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

Monday, December 1, 2008

The schizophrenic image we create: Counterinsurgents and counternarcotics agents come to Anizai village

In my last post, I was wondering about ISAF countries' differing approaches to counternarcotics in Afghanistan. Differences are not entirely openly discussed with regards to this issue. So one has to get to conclusions and establish a comprehensive picture partly from hints and reading indirect indicators.
Individual countries' differing stances range from an open reluctance to deal with counternarcotics - fixed even in the form of "national caveats" affecting the operations of a given country's troops - through readiness for the use of special operations forces to hit major dealers or laboratories every now and then to the actual encouragement and/or organisation of eradication campaigns and the arranging of private security contractors to work with the Afghans involved in these campaigns, at the other end of the spectrum.
Southern Afghanistan is a particularly interesting context when it comes to such differences. There is the insurgency. There is the poppy-growing that gives profits to (among others) insurgents as well. And there are several NATO countries that take on a counterinsurgency role, but definitely not with sufficient resources to be able to afford the luxury of making themselves unpopular by, say, participating in eradication campaigns - yet they sometimes end up having to assist in such and similar efforts, in one way or another.
From this article, one can take out a relevant excerpt that indirectly gives some context regarding the photos attached to the previous post (the article is about Canadian Forces' pushing deeper into Zhari district where some as-yet untouced Taliban stronghold awaited). The incident shows tension between, in this case, the US and Canada, or rather US and Canadian police and Canadian soldiers. I am not a neutral observer of this debate - someone with no opinion. What happened in Anizai is no way to do COIN, really.
"The next day's march took the Canadian troops through the dirt roads and paths of Anizai village, where at first, their usual friendly greetings to locals were met with smiles and waves.
Trouble began, however, after a U.S.-led police team entered a compound where marijuana plants were drying against every interior wall and on every roof.
U.S. soldiers ordered a man to bring out the women and children, and a Canadian female military policewoman searched the female detainees against the outside of the compound, in front of villagers and NATO soldiers.
Then the police team, following U.S. policy that any drugs found must be destroyed, torched hundreds of kilograms of marijuana in two massive bonfires.
As the Canadian infantry left the village, the locals sat silent and scowling.
Villagers told an Afghan interpreter working for NATO they were angry that marijuana had been destroyed. But they said they were infuriated that the females had been searched in public, and said such actions reduced their willingness to support the foreign forces.
McBride called the search a one-time mistake, and said it's not Canadian military practice to search females outside compounds."

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