the latter than the former; and that's not a good thing."
Want to add to this story? Let us know in comments
or send an email to the author at
mfisher at theatlantic dot com.
You can share ideas for stories on the Open Wire.