Carlotta Gall of NYT is embedding with the Anbar-hardened Marines in Garmser and is reporting that the young platoon leaders are putting their Iraq experience to good use:
As a first step, the marines promised to provide a strong security cordon so those villagers who had fled could return without fear to rebuild their homes and reopen the bazaar.
When on patrol, the marines carry a small gadget the size of an old Polaroid camera that takes fingerprints, photos and an iris scan of people they meet. It is used to build a database of the residents so they can easily spot strangers, the marines say. The Afghans accepted the imposition without protest.
A couple of things make me suspicious.
First is the “Marines saved NATO’s ass” narrative now in vogue with American reporters. We desperately need a Nir Rosen or a Patrick Cockburn in Afghanistan, an intrepid Pashtu-speaking free agent to go and check things out. Before that happens, I’ll have a hard time buying this particular “things are looking up” meme.
Secondly, I wonder if our new-found love for COIN has blinded us from seeing the obvious: no matter what their education, GIs ain’t social workers. From what I remember about Afghans, cordoning off a village and fingerprinting everybody maybe isn’t such a great idea if you want to keep the Taleban at bay. Particularly since the Marines are going to pull out in a few months, leaving the “collaborators” screwed for good.
Related: Seth G. Jones has a new 177-page monograph out at RAND titled “Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan”. Haven’t read it yet, download at your own risk.
UPDATE: For a more intelligent take on the Gall story, visit Registan.