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

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Ink blot consolidation in Kandahar

The UK had to do this, after their Platoon House approach led to overstretch - an inevitable result of going for thin blanket coverage in their area of operations (Helmand) with not enough troops to accomplish that task. The Dutch haven't tried that much to push out from the ink blots they could firmly consolidate, with the cautious reinforcement of Chora by the end of 2007 being an exception. And last year the Canadians also had to reconsider how much ground they can cover in Kandahar with the troops they have. The Globe and Mail reports:
" "In relation to where we're focused, I think we are winning," he said.
Geographic focus was a key part of the general's assessment. While saying that security has improved in the districts of Panjwai, Zhari, Spin Boldak and Kandahar city, he repeatedly declined to comment about the provincial situation as a whole.
Canada assumed the lead responsibility for Kandahar's security at the beginning of 2006, patrolling to the furthest reaches of the province, but it proved a bigger task than military planners had expected.
Hundreds of Taliban fighters pushed against the western edge of Kandahar city that summer, forcing the Canadians to devote their entire combat strength to a bloody defence of the city.
The Canadians had regained sufficient control of the districts around the city by the spring of 2007 that commanders proudly announced they had resumed patrols across much of the province's 55,000 square kilometres.
But control of the central districts once again looked shaky by the summer of 2007, as Taliban overran police outposts, and Gen. Gauthier said with the latest rotation of soldiers, mostly from Quebec, the decision was made in August to focus on a few central areas.
That decision was partly aimed at "managing risk" of casualties among the Canadian troops, he said, but was also intended to protect the districts where 75 per cent of the province's population lives.
"Afghans will be better off, in those areas where we're focused," Gen. Gauthier said. "You can only do so much with the troops that you have. You've got to make those tough decisions. You've got to take Kandahar and bite it off, one bite at a time, and that's effectively what we've done here." "
It's perfectly alright, that in a process of trial and error, troops in the south start to feel their way, and as a result devise more realistic approaches to be able to keep to that basic COIN principle of "clear, hold and build." The problem is the lack of progress. There are people outside the ink blots, who, I hope this doesn't come as a surprise, aren't necessarily Taliban, or against ISAF. Like, it's a pity General Gauthier (commander of Canadian Forces units stationed overseas) didn't mention Arghandab district, which apparently doesn't seem fit for more permanent protection in his triage system.
It's interesting that the Québec issue is mentioned so closely connected to risk management. I may get back to this, but for now here is just the link, and no commentary, to this paper by Jean-Sébastien Rioux, from the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute, on Québecers' attidudes towards defence issues, overseas deployments etc., and their background. To some degree, it seems, Canadian Forces, and the Van Doos specifically, had to take all that into account.

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