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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Anbar Awakening for Afghanistan?

Tara McKelvey has a good piece in the November American Prospect on what some are calling "The Petraeus Doctrine." Lots of security-types are now interested in counterinsurgency, but Petraeus's strategy has been confounded with "the surge," the Anbar Awakening and other elements of the Iraq war.

Indeed, the incoming Obama administration might want to think carefully before attempting to export "the surge" to Afghanistan. As McKelvey notes, when explaining the reduction in violence in Iraq:
"Nearly everyone gives credit to the Anbar Awakening...and to a pullback by the militia led by Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. These disparate elements, some coordinated by the military and some coincidental, have come together and tamped down the bloodshed."
Want to know what I left out with those ellipses? Here's a key point to keep in mind. There's a huge payoff tied to US counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq:
the U.S. is paying approximately 100,000 individuals known as the Sons of Iraq about $300 a month to keep the peace, and Sunni tribal sheikhs make millions more through U.S. contracts
That $30 million monthly to the Sons of Iraq apparently buys a lot of order.

It's not at all clear that similar payoffs could be effective in Afghanistan.

Consider what columnist Eric Margolis wrote in 2002, "Karzai's `election' has cost Washington $5 billion in bribes and payoffs to Afghan warlords." How has that turned out?

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