Monday 10 January 2011

What Afghans think about the military campaign in Kandahar

Only rarely does one come across documents that accurately reflect the opinion of ordinary Afghans about the war that is being fought on their doorstep. Thus, the second Afghan Voices paper published by Australia's Lowy Institute for International Policy is to be welcomed.
Entitled How Afghans View Coalition Military Operations in Kandahar, the paper is written by Zabih Ullah - an Afghan journalist who was born in Kandahar, but chooses not to use his real name. He argues that most Afghans do not regard the prospects for Coalition success as very high. Discussions with villagers and residents of Kandahar reveal that most believe the military campaign will end in failure. "Many Kandaharis have come to believe that Coalition military operations result only in the death, injury, arrest and dishonouring of innocent Afghan civilians who have nothing to do with the Taliban", he says.
At the same time, they don't want the Coalition forces to leave and say they could play a more positive role in rebuilding the shattered country.
Zabih Ullah gives five reasons who the Coalition military campaign is failing: the Taliban can find sanctuary in Pakistan; they learn quickly from their mistakes, for example, avoiding head-on clashes with Coalition troops, which they know they cannot win; some Coalition tactics, such as night raids, are counter-productive. "For a Pashtun it is almost better to be killed rather than to be dishonoured by having foreign soldiers in his house at night"; Coalition strategy changes constantly, as do the messages being communicated to locals; the failure of Coalition forces to keep their word and stay in the villages they secure for the long term.
Zabih Ullah says that if there is one over-riding reason why locals have little confidence in US-led operations in Kandahar, "it is the continued failure of American and Coalition forces to understand local context and dynamics and the impact of their stalled operations on the local population." Some excellent observations in this short, but timely report.
Details of the first paper in this series, written by Wazhma Frogh on the subject of the Afghan government's plans for reconciliation and reintegration, can be found here.

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