November 24, 2009

MAYBE EVERY NATION COULD JUST ADOPT A VILLAGE....:

Setback for 'Canadian approach' in Afghanistan: Slow follow-up by CIDA jeopardizes success in villages that have been cleared of Taliban forces (Senator Colin Kenney, 11/24/09, Toronto Star)

It took the Canadian military three agonizing years to learn that the "whack-a-mole" approach to defeating the Taliban – clearing the enemy out of an area, then moving to another area, only to see the enemy move back into the locality you just left – wasn't working.

So it was decided that Canada would focus on protecting villages, one after another after another, rather than rushing off hither and thither in pursuit of the Taliban. Rather than simply occupying these villages, the idea was to stabilize them. That would involve winning local support by doing meaningful development work that villagers requested. This kind of work would require the hiring of local Afghans, who would presumably be less eager to sign on with the Taliban in order to feed their families.

I have argued recently that Canada should get on with withdrawing its military mission from Afghanistan now, rather than waiting until 2011, our official exit date. But if we are not going to withdraw now, I am in full agreement with making development a key part of our investment in attempting to stabilize the country.

Which is what seemed to be finally happening this year. The Canadian military invested about $4 million in Deh-e-Bagh, a village close to Kandahar City. The military projects included roads, irrigation and solar-powered street lights. Then the Canadian International Development Agency chipped in and invested about $1.5 million (a pittance in comparison with the overall cost of the war) to do projects that village residents put on a priority list. These included investments in new wells, more irrigation, vocational training and improving agricultural production.

Deh-e-Bagh isn't an unqualified success by any means – not enough has been invested to say that, and the Taliban haven't exactly disappeared. But I am told that Afghans are applauding. Deh-e-Bagh represents the beginning of a more intelligent approach to stabilization. It has helped cover our soldiers' backsides. It has also won Canada some badly needed friends in the heart of Taliban country.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at November 24, 2009 7:13 AM
  
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