Saturday, February 03, 2007

Giving Ground in a COIN Fight

From The Telegraph:

A Taliban force thought to be around 100-strong attacked the district centre of Musa Qala at 4am this morning, overcoming a locally raised force of auxiliary police loyal to the Afghan government by 11am.

A local member of the Afghan parliament, Haji Mir Wali, told The Daily Telegraph: "The Taliban have destroyed the walls of the district centre. They have put the tribal elders who supported the agreement with the government in jail."

British troops withdrew from their forward operating base at Musa Qala late last year under the terms of the truce [with the residents of Musa Qala].

So much for this truce, or any agreement ceding ground to insurgents during a COIN fight. The British, in agreeing not to operate in and around Musa Qala, handed the Taliban and other militants a veritable logistics hub, one where they could no doubt garner much needed supplies, get their equipment repaired, communicate to others in their organization, and the like.

More importantly, the truce no doubt resonated within the infosphere. In Musa Qala you have armed coalition forces effectively retreating from hotly contested territory; obviously the Taliban are still quite a force to be reckoned with, an observer might think. Other towns within the district, under pressure to submit to the Taliban, will likely think twice before they refuse them based on the debacle at Musa Qala. Better to acquiesce, quietly support the extremists and look the other way, lest a 100 militants shatter the peace and run rampant through your streets.

The Colombian experiences with this sort of thing played out in much the same way. During the 1990's the Colombian government withdrew all forces out of five southern municipalities, effectively handing over a Switzerland-sized piece of territory (the zona de despeje) and 120,000 people to the FARC insurgency Group. This gesture, intended to jump start peace and reconciliation talks, instead handed the FARC a safe haven and area to stage out of and retreat into; instead of luring FARC leaders to the peace talks, the despeje strengthened the operational capabilities of the much-maligned narco-insurgency. Deemed a failure, the despeje was eventually abolished. The people within the zone, where FARC became the law of the land for some time, are the ones who ultimately paid the price for their government's ill-advised land-for-peace gambit with an insurgency that cares for little more than maintaining the status quo.

Residents of Colombia's former despeje would no doubt sympathize with the plight of Musa Qala's citizens, who this morning find themselves pinned under the heels of militants who care little if nothing for them. Had some Colombianos been present at the Shura where the British agreed to cease operations in and around the hamlet, no doubt many of them would have warned "mal idea".

UPDATE: Bill Roggio posts more about the ill-fated accord over at the Fourth Rail:

As long at the Taliban and al-Qaeda maintain the sanctuaries in Quetta and the Northwest Frontier Province, the Afghan government and NATO forces will remain fighting a holding action. All of the offensive actions inside Afghanistan cannot destroy the massive Taliban infrastructure that has been built up over the past several years during the Pakistani government's neglect of this serious problem.


2164th said...

The Pakistan problem is not one of neglect. It is a strategy. They have calculated that the best step forward is to step sideways and let the West play itself out like everyone else who has come to Afghanistan. Better to appear incompetent and be happy after the crusaders leave. They are afterall muslims.

sexy said...