Hi readers. It’s been a rough week (see last post). But Stubbs is nothing if not resilient and dedicated to
irritating saving the world through blogging. I’ve had this link on my work computer for over a week, and finally emailed it to myself because it was just screaming to be blogged about.
Zaman Stanizai, a Political Science Professor at California State University, wrote a blog for the Huffington Post called “NATO’s Third Alternative in Afghanistan.” I was intrigued enough to read.
I stopped short for five days at the third line: “The decade-long unrestrained military operations have failed to achieve even a modicum of political stability. ” Italics are mine, but the thought is all Mr. Stanizai. Unrestrained military operations. Unrestrained. Military. Operations.
I know. I don’t blame you if you need to take a five-day hiatus. I’ve spent the better part of the decade in and out of Afghanistan, but somehow I missed the unrestrained military operations. In fact, I’ve never personally witnessed unrestrained military operations, but I assume they look something like this:
Afghans know a little bit about Ghengis Khan. Seems he laid a little waste across the region a few years back. The Hazara are largely believed to have descended from that particular band of brothers.
I also hear the Russians may have been a little unrestricted in their military actions when they were rambling across Afghanistan.
But NATO? NATO is anything but unrestrained. Certainly, the military has spearheaded the most significant effort in the Afghan theatre. However, just because the military is conducting the majority of operations, does not mean they are unrestrained. In fact, when we go about exporting democracy and freedom, we inevitably export bureaucracy right alongside it. Bureaucracy in war manifests itself in many ways, but operationally, it usually means you require about seven levels of approval before you
breathe deeply or take a step outside engage the population. By any definition of the word. It frequently means turning the other cheek so as not to upset the local population (even as the Taliban is using their homes to stage attacks). It means spending several hours in overwatch positions while you await approval (from all seven layers) to act even when there is only one possible course of action.
Let’s fast forward five days. I finished the article. The idea Mr. Stanizai puts forward as original thought is simply this: ensure the Afghan Security Forces (whether Army, Police, Border Police, etc.) are ethnically diversified and reflective of the entire Afghan population in order to avoid a probable civil war across ethnic lines. You see, most members of the Afghan Security Forces are from the northern parts of the country (Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras) with a severe underrepresentation of Pashtuns (the largest single ethnic group in Afghanistan).
Mr. Stanizai fails to realize this is something NATO has been striving to achieve from the beginning. Unfortunately, even with the majority of recruiting efforts focused on the Pashtuns, there is not a lot of interest or support for Afghan Security Forces among them. It isn’t as simple as he supposes, nor has the problem gone unnoticed. He implies the problem is a lack of opportunity or acceptance of Pashtuns into the military ranks. There is likely prejudice along ethnic lines; it exists all over the country, but simply insisting on ethnic diversity among the armed forces won’t bring recruits and resolve the problem. You still need capable Pashtun soldiers before you can promote them to higher ranks.
He ends his article by stating that his cynical side says that this idea makes so much sense, it probably won’t happen. He’s right to be cynical. But it’s not because NATO isn’t trying, it’s because the Afghans aren’t cooperating.