Population-Centricity, Restraint And Goat-Eating

This is the most important part of Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s account of the new Marine offensive now underway in the Helmand River Valley:

“We’re not going to measure your success by the number of times your ammunition is resupplied. . . . Our success in this environment will be very much predicated on restraint,” [Brig. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson] told a group of officers from the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines on Sunday. “You’re going to drink lots of tea. You’re going to eat lots of goat. Get to know the people. That’s the reason why we’re here.”

More substantive (well, that’s in the eye of the beholder) thoughts here. Also see Josh Foust, Michael Cohen and Ibn Muqawama for a rounded discussion. While I’m inclined to agree with the argument that a counterinsurgency strategy is the most plausible path to a counterterrorism objective, counterinsurgency is so stunningly complex and Afghanistan is in such dire straits that it’s rather legitimate to fear, as Michael does, that the means are going to consume the end. I’m not persuaded that Afghanistan strategy is subject to mission creep yet — remember the war from 2002 to 2007? — and have found Michael’s posts on the subject more valuable as intellectual checks on COINdinista enthusiasm than I have as a guide for understanding strategy, but it would be irresponsible not to consider that the fear could manifest itself. 

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Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman

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