Plunging Ahead in Kandahar

Kandahar International Airport

Kandahar International Airport

US military officials have been emphasizing the importance of securing local buy-in for counterinsurgency operations. But they’ve also emphasized that they want to undertake a big operation in Kandahar where the public seems deeply skeptical. Noah Schachtman asked Admiral Mike Mullen about this and Mullen basically responded by saying that the military will be trying hard to get local buy-in, but won’t actually make whether or not the operation happens contingent on getting the buy-in:

Danger Room: So do you need have the elders’ or the people’s buy-in before an operation starts?

Mullen: I think you’ll see the same kind of approach that General McChrystal used in Marja [before the offensive there began]. They are going to meet with a lot of leaders before the operation. That approach worked there, and I think you’ll see it again.

That’s all via Spencer Ackerman, and I take it as another reason to be skeptical of the counterinsurgency revolution in military doctrine. The desire to win local support before unleashing the bullets and bombs is nice, but it’s clear that desire to launch the attack runs ahead of any considerations about actual local opinion. This seems like a mistake to me—the priority should be on defending friendly communities from the Taliban, not putting our troops in places where they’re not wanted.