November 19, 2009


Help The Afghans Defeat The Taliban (Cheryl Benard and Edward O'Connell, 11.19.09, Forbes)

et behind the Afghans, rather than in front of them--to help them fight their own battle. This requires us to identify, mobilize, fortify and build up those (many) forces within Afghanistan that oppose renewed Taliban rule and that desire progress, practice clean governance and are intent on moving forward into the global community. [...]

This time, our effort needs to have two strands. On the military side, we should consider mobilizing a new generation of "freedom fighters." Afghanistan has no lack of energetic young men in search of something to do; they should not be left to the Taliban recruiters. Rather, and in addition to the national army, we should consider standing up a kind of popular militia similar to the minutemen of the U.S.'s own war of independence. Suited to the Afghan mindset and history, and familiar with local circumstances and the terrain, they will give the Taliban a run for its money.

Meanwhile, on the civil side, we need to tap into and amplify the many important things that have been growing up over the past years--those that have largely remained unnoticed by us in our singleminded focus on the problems and travails of the Afghan central government. In the meantime, civil society, progressive media, incipient political parties and movements, mid-level professionals and local governance across the country have all made impressive strides. They just need to be unleashed.

As just one small example, we can cite the CDC, the Community Development Councils. Locally elected and spanning a network of 22,000 villages, these are truly democratic grassroots institutions. Arrive in one of these villages--often after hiking for a few hours across rough terrain--and there is no predicting what you will find. It could be an elderly granny or a young woman, a former tribal elder, a resolute middle-aged lady or a local businessman--whoever the community felt would best manage its interests.

The true Afghan democracy is happening on those levels--by people following television debates and sending in their votes by cellphone, by young people teaching themselves English because they so badly want to be part of the global modern world, by turbaned villagers offering articulate denunciations of IED attacks to the local newscaster. These people--not the same-old musical-chairs elite in Kabul--are our true counterparts. They are capable and willing to fight, to administer and to take their country forward.

If you were trying to establish a central Afghan state you wouldn't arm new decentralized groups.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at November 19, 2009 6:46 AM
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