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Rural Development Will Weaken Afghan Insurgency, Colonel Says

By Kristen Noel
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 12, 2008 – More emphasis on “holistic development” of rural Afghanistan is needed to weaken the enemy, a recently redeployed officer told bloggers in a teleconference.

Marine Corps Col. Jeffrey M. Haynes participated in the Defense Department’s bloggers roundtable program Dec. 9 to share observations from his nine-month tour in Afghanistan, where he led the Regional Corps Advisory Command Central. He redeployed from Afghanistan a month ago, and is now serving in Okinawa, Japan.

Haynes pointed to rural populations as a source of strength for the insurgency in Afghanistan. “Sometimes I think we’re a little bit too focused on the urban areas,” he said, “but this is a rural … insurgency.”

The majority of his observations centered on a recommendation for a holistic approach -- addressing security, governance, information and economic growth -- to developing rural areas so insurgents can be rooted out.

“We need to synergize resources for a permanent transformation of the environment to permanently isolate the insurgent from the population,” Haynes explained.

Under the mentorship of the Regional Corps Advisory Command Central, Haynes said, the Afghan National Army 201st Corps began implementing such an approach in the rural Tagab valley of Afghanistan’s Kapisa province during his deployment.

“We chose Tagab valley in Kapisa province to start this transformation process,” he said. “If we could transform, strategically, our well-picked valleys, I think we could start to transform the environment and turn this fight around.”

Haynes offered nine other observations from his deployment, which included:

-- Good leadership contributes more to the Afghan National Army’s ability to excel in the counterinsurgency fight than equipment and supplies.

-- The ANA should conduct more independent operations because they intuitively understand counterinsurgency and excel when they own the problem.

-- Regional advisory commands should mentor the ANA to develop and execute campaigns that transform rural areas and win the population to defeat the rural insurgency.

-- A clearly articulated plan to transfer battlespace to the ANA is needed, because they are ready to assume ownership in some areas.

-- The ANA needs to be given access to counterinsurgency enablers, such as various ministries and U.S. Agency for International Development assistance, to better synchronize developmental resources with security operations.

-- Provincial reconstruction teams should migrate under the control of the ANA, along with battlespace.

-- The coalition must enable the population to be part of the solution for achieving a sustainable level of prosperity and security for them to be motivated to fight for it.

-- An expeditionary forward-operating base concept is key for allowing the ANA to influence the rural insurgency.

-- Over-partnering between coalition and ANA forces can lead to a “needy” Afghan army.

(Kristen Noel works for the New Media directorate of the Defense Media Activity.)

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