Dana Dillon analyzes how improved integration of skilled U.S. civilians can improve nation building and counter-insurgency efforts.
On december 5, 2006, Taliban fighters repulsed a company of British Royal Marines attacking a village on the Helmand River in Afghanistan. The Marines enjoyed substantial air and artillery support, but the Taliban fighters were victorious, Reuters reported, and bragged that they had the expertise to defeat any army in the world. Although the fighting resulted in the death of only a single Royal Marine, their defeat demonstrated a new Taliban ability in conventional tactics and a first-order strategic change in the war on terrorism.
The frequently pronounced goal of the American and Allied strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan is to train and equip their respective armies so that American and allied soldiers can depart; “As Iraqis stand up,” administration officials quip, “American forces will stand down.” The Department of Defense (dod) program in support of that strategy is called Building Partnership Capacity (bpc) and it is the major program in the dod’s security cooperation strategy.
Yet the battle on the Helmand River throws the whole concept into question. Despite the billions of dollars spent to train and equip the Iraqi and Afghan armies, it is doubtful that this program will create armies superior to the Royal Marines. And if the Royal Marines cannot defeat an entrenched Taliban force, what are the prospects for the Afghan Army after nato leaves Afghanistan?