Afghanistan — Petraeus Puts Protecting People at Strategy’s Center

WASHINGTON, Aug. 2, 2010 — Peo­ple are at the cen­ter of the coun­terin­sur­gency guid­ance the com­man­der of the Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force in Afghanistan issued yes­ter­day.

Army Gen. David H. Petraeus said the guid­ance will take “learn and adapt” to heart as the mantra for coun­terin­sur­gency, and added that he will learn and adapt his guid­ance in the weeks and months ahead. 

Petraeus issued the Army’s coun­terin­sur­gency man­u­al when he was com­man­der of the Com­bined Arms Cen­ter at Fort Leav­en­worth, Kan. He refined that strat­e­gy when he served as the com­man­der of Multi­na­tion­al Force Iraq, and lat­er as com­man­der of U.S. Cen­tral Command. 

The guid­ance rec­og­nizes that the deci­sive ter­rain in Afghanistan is what the mil­i­tary calls the the “human ter­rain” – the pop­u­la­tion where coun­terin­sur­gency oper­a­tions are tak­ing place. 

“The peo­ple are the cen­ter of grav­i­ty,” Petraeus wrote in the guid­ance issued yes­ter­day. Sep­a­rat­ing the Tal­iban and oth­er ene­my groups from the peo­ple and pro­tect­ing them from threats is the way for­ward, he said. 

Meet­ing and under­stand­ing the peo­ple is the main mis­sion for mil­i­tary forces and inter­na­tion­al civil­ian orga­ni­za­tions in the coun­try, the gen­er­al said. He wants ser­vice­mem­bers to con­duct foot patrols and talk with the peo­ple. “Take off your sun­glass­es,” Petraeus wrote. “Sit­u­a­tion­al aware­ness can only be gained by inter­act­ing face to face, not sep­a­rat­ed by bal­lis­tic glass or Oaklys.” 

NATO and Afghan forces have to live among the peo­ple to car­ry out the coun­terin­sur­gency strat­e­gy, the general’s guid­ance states. “We can’t com­mute to the fight,” he wrote. 

The idea of NATO troops liv­ing among the peo­ple and with the Afghan units they sup­port is key. For exam­ple, a U.S. mil­i­tary police unit part­ners with Afghan police in the south­ern city of Kan­da­har. By liv­ing with them, the unit’s mem­bers under­stand the peo­ple they work with and can adjust as need­ed, Petraeus explained. 

The gen­er­al also addressed the need for effec­tive gov­ern­ment and for coun­ter­ing cor­rup­tion. “The Tal­iban are not the only ene­my of the peo­ple,” he wrote. “The peo­ple are also threat­ened by inad­e­quate gov­er­nance, cor­rup­tion and abuse of pow­er – recruiters for the Taliban.” 

The coun­terin­sur­gency guid­ance tells ser­vice­mem­bers and civil­ians to work with the Afghan gov­ern­ment to strength­en the insti­tu­tions of the state, and make them respon­sive to the needs of the people. 

But the guid­ance is not all vel­vet glove; it also calls for NATO and Afghan part­ners to pur­sue the ene­my relentlessly. 

“When the extrem­ists fight, make them pay,” Petraeus wrote. “Seek out and elim­i­nate those who threat­en the pop­u­la­tion. Don’t let them intim­i­date the innocent.” 

Pro­tect­ing the pop­u­la­tion means doing just that, the guid­ance says, but killing and injur­ing civil­ians works to the enemy’s advan­tage. Petraeus called on troops to fight with dis­ci­pline and to respect Afghan property. 

“If we kill civil­ians or dam­age their prop­er­ty in the course of our oper­a­tions, we will cre­ate more ene­mies than our oper­a­tions elim­i­nate,” he said. 

The guid­ance also says that tak­ing ter­ri­to­ry and then leav­ing it will not win the bat­tle. Coali­tion and Afghan forces must take and hold an area to allow inter­na­tion­al and Afghan gov­ern­ment orga­ni­za­tions to sta­bi­lize the area. Jobs and good gov­ern­ment will win the bat­tle in the long run, the gen­er­al wrote, and ser­vice­mem­bers and civil­ians must think in the long run. 

Mon­ey is ammu­ni­tion in a coun­terin­sur­gency, the guid­ance notes. And just as aimed fire is more effec­tive than spray­ing rounds, so too is invest­ing in the right places with the right peo­ple, Petraeus said. 

The gen­er­al said he wants ser­vice­mem­bers and civil­ians to show the Afghan peo­ple the val­ues the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty holds dear. 

“We are engaged in a tough endeav­or,” he said. “It is often bru­tal, phys­i­cal­ly demand­ing and frus­trat­ing. All of us expe­ri­ence moments of anger, but we must not give in to dark impuls­es or tol­er­ate unac­cept­able actions by others.” 

Final­ly, Petraeus said he wants peo­ple to use their heads, and to use ini­tia­tive. “In the absence of guid­ance or orders, fig­ure out what the orders should have been and exe­cute them aggres­sive­ly,” he wrote. 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

Face­book and/or on Twit­ter

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →