Monday, November 8, 2010

A Petraeus-Style Plan Emerges in Afghanistan

It's being called "Inteqal," which is both Pashtu and Dari for "Transition." It's the NATO / Kabul plan (masterminded by General Petraeus) for a phased transition of military control, by province, to the Afghan military and police force.

The fact that there's a plan doesn't necessarily mean that it will work. Even if it's a good plan, it needs excellent execution to achieve "victory" (where "victory" is a very difficult and vague definition, anyway). But, holy smokes, it's a plan, which is something the Afghan War has seriously lacked for the last 8 years.

The concept very closely maps the Iraqi transition plan (my blog posts in 2008 focused largely on tracking the progress of this transition plan). Similar to Iraq, Afghanistan's map will now be colored red, orange, yellow, light green, dark green (indicating, respectfully: Not Ready for Transition, Partially Ready for Transition, Ready for Transition, Transitioning Within Six Months, and Transition Complete). The idea is that NATO develops capability internally in the "easier" provinces, transitions them, and consolidates its forces to progressively more "difficult" provinces.

This kind of plan has two advantages: first, it gives the Afghan Army and Police (as well as civil administrative) forces "practice" in these early-transition provinces, such that the kinks can be worked out in a lower-risk environment. Second, it gives NATO forces an opportunity to progressively consolidate, which allows them to maintain security forces in more hotly contested provinces, even as the troop draw-down begins. the plan has some merit.

Unfortunately for the sake of my curiosity, Petraeus is not keen on publishing the transition plan right now, lest it arm the Taliban with a document around which to develop a detailed strategy. But we can know a few of the provinces coming soon (like Herat), as well as some of those definitely not being transitioned for a while (like Helmand and Khandahar).

Small outposts and bases have already been transitioned--in part as a trial for the strategy, and in part due to the need to show progress.

The plan is good--though progress may need to be measured with some skepticism. The fact that a province is "transitioned" does not necessarily mean it's secure. With a pullout schedule looming over US forces, Petraeus will be under the gun to move quickly with the transition. The risk, of course, is that the "early" provinces are transitioned quickly in order to maximize security presence in Khandahar, Helmand, and Zabol.

Furthermore, NATO has to define the end-game. The Taliban are not going to disappear before NATO leaves. There is much talk of negotiations, but it's not clear whether those are actually happening.

In the end, this plan needs to be able to pose the following threat: "The Taliban cannot reach a sweeping victory after NATO leaves. A continued civil war will be a bloody stalemate." If such a threat is credible, negotiations can begin in earnest. Therefore, while Petraeus cannot divulge the details of the transition plan, results and progress will need to be publicized impressively, to put the Taliban in a position where it makes sense to seriously consider collaboration.
Post a Comment
There was an error in this gadget