Best Defense

Book excerpt: Afghan war vet Daniel Green summarizes the ‘Characteristics of Successful Village Stability Operations’

Some good, if unsurprising, strategic advice.

In the Warlords' Shadow:
 (Amazon.com)
In the Warlords' Shadow: (Amazon.com)

This (excerpted from Daniel Green’s new book, In the Warlord’s Shadow: Special Operations Forces, the Afghans, and Their Fight Against the Taliban) is good thinking. On the other hand, I suspect that the British political officers on the Afghan frontier a century ago knew this stuff below by their second week on the job. I am not denigrating Green’s conclusions, but I am surprised that they are still news to us:

— Develop the ability to have a sympathetic understanding of the concerns, fears, and hopes of villagers as well as seeing things from their perspective.

— Harness community leaders (for example, tribes, religious, business, civil) to create a network to expand your white space and resist Taliban intimidation.

— Enlist the community in its own defense.

— Build stability through regular meetings between the Afghan National Army, the Afghan National Police, and Afghan local police leaders.

— Think unconventionally; the enemy does and so must you.

— Move beyond your comfort zone.

— Build institutions and processes and think about how things will function after you depart.

— Multitribal situations require robust tribal engagement so no group feels left out.

— Fight the insurgency’s soft-power strategy and use your enablers.

— Live embedded mentoring (working and living alongside your indigenous allies) and actively partner with your Afghan colleagues.

— The Afghan local police are your first layer of defense; treat them as such.

— Do what is required, not what’s comfortable.

— Sometimes the greatest action is inaction.

— It’s about what the population does, not what we do.

— It’s about moving Afghans from a culture of “learned helplessness” to one of “educated empowerment.”

— Think indirect action, not direct action.

— We protect the Afghans, the Taliban controls them.

— Let the Afghans be themselves, be humble about how much and how quickly we can change them.

— Treat others with respect and dignity; this is their country, not ours.

— Relentlessly pressure the enemy on all fronts.

Reprinted, by permission, from Daniel R. Green, In the Warlords’ Shadow: Special Operations Forces, the Afghans, and Their Fight Against the Taliban (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, © 2017).

Photo credit: Amazon.com

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com.

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