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Eikenberry, on the Insurgency, Sounds Like a COINdinista

How bad is the Afghan insurgency? What will it take to roll it back?

During his confirmation hearing to become U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Eikenberry gives a standard answer. It’s going to require “additional commitment of U.S. and importantly NATO forces into eastern and southern Afghanistan.” Also “faster and further” training and equipping Afghan police and soldiers so they can “hold where NATO forces go.” Then a “coordinated regional approach with Pakistan.” He says that he and Ron Neumann, who previously held the ambassadorship, in 2006 started to request additional resources, including “a fairly significant” bolstering of the training program for the army, “but it was insufficient.”

He gingerly criticizes the Pakistani military and the intelligence service, the ISI, for supporting the insurgency historically. “Since that time it’s been unclear if all elements of the ISI have dropped their support for the Taliban and their extremist allies.” Eikenberry praises the tripartite talks that Secretary Clinton has set up with the Afghans and Pakistanis for setting up a mechanism to address this.

Why will the Afghan people reject al-Qaeda and the Taliban leadership, especially when some of those Taliban leadership “may be coincident with many people in Afghanistan?” Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) asks. What will it take to secure their buy-in? “Still today, every poll will show that 90 percent of the people firmly reject Taliban,” Eikenberry says. “But while they reject that totally, they need a secure alternative provided for them. If coerced without any alternative, they will side with the Taliban.” It’ll take three aspects, particularly in the south: “We have to be able to secure the Afghan people.” It’s not just more troops, it’s what they’ll do: population-centric counterinsurgency. Then, without the rule of law, “security sits on no foundation.” Finally, “trying to get the rural economy developed” so the Afghans “have a middle ground of civil society that Afghans can stand upon, and if they have that, they will defend it.”

Spoken like a COINdinista.

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