Permissible Arms

A little democracy with your coffee?

Posted in afghanistan by Karaka on 9 October 2009

I’m still sorting out my morning coffee and nosing through my daily feeds, but this assessment from McCreary from yesterday’s NightWatch was pretty astute:

On National Public Radio, Afghanistan’s Ambassador to the United States, His Excellency Said Jawad, affirmed that the Afghanistan government’s assessment of today’s bombing in Kabul finds that “a nation” is behind the bombing and named Pakistan.

His comment indirectly called Pakistan a state sponsor of terror. It was a good comment because of the facts the Ambassador produced which showed its similarity to the July 2008 bombing.

Ambassador Jawad said his government supported an increase in US troops to fight a counterinsurgency campaign, instead of a counter-terror campaign. However, his most poignant comments concerned the Afghan elections.

Jawad made a point that no other commentator has made. He said the debate over election fraud undermines and misses the enormous significance of the elections. Millions of Afghans, he said, braved bombs and bullets to vote, risking Taliban reprisals in cutting off fingers or ears or murder. Women and men both voted under conditions that no one in the West would tolerate.

The dispute over fraud misses the point and disrespects the bravery of those who came out, including those who stuffed ballot boxes. Imagine, Readers, Afghan political thugs thinking that elections were worth manipulating. That in itself is a form of progress.

Afghans, he indicated, think the US does not respect and minimizes the risks Afghans took just to vote. The Afghans are proud they held an election. The American official obsession with voter fraud blinds the US to the enormity of the Afghan achievement in a war zone. The people defied the Taliban and voted by the millions.

A lot more profitable attention might be paid to that fact, in this kinder gentler counterinsurgency climate, if the US had an information strategy.

Now, the one note I had is that part of the McChrystal assessment included a bolstering of strategic communication, but I think McCreary is right in that it isn’t terribly effective right now:

The United States and its allies in Afghanistan must “wrest the information initiative” from the Taliban and other insurgent groups that have undermined the credibility of the Kabul government and its international backers, according to the top U.S. and NATO commander in the country.

“The information domain is a battlespace,” Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal wrote in an assessment made public on Monday, adding that the allies need to “take aggressive actions to win the important battle of perception.”

More importantly, Jawad is spot-on in the importance of the elections qua elections; and secondarily, elections despite wartime, despite the threat of grave harm. And this image always stood out for me:

20afghan2sub-600

From the NYT coverage of the election in August.

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3 Responses

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  1. onparkstreet said, on 12 October 2009 at 12:56

    “Afghans, he indicated, think the US does not respect and minimizes the risks Afghans took just to vote. The Afghans are proud they held an election. ”

    Interesting point. I hadn’t thought of that before.

    *On a side note, or perhaps tangential, to information operations in regard to the ‘home front’, I’m surprised there is so little information about the Japanese and Indian aid efforts are available for general public consumption. Indian press mentions aid amounts pledged, Michael Yon had a post some time back about the Japanese aid efforts, but those sorts of general information efforts seem missing.

    **Perhaps as a blogger, I get too caught up in the online info stuff? Still, Web 2.0 efforts are nothing.

    ***Finally, I wonder what IO efforts are going on with the increased cell phone usage in Astan?

    – Madhu

    • karakapend said, on 12 October 2009 at 13:35

      Yeah, I find it really interesting wrt Japan and India as well; especially since Japan has indicated (under their new government, which is fascinating and exciting to watch) that they would be willing to provide additional resources further than the monetary support they have been providing; and India has something of a vested interest in the matter, as well. But it doesn’t come out often, and even when it does it’s rarely in the big three US papers (WSJ, WP, NYT) that cover US efforts in Afghanistan regularly.

  2. onparkstreet said, on 12 October 2009 at 12:57

    Er, Web 2.0 efforts are NOT nothing…..

    – Madhu


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