Afghanistan Is Not Iraq, So U.S. Best Not Surge Ahead Blindly

Tribalism and geography of 11th-century state would make fight even tougher, writes Christopher Brown.

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A better option, although far more costly in terms of time, resources, and lives, would be a smart surge based on a whole of society development approach. Such a strategy must move the development efforts out of Kabul and other major urban areas and into the rural regions where the majority of the population lives and where our enemies operate with increasing impunity.

The first step in such a strategy would be the United States, together with the central Afghan government, gaining control of the transportation linkages. Perhaps the British experience with railways and blockhouses during the Boer War could offer adaptable insights. Furthermore, the funding of local militias similar to the Sons of Iraq may indeed work as long as there is an effort to establish centralized control and accountability as a true constabulary force that results in loyalty to the central Afghan government. In addition, development, particularly in terms of economic and infrastructure, must accompany the edge of the increasing security perimeter because the victory won with the bullet in this type of strategy is only lasting if it is followed with the brick.

If we want to achieve lasting stability we must seek to achieve lasting development and security. After all, if we want the population to mirror the ideals of the developed world, then it will require a long-term process. This will require introducing those ideas in a way that directly benefits the population. Only after the Afghan people see a benefit will they begin adopting and eventually assimilate the ideas as their own. Without such a strategy, a surge of 30,000 or even 300,000 will not make a difference other than the creation of false hope in both the U.S. and Afghan populations, making any future efforts even more troublesome.