17 October 2010

Afghanistan: Another reason the deck is stacked against us

An article from the 16 October 2010 edition of The New York Times presents another graphic example of why it is so difficult to win a war in which the goodwill of the local people is of fundamental importance: when you are fighting amongst the locals, you will almost inevitably bound to cause crippling resentment.

Consider the opening paragraphs of In Afghan South, U.S. Faces Frustrated Residents (full story here):

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — As American troops mount a critical operation this weekend in the campaign to regain control in Kandahar, they face not only the Taliban but also a frustrated and disillusioned population whose land has been devastated by five years of fighting.

While most villagers have fled the area, those who remain complain that they are trapped between insurgents and the foreign forces, often suffering damages for which they remain uncompensated.

One of those who left is Abdul Hamid, once a prosperous grape farmer and the owner of two houses, a raisin barn and 900 vines. He lived in a hamlet called Lora in Panjwai, a fertile farming district southwest of Kandahar where others who recently left say there has been heavy shooting and bombardment.

Three years ago, Canadian troops built a temporary post near Lora. When they immediately came under fire from insurgents, they bulldozed much of the hamlet, flattening houses, water pumps and surrounding orchards, the villagers and local elders say ...

The article goes on to describe other miseries, and how difficult it is for local farmers to make a case for compensation (available in principle) and how unlikely it is that they will ever see the money even if compensation is awarded.

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