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

Saturday, April 14, 2007

On the Uruzgan 'West Bank' and other issues

MStFB news commentary and update
It's always an analyst's pleasure to find sources other than the ones he's been using, that reaffirm his own conclusions. This shall not grow into cherry-picking, of course, and develop a selection bias in what sources of information we like or not. Nevertheless, today I'll quote from Radio Netherlands security and defence editor Hans de Vreij's assessment of the Dutch approach in Uruzgan. Not to tell you that you should uncritically accept my take on the issue, but to show you that others came to similar conclusions.
First here are some of the things that I have written:
"Considering that Talibs would normally like to take advantage of chances to take and hold territory and here /in Uruzgan/ there appears to be one, there must be some advantage for them in not doing so. Very likely that is a chance for them to have Uruzgan province as a safe haven where they can regroup within Afghanistan for attacks in other provinces, by letting the Dutch have a share of Uruzgan."
"The oil spot approach shouldn't serve as an euphemistic synonym for the 'Srebrenica mode' or risk-aversion (a point to consider for the Dutch leadership). Beside maintaining development islands one cannot tolerate the unperturbed existence of 'insurgency islands'. There is a possible compromise between not doing anything and between kicking down every door in every village. Operations to harass hostile forces are in any case necessary..."
Finally then, on an April 4 incident where the Dutch noted being fired upon too early for maximum damage by Talibs, in an ambush near the village of Surkh-Murghab: "Have Talibs consciously let them /the joint Dutch-Afghan patrol/ off the hook relatively easily? Rephrasing the question, is it in Talibs' interest to cause the Dutch serious casualties, so that somebody else, with a different approach, might replace them? The way things stand, Talibs benefit from the Dutch oil spot approach. They enjoy calm in Uruzgan, in relative terms, so they can organise their insurgency in other provinces from there. They may not want to hurt the Dutch too badly, one may conclude. (Although in the given case Talibs might have, of course, simply got the ambush timing wrong.)"
So, here's then what de Vreij had to say in his take. An interesting thing to note might be that he uses the expression 'ink blot approach' (the same as the oil or ink spot one, whichever way you prefer to use it - now you have an even wider variety to choose from).
First of all about the Dutch strategy, as it was conceived at the beginning: "Right at the outset of the operation, on 1 August 2006, it was stated that the Dutch NATO force in the southern Afghan province of Uruzgan - 'Task Force Uruzgan' - would proceed with its work following an 'ink blot' strategy, beginning first with the creation of a base area in the south of the province before going on to move and expand into the north. Now, however, the second part of this plan looks a very distant prospect".
Secondly, about the territories the Dutch are in control of: "even in Tarin Kowt the situation is not yet safe and secure enough for members of the Dutch armed forces to walk around in the town without fearing for their lives. There is still a constant need for protection. Furthermore, the main road between Tarin Kowt and Chora cannot be used because it runs through the Baluchi Valley, which is controlled by the Taliban. In the area immediately north of Tarin Kowt - known as the 'West Bank' - fighting occurs with clock-like regularity. Given this situation, one simple conclusion that might be drawn is that the Netherlands and the Afghan government have simply sent too few troops to Uruzgan to be able to achieve the stated objectives at any speed".
Then thirdly about the way Dutch restraint may be affecting Talibs' calculations: "rules of engagement happen to be top secret, but it won't have escaped the Taliban's notice that, since 1 August 2006, a certain pattern can be discerned: as long as the Dutch troops are not attacked, or there are no clear signs of any plans in that direction, the 'opposing military forces' (OMF) are - and have been - left largely alone".
And fourthly and finally about the perceived Dutch risk-aversion: "so far - not one Dutch soldier has been killed in action in Uruzgan, whilst the British in Helmand province and the Canadians in Kandahar have already lost dozens of troops. It is clear therefore that the Dutch troops are not pursuing an active policy aimed at eliminating the Taliban threat in 'their' province, and even the plans for an expansion of the 'ink blot' around Tarin Kowt, Deh Rawod and Chora have been put on a back burner until the summer at least. The current commander of the Task Force, Colonel Hans van Griensven, wants to wait first to see what comes of the spring offensive already announced by the Taliban, as well as further stabilising the situation within the confines of the current 'ink blot'."
Important pieces of information in there, along with apparent agreement with my conclusions. So the Dutch have been waiting all this time to see how bad a start the spring might see to the guerrilla season. I'm sure it wasn't Colonel van Griensven waiting for that. Rather the politicians who didn't send enough troops in the first place, under pressure from public opinion - in 2006, when the Uruzgan plans were devised, there was only some 33 percent support for sending additional troops to Afghanistan in the Netherlands, accoring to a poll cited by CSM.
Anyway, now the Australians will significantly boost their presence in Uruzgan, and they will surely change the landscape there.

No comments: