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Afghansecurity. and respond to terrorism. A focus on she
It's tempting to attribute the capturing and killing terrorists may nUl
problem to the most visible culprit: conflict with the primacy of civilian Afl
airpower.But that is just a symptomof protection that marks successful one
deeper tensions among the West's counterinsurgency campaigns. do<
missions in Afghanistan. On the one This is complicated enough within in.
hand, an inadequatelyresourcedUnited US thinking and practice. But factoring foe
Nations-sponsored force seeks to in our allies' views regarding operations ma
enhance stability and strengthen the in Afghanistan, the tensions become Th
central government.Simultaneously,an more acute. The NATO-led International ove
independentUS force shares the same Security Assistance Force is avowedly for
By Sarah Sewall goalbut - througha separatechainof not a counterterror operation. NATO
-
command focuses on capturing or
Thecentral tensionis betweenthe US killing the terrorists. Echoes of
defaulttowardscounterterrorismand Somalia,anyone? Pressure has been building I

NATOinsistenceon gentle The central tension is between the the Taliban. His domestic p<
counterinsurgency US default towards counterterrorism
and NATO insistence on gentle his American allies from k
ATION-BUILDING, counterin- counterinsurgency.As the new Army
'collateral damage' inciden
N surgency, and counterterrorism
coexist uneasily in Afghanistan,
and the contradictions are beginning to
and Marine Corps Counterinsurgency
Field Manual
counterinsurgency
explains,
centers on
perceptions of a brutal all
chafe. As large numbers of civilian casu- protecting civilians and enhancing the softer:
alties begin.to feel like terrorism to ordi- legitimacy of the host nation
nary Afghans, the West could lose on government. The doctrine stresses even has its own modified approach to- ab
every count. defensive and stability operations in counterinsurgency, relying heavily on co
Pressure has been building on addition to offensive actions. When carrots and negotiations. A live-and-Iet- un
Afghan President Hamid Karzai for conducting offensive operations, the live philosophy can infuriate Americans SU
years, and it's not just from the Taliban. doctrine demands sensitivity to who fear some allies accommod8te local ne
His domestic political friends and foes controlling physical violence and power brokers at the expense of"Kabul. Th
alike demand that he stop his American anticipatingits politicaleffects. In turn, NATO officials wonder when do
allies from killing the wrong people. Consequences still matter in they'll see the more fmessed approach. inc
The numbing pattern of "collateral counterterrorism,but they are calculated They shouldn't hold their breath. m
damage" incidents, most dramatically differently. The civilian population is For one thing, there are not enough fol
from airstrikes, fuels local perceptions not the centre of gravity - terrorist ground troops to properly implement gh
of a brutal ally and undermines NATO's capability is. Counterterrorismstresses counterinsurgency. The NATO presence bo
attempts to apply a softer approach to offensive measures to prevent, deter, was designed to help compensate for the gr<
--- ---

lnd in Afghanistan
/shortage of US forces. Even so, the total In fact,both heavy and lite versions. scores to settle. Now that the Westhas 'yv.
numbers - including the effective will have their place in the insurgency- ratcheted up its offensive against the
Afghan security forces - are roughly ridden decades ahead. But Taliban,the United States has returned co
one- 10th the number prescribed by US counterinsurgency-lite is better for - to emphasizingairstrikes,which can go a,
doctrine. This is where airpower comes destroyingthan building.One can clear spectacularly wrong without near- Q
in. It helps compensate for a small fromthe air,but it remainsimpossibleto perfectintelligence. b
foolprint in a large country, providing hold and to build with airpower. Over the years, Karzai's gradual I
mobility, and offensive strike capability. Counterinsurgency-lite will prove escalation of concern about coUatera] t
This is both necessary, given the inadequatewhere indigenousforces are damagehas cometo seem feckless.The t
overstretched state of American ground lackingand securityneedsloomlarge,as Afghan legislature has now begun its E
forces, and deeply problematic. in Afghanistantoday.And, particularly own campaign to constrain Westem I
It also raises sensitive questions when operating half-blind in a poorly forces while advocating negotiations t
. . with the Taliban. What happenswhen [
t'
0 ' ' '
[fig on
HamI d Karzal f or t from politicallyacquiesceto US military
years, an d I s no Jus
t Afghan politicians can no longer

Cpolitical
. ,
friends and foes alike demand that he stop action? Where
,terrorists
will the fight against
flowingfromPakistanbethen?
m kIlhng the wrong people. The numbIng pattern of Thestakes areashighinAfghanistan as
idents, most dramaticall y from airstrikes
-,
fuels local inIra9'butnooneseemstobepaying
attentIOnexceptthe Afghans.Can we I
.
IIally and undermines NATO's, attempts to apply a
rter approach to Afghan securIty
adj~~t.ourstrategy~forethehostn
preCipitouslydoesIt for us?
. . One key is gradually increasing I
the ~rooppresence in Afghanistanand I
about the services' respective roles in understood culture, relying too heavily beefing up the training of Afghan'
counterinsurgency. The Air Force is upon airpower can become sec.urity forces. Equally important is j
unhappy with being relegated to a counterproductive. adjusting planning procedures for,
s supporting role in an appendix of the Afghans initially seemed inured to raidi'l).gsuspected Taliban or terrorist ~
IJ new Counterinsurgency Field Manual. collateral damage, accepting it as the facilities. Recent incidents involving
l- The services have begun creating joint price qf freedom from Taliban rule. .ciyilian deaths suggest related I
n doctrine: pairing airpower with Over time, though, they expected more weaknesses:Faulty inteUigencemeans'
indigenous forces and just a pinch of
~. US infantry presence, preferabJy special
from their liberators. Repeated
"wedding party incidents" blur~ed ki11ingthe. wrong
organic- direct people,
fire insuffldent
support t
me1i1\'io:
h forces. This is an appealing notion together, but Americans were slow to rdying primarily on airpowerfor force
It givenpoliticalreticenceto resourcethe recognize that their prized air assets protec.tion, and poor information
e boots-heavy doctrine advocated by were being hijacked by unreliable operations leaves villagers doubtful
oe ground forces. Afghan "intelligence sources" with local and often able to contradict the US
'yversion of events.
Whether. for counterterror or
counterinsurgencypurposes, offensive
action requires a higher threshold of
confidence in the target set and a
higher level of risk assumption on the
part of US forces. This is necessary to
mitigate the political backlash from
both Afghans and our allies. While
many Europe'an allies pull relatively
light duty in Afghanistan, we need
them for.a larger global (and often non
military) struggle.
'

The West'suse of militarypower in
Afghanistan has been a combustible
and confusing mix of doctrine and
tools. Along with our NATO allies, we
must think through the conceptual
blurring of counterterrorism and
counterinsurgency in Afghanistan.
Future operations - including any Iraq
drawdownscenario,- will pose similar
challenges.Absent greaterclarity about
resolving these tensions, an
"overwhelming force" mentality will
inevitably predominate, even at the
potential' expense of longer-term
objectives in'.,the theater and amongst
military 'lIllies. Hunting high-value
targets in Afghanistanis important,but
we mustalignthat goalwith our broader
political. aims in Afghanistan and
beyond. C~UR'1'!!SY TH! BOSTONGLOB!

Thewriter is director of Harvard
University's Carr Centerfor Human
Rights Policy