Helmand: When you realize you dug yourself into a hole, put down the shovel and climb

NATO strategy in the Helmand province of Afghanistan has caused a fair amount of NATO bloodletting in the past year. Following American neglect of the province while securing Kandahar and Kabul, and in combination with a Taliban retrenchment across the border in Pakistan, the original policy of platoon houses (also known colloquially as hellholes) and the more recent policy of making truces with Taliban-affiliated locals have only resulted in more attacks on NATO forces in the province. While these attacks have been beneficial in that the attacks have all been repelled with hundreds of Taliban dead (The Telegraph says more than 1,000 Taliban dead and 17 Brits), they have damaged morale and killed more British soldiers than the smart set can stomach. On January 27, before Friday prayers, a humanitarian NGO that has set up offices in Helmand was hit by a suicide bomber. When the British venture out of their hellholes and bases they destroy the Taliban enemy, but they don’t have enough manpower to hold the land they take. NATO is surging into Helmand with 3,200 American and 1,000 Polish reinforcements and a new commander for NATO in the region. U.S. General Dan K. McNeil will replace U.K. General David Richards.

What must be done?

Luckily for our questions, the Telegraph found the most pessimistic local they could and got a quote out of him that hits every note:

But Amir Mohammed, 65, a farmer, said: “We have had nothing but fighting since the British came. A lot of people have been killed by them. The Taliban are back all over Helmand. They are in Musa Qala, Nawzad, Sangin and Garamsir. There is no security. At least there was security under the Taliban. Also they are now talking about destroying our poppy fields. How will we eat?” (source)

Let’s go over these points and see how to address them.

  • Problem: Lots of fighting and killing in Helmand. Solution: Communicate with the people. They approve of the killing of violent people who would attack them without warning. Don’t be the one who kills without warning. Be the talkative protector.
  • Problem: There is no security for people to go to the market or pray at the mosque. Solution: Establish security for people to do their everyday tasks. Protect them first. Help them protect themselves however you can.
  • Problem: The Brits killed lots of people. Solution: Tell people what you’re doing constantly, and brag about it when you kill a bunch of brigands and bandits who are out to kill villagers and destroy their village.
  • Problem: The Taliban are back all over Helmand. Solution: Kill them.
  • Problem: Taliban in Musa Qala. Solution: Find them and drive them out of Musa Qala, killing as many as possible in Musa Qala and with ambushes along the escape routes.
  • Problem: Taliban in Nawzad. Solution: See Musa Qala.
  • Problem: Taliban in Sangin. Solution: See Musa Qala.
  • Problem: Taliban in Garamsir. Solution: See Musa Qala.
  • Problem: We are growing poppy to make money (and selling it to the Taliban). How can we survive without the Taliban to buy our poppy? Solution: Isn’t there a shortage of medical opiates in Europe and America? Convince legitimate pharmaceutical companies to contract to buy all the poppy grown in the province, thereby stealing the Taliban’s funding out from under them.

Is this roughly what will happen? No doubt with the exception of the last bullet it is pretty close to plan.

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2 responses to “Helmand: When you realize you dug yourself into a hole, put down the shovel and climb

  1. Or, Counter-Insurgency 101.

    Good suggestions, all. As I see it the American political problem is how to maintain support for the activity for the amount of time it will take (at least 9 years). And, as I mentioned at WoC, how to achieve the goals while the Taliban are able to withdraw across the border at will.

  2. Except Dave, the Left/Dems/Media have bet it all on defeat. Not just Iraq but also Afghanistan. How can you hold Afghanistan if you cannot hold Iraq?

    Surely, Dems have positioned themselves as the “moral party of defeat” arguing that the US cannot and must not use military force anywhere because it is morally wrong, therefore defeat in Afghanistan as well as Iraq is required to “punish the immoral US” for it’s sins. And thus turn inward again to Party like it’s 1999. Apologies to Prince.

    Politically, the most important battles have already been fought in Washington and defeat is something the Dems will not give up.

    You certainly don’t see Dems offering up anything for Afghanistan other than sub-rosa declarations of defeat and “let’s go home.” Heck they had a Hezbollah Imam give their DNC convocation.

    Until of course Al Qaeda attacks us again.