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

Monday, June 2, 2008

Of elephants crushing the wall of my qala and full-spectrum operations

It's my comeback post after a week over the course of which I've been to a huge wedding party as well as spoken at two conferences about Afghanistan.
On one of the latter occasions I've had the unlikely experience of being told, in the middle of my speech and by a really noted and knowledgable Afghanistan specialist, that the new Afghan election law has already been passed by the Afghan legislature - which I knew wasn't really the case. You know, normally I do notice things like if elephants crush the wall of my qala, so to say - the analytical equivalent of which eventuality, purely in terms of noticability of impact, would be that if the SNTV system currently used by Afghanistan were to be transformed eventually in the direction of proportional representation; there is a chance for that and a draft text circulated that's already in play, but we're not there yet according to the latest I have).
But, believe it or not, I couldn't just go on and tell it like it was in reality, in response. That would have produced a quarrel which would have ruined the conference I had organised, not to mention that some in the audience probably couldn't have imagined there and then that I may have been right, instead of the noted Afghanistan specialist. So I just had to tolerate that some people have somewhat oversized egos, and that they need understanding sometimes. Fortunately, over the week-end, I had the chance to forget about this, and I went for a swim in Lake Balaton even (a few hours from Budapest).
Just like the last time I came back to blog after some time away from it all, I found myself repeating something I've read recently, the illustrative potential of which I realised in the process of retelling it several times. Here it is from the NY Times' reporting about operations of the Marine Expeditionary Unit deployed in ISAF Regional Command-South' Area of Operations, currently in Helmand province.
"Villagers were refusing humanitarian aid offered by the marines because the Taliban were already infiltrating back and threatening anyone who took it, Lieutenant Matzke said."
That's a good indication of how bad it is when somebody clears areas again and again, without having adequate resources to hold those areas and "build" there (in a wide sense). There may not be demand on the receiving end for the full spectrum of, well, your full-spectrum operations. So there's really no more important phrase in counterinsurgency than "clear, hold and build". If you can pull it off, you have to just clear, hold, build, clear, hold, build - like I said before.
It fits that other most important phrase in counterinsurgency which I will tell you about on Wednesday, quoting it from an unlikely historical source.
That teaser is for Wednesday.
I will post on other issues before that, though, if all goes according to plan, i.e. if no noted and knowledgable Afghanistan specialist tells me that Pashtunistan has already been recognised by 192 UN member states overnight and I just failed to take notice.

No comments: