The Washington Independent’s hard-working Spencer Ackerman has attended a bloggers’ roundtable with LTC Richard Hall, commander of the 2-7 Marines in Afghanistan, and comes back with quote-worthy stuff:
Hall is confident, [...] largely because the Taliban, he said, has alienated the population through its graft and brutality. When the 2-7 returns home in a few months, Hall will consider his mission successful if his Marines have raised the police ‘to the level where they’re confident and competent to maintain secrity, control their specific districts, [and possessing] the character development… to be respectable even when no one’s looking. … We slowly pull back the reins, and the public will see what ‘right’ is supposed to look like.’
This sounds awfully familiar. The Marines seem to be trying to replicate their Anbar success in faraway Helmand — and believing it’ll work. I’ve blogged about it before, and so have the angry men of Registan:
[...] There is no indication the Marines understand enough about southern Pashtun culture to replicate their success in Anbar. For one, Helmand is not Anbar. Pashtuns are not organized into rigid hierarchical tribes the same way many Arab societies are (this was a painful lesson the British had to learn in the 19th century, when they coopted the tribal leadership of the Balochi but they found no traction in purchasing the loyalties of the Maliks or Lashgars of the Waziri or Mehsuds).
Taken more broadly, the attempt to replicate Anbar in Helmand poses many problems: in Anbar, the tribes rose up on their own, using their own militias against AQI. There is little evidence the local tribal structures in Lashkar Gah and Garmser are as structured as the Anbar tribes, and there is no evidence the Arbaki groups in the area are coherent enough to pose a consistent anti-Taliban front like the tribal militias did in Anbar.
UPDATE: Here’s LTC Hall’s comment to my previous post.