What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Dutch approach revisited - The final round?

MStFB Spillover Monitor Report Update No. 6:2 - A click away: The original report and its previous update
I was planning to include mostly pro-Dutch arguments in this update, for a change. I'm able to tell you only one, though. And at the same time I have news to point to today, that will show quite clearly how useful the Dutch approach really is, and how seriously we should take claimed-to-be strategic considerations behind it. All the while remember, and me, too, I should have made this clearer earlier on, that the Dutch oil spot approach is not all the same as what is usually referred to as the classic ink or oil spot approach. The Dutch version is way too fight-averse (that term is very nearly the same as 'risk-averse', of course).
The only pro argument I tend to consider useful is one I could read out from Carl Robichaud's take on the issue. He is a program officer at the Century Foundation and he was kind enough to link to one my posts on the subject. He says that a seeming failure such as the Musa Qala truce the British negotiated with tribal elders in that town, can end up as an unexpected breakthrough in the end, since, in his summary of what happened in Musa Qala, a while after the British withdrawal, Talibs took over the place only to be defeated suffering heavy casualties in an ISAF siege on the town later on. Based on that reasoning I concluded that 'Talibs might be congregating too much for their health in Uruzgan, and that so the lax Dutch approach might actually yield gains for ISAF in the end, once there is a decisive move against the insurgency there'. That is a possibility, yes. That's still not a positive argument for the Dutch approach, though.
It's no wonder the New York Times has just published its articles on the Uruzgan situation and what the Dutch are doing. Dutch ministers - Defence Minister Eimert van Middelkoop, Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Verhagen and Minister for Development Cooperation Bert Koenders - are in North America as we speak, to hold all sorts of discussions. The right time to bring up anything controversial, you know. Bert Koenders will have a go at the brains at CSIS next Monday, I hope to have more info on that later on.
As to what I deem to be decisive on what one should take the Dutch approach for, first of all here's a very interesting news report from the Dutch daily Expatica. 'Commander of the NATO mission in Uruzgan Hans van Griensven does not rule out that the Taliban may be profiting from Dutch aid to the region'; 'Dutch money is also being put into areas which are under the influence of the Taliban and which the Dutch troops cannot access without ending up in heavy fighting'; these are the sentences I would quote most of all. So the Dutch are actually spending money outside their tidy oil spots now? Spilling money over? Interesting concept. The message probably is that even if you're a village elder allied to the Taliban, don't worry, you can get some. Controversial to say the least. The Dutch, for their part, control only three major population centers and some of their surroundings in Uruzgan - Deh Rawod, Tarin Khowt (the provincial capital) and Chora.
The other telling news report I'll mention is from Radio Netherlands. Australia is increasing the presence of its special forces in Uruzgan, to more aggressively hunt for insurgents now. Those Australian units, a bit of a revolutionary development really, will be under ISAF (NATO) command. From now on you surely can't talk of a clear-cut Dutch approach put into works in Uruzgan. The Australians will operate in a different way, thus turning ISAF policy in the area actually more resemblant of the real ink/oil spot approach.

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