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Road Rules: Counterinsurgency Edition « The Washington Independent

I wondered yesterday whether and how Gen. Stanley McChrystal would incorporate private security companies into his population-protection mission in Afghanistan. A post from Nathan Hodge, who’s in Afghanistan right now for Danger Room, highlights an area where such coordination is particularly necessary: the roads.

Roads are everything in Afghanistan, precisely because there are so few of them. They’re an economic necessity and a strategic choke-point. David Kilcullen once opted to tell the story of counterinsurgency in Afghanistan through a series of observations about roads. Some roads in Afghanistan that I’ve seen are littered with the giant, boxy detritus of overturned shipping containers after bandits — insurgents or, more often, police — loot the so-called “jingle trucks” that transport goods. To deny Afghan civilians access to scarce roadspace is a surefire way to alienate them.

So, Hodge reports, McChrystal is considering telling troops in Afghanistan to be careful not to force Afghans off the road when their Humvees roll out:

Canadian Brig. Gen. Eric Tremblay, spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, told Danger Room that McChrystal was considering a new directive that would set the tone for working among the population, while “maintaining the delicate balance” between cultural sensitivity and protecting the force.

“The commander is maybe thinking of producing COIN [counterinsurgency] guidance that will govern day-to-day interactions with Afghans,” he said. “And that may cover tactical driving both in Kabul and outside, and it may also deal with how you portray yourself with Afghans — but also leaving it to the tactical commander or the commander on the ground to decide.”

So, once again: what about the private military contractors, particularly those who guard U.S. diplomats? How to coordinate with them so they know not to run civilians off the road and still do their jobs protecting their charges?

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