This is what happens when I don't have much time to write blogs. Frustration I feel is what will bring me back to do it. David Ignatius has just written this for the Washington Post.
" It's not just boots on the ground" that will bring success in Afghanistan, but a range of factors such as governance, economic development and relations with neighboring Pakistan. The idea that we can saturate that vast country with enough American soldiers to provide security for the population seems unrealistic, to put it mildly. "
David Ignatius is unable to grasp a few basic things, to put it mildly.
You can't bring "governance and economic development" to villages you only care to bomb, should some insurgent team move even near it. Insurgents who can move freely, because there are only some Afghan policemen in the area (some of whom never had formal training, some of whom never got paid by their organisation, some of whom want to find a living even while being paid some ridiculously low salary). They may be the only presence in some places because ISAF and OEF troops cannot currently secure these places (of course, OEF wouldn't even want to). And because donors are happy to spend the actually, comparatively speaking, small amount of money they spend on Afghanistan in predictably bad ways, unable to prop up state institutions and make them, for example, more immune to corruption.
Sure it's not a surge in simple numbers, both regarding soldiers and development aid, that would be needed. But I am totally tired of people who want look smart by sounding counter-intuitive. Actually, Ignatius is not counter-intuitive at all. He writes this:
"Rather than more troops, the real game-changer in Afghanistan may be Gates's plan to spend an extra $1.3 billion on surveillance technology to find and destroy the leadership of the insurgency."
That's so much like the early thinking on what would beat the Iraqi insurgency. No thinking, no carrots, no connection of means and ends. Just spend more on gadgets, hit them harder and kill more. How wonderfully imaginative thinking.
Deploying more troops in Afghanistan is certainly challenging logistically. Finding more money to spend on a faraway country seems an equally daunting challenge. But explaining this by saying that continuing cutting off heads of a hydra, with a lot of collateral damage in the process, is actually the best thing we could think of... please, stop saying that.