Friday, February 12, 2010

Afghanistan: Diplomacy, Dialog, Cultural Sensitivity, and 4,000 Marines

BBC reports have been stressing the NATO aspects of an offensive against the Taliban in Afghanistan. Understandably, since it's a British institution, and much closer geographically to Europe's NATO than to the country that grew out of those 13 colonies.

Nato, Diplomacy: and Marines

One of today's BBC articles on the developing situation in Afghanistan makes the military operation sound - well, military.
"Nato begins major Afghanistan offensive"
BBC (February 13, 2010)

"Thousands of US, British and Afghan troops have launched the biggest offensive in Afghanistan since the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001.

"Helicopter-borne forces are attacking the Taliban-held districts of Marjah and Nad Ali in Helmand province in a bid to re-establish government control.

"Nato says Marjah is home to the biggest community under insurgent control in the south and 400 to 1,000 militants.

"Many residents fled ahead of Operation Moshtarak - meaning 'together' in Dari.

"Nato had distributed leaflets in the Marjah area warning of the planned offensive in a bid to limit civilian casualties. Villagers said they warned Taliban fighters to leave the area or be killed...."

"...Operation Moshtarak is being led by the US Marine Corps, but a total of 4,000 British troops are involved on the ground and in support, supported by Danes and Estonians.

"The initial offensive in Marjah, in Nad Ali district, began early on Saturday.

"More than 4,000 US marines, 1,500 Afghan soldiers and 300 US soldiers moved in by helicopter under cover of night...."
What's a bit less obvious in leading news from Afghanistan is the sort of diplomacy that's going on before - and, quite possibly, during - the strictly military aspects of the operation.

I'd like to live in a world where outfits like the Taliban - particularly their leaders - would have a change of heart, decide that it's okay for women to drive cars, apologize for killing people they didn't approve of, and start being nice.

I think it's likely enough that some people who supported the Taliban out of fear or inadequate knowledge will be willing to abandon terrorism. But dedicated islamic terrorists? No, I think the odds are strongly against their deciding to be nice.
"Nato forces in Afghanistan to launch Helmand operation"
BBC (January 25, 2010)

"...But if there was a conversation before the operation between the Afghans and village leaders, he said, 'we often find the Afghans don't fight - but they will welcome you'.

"He pointed to an operation run in a similar way by Canadian forces to the west of Kandahar 'where not a shot was fired'.

"And in an operation by the Grenadier Guards in central Helmand province 'the same effect was created', he said....'
I'm reminded strongly of what the American-led coalition did in Iraq. (And, no, Bush wasn't "going it alone" - although admittedly a little under one in eight of Earth's 265 nations and other administrative units were in the coalition. (August 9, 2007))

Many Iraqis simply didn't know about foreigners, western or otherwise. As they discovered that these foreigners, when they weren't fighting Al Qaeda or Hussein holdouts, repaired and restocked hospitals, fixed sewer systems, and made themselves helpful in other ways - Al Qaeda propaganda started to be questioned.

Al Qaeda's efforts to win support by cutting off people's heads probably didn't help their popularity, either.

I doubt we'll hear much about the Anbar Awakening and related grass-roots movements in Iraq: That was, after all, Al Qaeda in Iraq, not the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Besides, America has a new administration now - but perhaps I'm being unfair.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.