Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 22:43 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 22:43 | SYDNEY

Reader riposte: To stay or go in Afghanistan

24 March 2011 10:13

Anton Kuruc writes:

Raoul Heinrichs seriously misrepresents my argument. His rebuttal rests on the spurious assertion that there haven't been enough insurgencies resolved in the last thirty years to create a statistically significant data set that enables cautious academics to confidently generalise. In my riposte I made it clear that: '...good practice determines success [in counter insurgency].' I also noted that time appears to be an important factor. 

Raoul ignored all the other more substantive elements of my critique of his position. For example he did not address my argument that his operational prescriptions are the antithesis of good counter insurgency practice, that his argument is a self fulfilling prophecy of defeat and that he describes a lack of political will rather than the insurgents asymmetric advantage. Fortunately the Prime Minister has more political will than Raoul would advise.

Raoul's essential position about the statistics is that we should ignore recent history. He argues that we should ignore the fact that: in the last thirty odd years every successful counterinsurgency, bar one, has taken more than 10 years to win; and that recent history shows that the likelihood of the counter insurgent winning increases as more time passes.

Time probably reflects the substantial asymmetry of the state's resource base compared to that of the insurgent. He counsels that we should ignore all recent experience because he believes the cause is lost. But he presents no evidence that the war is lost beyond the departure of some allies and his own assertions that it is hopelessly lost. I would be interested to know what evidence Raoul can provide to support this argument.

As I have argued elsewhere, insurgency is the continuation of domestic politics by other means. A counterinsurgency campaign is an armed domestic political campaign conducted over a protracted period. It takes time to learn the domestic politics of a foreign culture, identify the different constituencies involved and what policies and approaches those individual constituencies might respond to. This is an important precursor to successfully helping legitimate parties compete peacefully for domestic political power.

What might actually speed up the prospects of success is a more substantial deployment of domestic political campaign planning and domestic policy making expertise. Currently the AFP are about the only domestic policy expertise Australia has deployed to Afghanistan, and we have deployed no political campaign planning expertise. This is not an argument that we should campaign for one party, but rather support an advocacy political campaign in favour of legitimate domestic political competition.

Contrary to Raoul's assertion, I did not claim that counter insurgency is a 'numbers game'. What I did argue is that we should learn from recent military history and I provided some facts to support my case.