Sustainability and Afghanistan

Rajiv Chandrasekaran has a tremendous piece of reporting and analysis on Nawa, a district in Helmand that’s an ostensible model for what the U.S. can accomplish in Afghanistan if we’re to factor out a sea change in governance from Karzai and an end to the Pakistani safe havens. At the risk of oversimplification, the answer is that if the U.S. keeps an indefinite presence at great expense, along with exceptionally competent local soldiers and (to a lesser extent) police and district officials, security and a measure of prosperity is possible. Nothing on display economically in Nawa appears positioned to outlive a Marine/USAID departure, and the impending end of an agriculture program is freaking a district leader out.

Meanwhile, a southern village in the district is quiet because a police chief arranged a truce with the Taliban. If there’s a model on display in Nawa to examine for export, studying how and why the deal came to be has to be a part of it. Elsewhere in the district, the insurgents went to… Marja.

Finally: anyone have any idea of Nawa’s strategic significance? As best I can tell, NATO likes pointing to it because it was a place once overrun with Taliban and it no longer is. But that doesn’t explain why there should be a U.S. effort in a place like that. Out in the east, Maj. Gen. John Campbell is fond of reminding observers that we can’t fight everywhere, and need to adjust our presence to the important places. I get no sense from Chandrasekaran’s excellent piece why Nawa is one of them.

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Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman