Monday, July 6, 2009


If John Nagl had a nickel for every time a news story mentioned the counterinsurgency concept of clear and hold, I suspect the news on Thursday of U.S. Marines making a "major push" into the Southern Afghanistan province of Helmand would have financed CNAS for quite some time. Now how about the third part of the counterinsurgency triad, build? Various experts have acknowledged that the much-hyped "civilian surge" won't be coming to Afghanistan, since the experts needed to staff it do not exist. Will that piece simply be forgotten? Improvised by the military? I'd like to hear more about that part of the strategy.
The same thing can be asked on the other side of the border. Pakistani troops have done a fairly good job on the clear stage in Swat, and are hoping the hold stage takes care of itself as it moves on to South Waziristan. Clear is the "fun" part for militaries (or as much fun as counterinsurgency can be); fighting an enemy, however elusive, is what the military signed up to do. Hold is less fun, since it is difficult and defensive, sitting there as targets for guerrilla attacks. Pakistan seems to be assuming that the United States, and $1.5 billion a year or more, will take care of the build phase in Swat and, presumably, South Waziristan. Given the plans for Helmand province, I'll believe it when I see it.

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