« Loving, Hating, and t… | Home | Guest Post: The Real … »

Join The Taliban...The Americans Will Kill You Anyways

(To read the rest of "Over-Reacting to COIN (Again): On Cultural Empathy and 'Gratitude Theory'", please click here and scroll to the bottom.)

I want to describe two scenarios in Afghanistan.

In the first, we have two brothers. Both drive “jingle trucks” to support their family. One spends his nights working for the Taliban; the other doesn’t. One fateful evening, while smuggling illegal weapons, a U.S. missile kills the Taliban brother. The family asks why; the government says, “He was Taliban.”

(A picture of a jingle truck)

The surviving brother has a choice: support the government or join the insurgency.

In the second case, we again have two brothers. Both drive jingle trucks to support their family. Neither has joined the insurgency. One fateful evening, a U.S. missile kills one of the brothers in a missile attack, unwittingly executing a tribal vendetta (after receiving bad intel from an unvetted source). The family asks why; the government says, “He was Taliban.”

The surviving brother has a choice: support the government or join the insurgency.

From the U.S. perspective, each situation played out the same way--intelligence led to an operation and a dead Taliban soldier. From the Afghan perspective, though, they couldn’t be more different. In the first case, the brother should rightfully fear for his safety. Unless he turns himself in, he will probably end up in a crater like his brother. In successful counter-insurgencies, fear of impending death sweeps through the insurgency, and it collapses in on itself like a dying star going supernova.

But consider the thoughts of the brother in the second scenario. He knows that U.S. forces will soon come for him too; they just killed his brother because of a spurious intelligence report. Wouldn’t they think he was Taliban as well? So if the Americans plan to kill you--even if you aren’t Taliban and even if your brother wasn’t--why not join the insurgency? You’ll die either way.

The arguments for a “combat focused” or “target-centric” approach to counter-insurgency--or against the idea of providing security to the population as the utmost priority--rely on the first scenario. Proponents of looser rules of engagement use the first scenario to buttress their arguments. They point to it--for example, its uses in Malaya--and say, “See violence wins wars!”

But, as a commenter said a few weeks back, we must “kill the right people”. I totally agree. I just emphasize the word “right” and most of the Army emphasizes the word “kill”. Too many thinkers emphasize the “kinetic” or “target-centric” or “killing”--whatever euphemism works--approach without explaining the drawbacks. While they sing the praises of killing more people, they avoid the consequences of killing the wrong people.

The logic for killing more insurgents makes sense. Kill an insurgent, then another, then another and soon word will spread that someday the the counter-insurgents will kill all the insurgents. Rationally, if you want to survive the war, you should stop being an insurgent.

But this same logic applies to the population. Kill an insurgent, then an innocent family, then capture another innocent guy and his brother. Soon word will spread among the population that someday the counter-insurgents will kill you too. Rationally, if you want to survive the war, you need to stop the counter-insurgents.

Remember that killing (or violence) has political ramifications. We wrote a few weeks back about humanity’s innate desire to avoid making decisions; killing the wrong people helps them make a decision...against the government and counter-insurgents. If killing the right people will help end an irregular war, killing the wrong people prolongs it. Pro-killing/target/kinetic-centric advocates--when pitching their wares in talks, blog posts, or op-eds--should always bring up the huge downside to killing the wrong people; it can lose the war.

This is why, as I have said before, accuracy is the most important value in an insurgency, not body counts or quantities or totals or anything else that sounds good leaked to reporters. And if people want more offensive operations--like kill/capture raids--fine. But stress accuracy over any other value. And warn door kickers that kicking down the wrong doors prolongs the war. (And costs U.S. soldiers their lives too.)

two comments

emoticons. wow. This is a place where I can feel a fear I can’t find anywhere else. The taliban? No, I’m not afraid of them. I’m afraid of the ones hosting this. The U.S. Gubbermint. This is a net to catch expats right? I came here out of curiosity leave me alone ha ha .

so is this where expats come and say this or that, so a cia official contacts them with ways to serve the taliban? You give them a ‘bomb’ and send them to ‘duty’ and when it backfires you nail them right?” wow wtf. this reminds me of the time my mom kept trying to get me to try smoking pot with her. Finally I did, and she nailed into me for using illegal drugs. Nah, it’s not the same thing-I get it. Still-this is a little freaky. I should be working for you gubbermint. I can EASILY see that this is a net to catch would be ex-pats.I’m ex military=scored pretty damned high. You already know that though, don’t you.
Well, I’m here. Enlist me. lol. nah.
But if someone shows up here at-luckily I don’t have to give my address-I’m willing to do the hard parts.

Oblique, yes. Good reason, yes indeed. I will be waiting for your phone call. 402-640-5696. Please don’t waste my time with pointless mind games. I want to get to work.

For the record. I have made it clear what side I am on. For the slow ones, I will indulge you. The Father of Jesus Christ. whoaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa total wrench in the spokes. What does he mean?!?!? cmon now. anyway if you’re legit muslim antiamericans, I can see where you would be angry with the U.S. However, you’re not. and you need me.

I’m your go to guy, and more than capable. you have to call me though. leave a voicemail-obviously I won’t answer. I will call you back. Feel free to initiate the call with orders. Watch them unfold, to redefine fruition.

btw. If you really want to nab them, throw in a little bit of the other language.

whats that? You’re serious? This is face value…..gulp. call me anyway. I am the go to guy.

lol. by the way. if you are a bunch of crazy terrorists-angry at America, please. I’m just having a little fun here. Don’t hurt my family. Me? You can’t hurt me. When you try, you’ll see why.
Nah, in reality, I’m drunk and having fun here.
charlie Alpha Lima Lima mike echo. delta oscar november tango mike indigo sierra sierra tango hotel indigo sierra charlie hotel alpha november charlie echo tango oscar papa ukelele (uniform? lol) tango tango hotel echo romeo indigo golf hotel tango golf ukelele yankee tango oscar whisky oscar romeo kilo

I will go there. I wlil go anywhere. I may seem a little off. I submit that as a prerequisite.


Okay, this guy didn’t read the post at all. But this is why the internet is so lovely.