14 October 2013

Did COIN "Fail" in Afghanistan?

Karl W. Eikenberry resoundingly says "yes" and has a lot of details to back up his assertions.

More than three years after the Afghan surge’s implementation, what can be said about the efficacy of COIN and the U.S. experience in Afghanistan? Proponents might, with some merit, claim that the experiment was too little, too late -- too late because an industrial-strength COIN approach was not rigorously applied until eight years after the war began, and too little because even then, limits were placed on the size and duration of the surge, making it more difficult to change the calculations of Afghan friends and enemies. Moreover, even though President Barack Obama announced plans to end U.S. participation in combat operations in Afghanistan by 2014, the war continues and the outcome remains indeterminate. Still, it is possible to answer the question by examining the major principles of COIN and analyzing how these fared on the ground.

The COIN-surge plan for Afghanistan rested on three crucial assumptions: that the COIN goal of protecting the population was clear and attainable and would prove decisive, that higher levels of foreign assistance and support would substantially increase the Afghan government’s capacity and legitimacy, and that a COIN approach by the United States would be consistent with the political-military approach preferred by Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Unfortunately, all three assumptions were spectacularly incorrect, which, in turn, made the counterinsurgency campaign increasingly incoherent and difficult to prosecute. In short, COIN failed in Afghanistan.

What say you? Could COIN have succeeded in Afghanistan, under the conditions faced there by NATO? What's your assessment of the mission in Afghanistan and what could've / should've happened there?

By: Brant

1 comment:

Kingdaddy said...

It's a hard question to answer, since it's not altogether clear what the theater-level objective was, in the end. Simply arrest the scale of the Taliban/ Al Qaeda threat? Eliminate them completely from the region? Was a stable regime in Kabul enough? Or was the job ultimately much bigger than that?

If the question is, instead, was there an operational COIN approach that worked, I think the answer is yes, at times. However, the problems at the theater level made it difficult for these efforts to culminate in an Afghanistan-level success.