Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Kagan's 9 principles on Afghanistan

Michael Yon is right, this article by Frederick Kagan needs the widest dissemination.

Read it all for the details, but these "Nine Principles" not only apply to Afghanistan - you could plan almost any operation using them.
  1. Understand why we're there. Afghanistan is not now a sanctuary for al-Qaeda, but it would likely become one again if we abandoned it.
  2. Know what we have to achieve. Success in Afghanistan does not require creating a paradise in one of the poorest countries on earth, but we cannot define victory down.
  3. Understand our enemies and our friends. There is no such thing as “the Taliban” today. Many different groups with different leaders and aims call themselves “Taliban,” and many more are called “Taliban” by their enemies.
  4. Commit to the effort. The consistent unwillingness of the U.S. government to commit to the success of its endeavors in Afghanistan (and Iraq) over the long term is a serious obstacle to progress.
  5. Learn and adapt the right lessons. We cannot dismiss our extensive and painful experiences in Iraq, but we must recognize the differences between that country and Afghanistan.
  6. Consider the human terrain. Pashtuns are not Arabs. They have different traditions, different tribal structures, different ways of resolving differences. One of the most important (and least remarked-upon) differences is that Iraqis fight in their cities and villages while Pashtuns, on the whole, do not.
  7. Understand what we must do, can do, can't do. It is better, in general, for Afghans to take the lead in moving into or through Afghan towns, but this is not always as desirable as we might think.
  8. Have a good plan. Adding more troops to a failing strategy rarely works.
  9. Prioritize efforts. While the situation in Afghanistan is indeed deteriorating, it would be wrong to rush forces out of Iraq this year in response.

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