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Thursday, October 08, 2009

The Dayton force: More counterinsurgency on the cheap?

At Commentary, Jennifer Rubin points out the folly of the Obama administration's plan to train Afghan troops to control the Taliban instead of using a 'surge' of American troops as was done in Iran.
It does seem to be an exercise in collective amnesia. Obama, Biden, and Hillary Clinton were all in the Senate during the failed light-footprint approach to Iraq and watched the surge, which they opposed, bring about the results Gen. David Petraues had predicted. All three campaigned for president as they critiqued the lack of resources devoted to the “good war.” So it surely couldn’t have escaped their notice that Biden’s counterterrorism high-tech gambit has already been shown to be defective. The Bush team — which made the right call — didn’t have the benefit of experience, but the Obama team does. They have seen this argument play out.
This got me wondering about another 'counter-terrorism force' being trained by the United States: The Dayton Force. The Dayton Force is the group of 'Palestinians' being trained by US General Keith Dayton to police the 'Palestinians' in Judea and Samaria in place of IDF troops (if they don't decide to turn on the Jews first). The Dayton Force's training and effectiveness are questionable.

Why is it that the United States was unable to train Iraqi troops, is having difficulty training Afghani troops and has not done particularly well training 'Palestinian' troops to do the counterinsurgency work that the United States - or Israel in the case of the 'Palestinians' - needs to have done? I would argue that there are two factors at play here:

First, there are basic training issues. None of the Iraqis, Afghanis or 'Palestinians' has a history of being part of a regular army. They're not cultured in the type of regimented teamwork that an army requires. In Iraq, the United States would not accept members of Saddam Hussein's former forces, who were probably the only people in the country with a military-type culture. The Afghanis and the 'Palestinians' don't have real armies - only insurgencies. It takes long and painstaking effort to imbue people with the idea of working together under a regimented army structure.

Second, there is heart. You can't instill a desire to fight for a cause into people who don't believe in that cause. Iraqis who were asked to fight Islamist insurgent groups had ambivalent feelings about fighting their brothers and cousins because outsiders wanted them to do so. The same is true of the Aghanis and the 'Palestinians.' That's why the 'Palestinian' terrorist culture - in which the terrorists are the heroes - has to be changed before any kind of arrangement with Israel can be reached. You can't train troops to fight the terrorists without changing the underlying culture that promotes terrorism first. Otherwise, they won't act forcefully against their friends and cousins. Why should they?

The surge has had long-lasting effects in Iraq because while the surge was going on, the US began to change the local culture into one that desired democracy and regarded the terrorists as a nuisance or worse. While I don't believe that the US can withdraw from Iraq as quickly as some people would like, there is at least now a core of Iraqis that shares democratic values that wasn't there when what Rubin calls the 'light footprint' approach was tried. It may take some time - it took time in Germany and Japan too - but if the US continues on its current path, it has a chance of being able to turn Iraq over to its people without Iraq becoming a Muslim dictatorship. (Hopefully part of that process will be ameliorating the pervasive hatred of Israel and Jews that unfortunately still exists there).

But the same reasons why the surge was necessary in Iraq make a surge-type plan necessary in Afghanistan (as General McChrystal has pointed out, to his commander-in-chief's discomfort) and argue against turning over Judea and Samaria to the Dayton Forces. The Afghanis aren't going to wake up after a three-month training course and suddenly start fighting their brothers and cousins. The 'Palestinians,' who are seeped in a culture of jihadi terrorism, are not going to suddenly start protecting Israelis from their fellow 'Palestinians' just because they took a course that suggested that Israelis are deserving of protection.

The desire to do what needs to be done to fight terror just isn't there yet among the locals. It takes years of painstaking effort to change the local culture's values from jihadism to democracy. Ask Germany or Japan.


At 6:49 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Barry Rubin points out that while US efforts could pay off in Iraq, that's not likely to happen in Afghanistan or the PA territory where nothing like a national culture or an effective central government exists. The point is US efforts are not likely to stabilize the latter without a real change in their culture. And that takes decades to happen.


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