Focused Deterrence In Afghanistan?

Gretchen Peters looks at how innovative enforcement strategies like those pioneered by John Jay's David Kennedy might work in Afghanistan:

With some adaptations, focused deterrence could help engage communities and work toward reducing violence in Afghanistan as well. Ordinary Afghans in remote parts of the country will be unlikely to stand up to the Taliban on their own, but NATO forces could provide the security they need to feel safe delivering such messages. Such a program could enhance counterinsurgency tactics that seem to be succeeding in some districts of Afghanistan, while struggling in others.


Change wouldn't happen overnight, making this kind of approach a hard sell at a time when many Americans' biggest concern in Afghanistan is how to get out of it. The experience of police departments in American cities has shown there must be sustained engagement, and real commitment, for these tactics to work.

First, I don't know how different what Peters is recommending is from what coalition forces are already doing. But here's the thing: In some American urban communities the presence of police is sometimes compared to an foreign occupying army, but what we're talking about in Afghanistan is an actual foreign occupying army! There is a common social fabric, however frayed, between local police and urban communities, that really defies comparison to what's going on in Afghanistan. That frayed but still existing social fabric is vital to the kind of reconciliation that successful focused deterrence requires, and I'm not sure it's possible for the U.S. military to reproduce that in a foreign country. 

The Afghan police and army might be able to learn from Kennedy if the U.S. succeeds in making them independent and functional, but I'm not sure how much coalition forces can really do. Focused deterrence, like counterinsurgency, also requires support from a fully functioning, non-corrupt government, so really we're right back where we started. 

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