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

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Is that radikäl enough?

Joshua Foust wrote a terrific essay for Reuters, its message being that no counternarcotics policy would be the best counternarcotics policy for now in Afghanistan (with a modestly added perhaps). I am arguing for similar things at this site since a while now, so you will not find me in much of a disagreement with what he says. I will still name some points of contention.
- For Josh, this is nothing new, and I'm sayin' just to make the argumentation clear here: neither Afghanistan, nor we - neither of us - will be helped by generalisations in the Afghan context. Something working here is not what may be working there. Examples of provinces (in eastern or southeastern Afghanistan) where there is either continuously expanding insurgency-related violence (Variable 1) and on-and-off poppy cultivation (V2), or of provinces where insurgency-related violence has a stable presence (V1), while there is virtually no poppy cultivation (V2) are important. But since there is no homogeneous insurgent movement in Afghanistan, and especially since the insurgency in Greater Kandahar can be seen as distinct from the insurgencies in Loya Paktia and further to the north in eastern provinces, one has to somewhat deduce from the value of these arguments regarding the current area of focus for counternarcotics, Helmand.
- But before somebody would think that I am therefore backing counternarcotics in Helmand, I would say it depends. It should depend on many variables, and on the expected shifts of those variables in reaction to interventions (raids, kills, arrests, interceptions etc.). In some cases, a hands-off approach may not be radical enough, should one's priority be defeating the insurgency... then working together with "collaborative kingpins" (actually a well-known approach to CN officers) may be the right policy... Of course, this all depends on what one's priorities are. Is the insurgency and a possible comeback of al-Qaida to south Afghanistan the greater challenge? Or is heroin coming from Afghanistan the primary concern? Priorities/preferences should be clear, because sometimes there is a choice to be made. Not acknowledging this choice doesn't help: wishfully thinking ourselves into a belief that combating both insurgents and drug-traders always amounts to hitting the same bird with as many stones as it takes doesn't help. It will only be the same bird in some cases.
Having read all this, you may see I am somewhat concerned about the planned surge of DEA agents to Afghanistan. And one imagines that the fact that they are going to lead the interagency "Afghan Threat Finance Cell" indicates that DEA won an important turf battle by bureacratic arms-twisting within the Obama administration (a turf battle about what the result of a proper analysis of insurgency finances should be) - this happened essentially REGARDLESS of Afghan realities (whatever they are), and that is the point right here.

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