Daniel Korski

The tragedy of Afghanistan is that the Taliban has a better co-ordinated political and military strategy than we do

The tragedy of Afghanistan is that the Taliban has a better co-ordinated political and military strategy than we do
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Two words that are repeated everywhere you go in Afghanistan are “comprehensive” and “integrated”. The thinking is that the international community must act in a comprehensive and integrated manner, ensuring that military and civilian activity work together. From the NATO commander’s intent down to every visitor’s presentation, these words are repeated ad nauseam. Even President Obama stuck them into his speech outlining his new strategy.

But as with most things, they are easier said than done. Around Kabul where the French patrol, they talk about working with civilians, but the general in charge does not even have a development adviser on his staff. In the north, coordination between the military and civilians amount to information-sharing rather than working towards a jointly agreed goal. Though General McKiernan, the over-all NATO commander, is clear on what he wants his actual influence over the regional command is quite limited.

The biggest problem is that the enemy is far more comprehensive than the international coalition. Counter-insurgency is in large part about spinning – spinning successes, looses and influencing audiences in theatre and abroad. In this, the Taliban excel. To put it in military terms, psychological operations are an integral part of their military strategy, not—as they are with NATO—an after-thought. They strike not necessarily to achieve a decisive effect but to create the impression of one.

Then comes the sequence of military and civilian activities. Interestingly, just like the British government has struggled to get DfiD, the FCO and the military to collaborate so had the Taliban. Their military and political operations were often out of synch. Now, however, they have brought their different activities under a French-style “prefect” in each district, who has control of both military and political activities. Their operations are now joined-up. Ours remain disjointed. For example, the Coalition targets the Taliban’s military wing but have not gone after its political operation.

With Obama’s planned twin surges, one civilian and one military, this may change. It will have to if the Coalition hopes to succeed.