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

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Repeat: Clear, hold, build, clear, hold, build...

Some useful links were forwarded to me over the week-end, and I read two articles from The Australian which shed light onto the Rudd government's approach to Afghanistan nowadays. Perhaps because I haven't paid so much attention to Uruzgan lately, these articles revealed to me why the Australian Reconstruction Task Force was reduced somewhat in Uruzgan. The rationale provided at one point was that the RTF is less needed than units for fighting role. At the time I found this puzzling. I thought both were needed. And not just a little.
Now I'm enlightened. It turns out it wasn't possible to have both at the same time. The codeword is "ceiling" here, in a passage quoted from Patrick Walters' editorial in The Australian:
"In Oruzgan we are hanging on with barely enough resources to maintain the status quo. It's not enough to be decisive. At best we are holding our ground. We are not doing the heavy lifting or doing the strategic planning," one senior military source tells Inquirer.
An Australian government source with first-hand knowledge of Afghanistan agrees with his view: "It is the case that we need more troops," he acknowledges. "At the moment we have a capacity to clear and not hold, let alone provide a shield for civil operations to work."
But our defence force has a strict cap on the number of troops deployed to Afghanistan. This ceiling has meant that the recent decision to provide an operational mentoring and liaison team to train an Afghan national army battalion has reduced the number of our army engineers just as they have started to achieve a positive effect in building and reconstruction work around Tarin Kowt."
I'm glad to hear the "clear, hold, build" mantra, and I'm not saying this in a pejorative sense. If ever there was a good mantra, that's the one, the ultimate one in counterinsurgency.
Read the entire article by the way. It had a sad apropos, the death of an Australian commando soldier in an ambush by the Taliban just 25 km to the south from Tarin Kowt, in a gunbattle that saw four other diggers hurt. Walters followed up on a previous article in this case which runs the same points home as the one I quoted. This is important - a country that I can think of as one possibly providing some required assistance to Canada in Kandahar and one that might lead on the Uruzgan mission after the Netherlands close up shop is Australia. Beside, by default, the U.S. of course.

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