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

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Dutch handsaws and batteries: The insurgent's lethal arsenal?

MStFB News Commentary/Update
The Netherlands edition of Expatica posted an interesting piece (also credited to ANP), dated May 9, with the title "Taliban makes bombs from Dutch aid".
It says that insurgents in Uruzgan may have used handsaws and batteries distributed to local people by the Dutch PRT in Uruzgan Province, as component parts of roadside IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices).
So now Dutch troops are ordered to stop handing out handsaws and radios. And at their main base in Kamp Holland they are ordered to dispose only of fully discharged batteries, to play it safe.
The article finishes by this passage: "The director of the military intelligence and security service (MIVD), General Pieter Cobelens, said in Elsevier (the Dutch magazine that originally covered this story - P.M.): "One of the tasks of the MIVD is to warn of the unwanted side effects of the reconstruction mission. But the political and military leadership at the defence department must evaluate whether reconstruction activities should be stopped as a result."
The MIVD has apparently gone ahead of the Dutch ministry of defence in publicising this - a defence dep spokesman didn't confirm all this when asked by the press.
I must say I'm scratching my head a little over this, while I'm always ready to concede of course, that from a distance these things might be difficult to accurately judge. Still, it's not clear to me if insurgents really got hold of something in this case that they couldn't replace with something else. So that might deflate the value of Dutch handsaws and batteries in their arsenal. The history of insurgencies shows that in many cases the supposedly stronger party in the asymmetric conflict undermines itself by a lack of discipline in its ranks and its weapons stocks may turn out to be leaking towards its counterpart in the conflict, the guerrilla force. If a couple of Dutch handsaws and batteries were indeed used by Talibs, that doesn't tell me that the Dutch soldiers are anywhere near the above mentioned degree of blowback.
It would be interesting to know of course where such handsaws and batteries turned up used in IEDs.

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