Tim Lynch (Babatim) is the author of Free Range International, a retired Marine officer, and a long-time expatriot in Afghanistan. I think he's been there about four years now. Tim has been all over Afghanistan, and has seen the efforts of both governmental and non-governmental (NGO) agencies firsthand. He is partner in a small business which provides security services for NGO's and others in getting around Afghanistan. In addition, Tim operates a compound for expatriots in Jalalabad which offers a safe place for foreigners to stay while working or visiting in-country.
He also, obviously, has a blog. A very good blog.
Tim's sense of reality is expanded by the fact that he operates outside the wire and has close contact with Afghans in many different settings. Not being a current member of the military, he is unconstrained by regulation, chain of command, or military decorum. He can tell it like he sees it without limitation, and he does. His latest post hits the nail on the head with one of the thorns in our collective side in Afghanistan; reconstruction and economic development.
His candor, openness and obvious respect and affection for the people of Afghanistan bring an honest assessment untainted by any underlying agenda other than to see the effort to stabilize and improve Afghanistan succeed. His observations are accurate and crucial to our success there.
Tim's latest explores the limitations that the State Department and others involved in reconstruction and development efforts have placed on themselves in providing effective redevelopment efforts; in Afghanistan, a key to the success (or a contributing factor to the failure) of the counterinsurgency. We have also placed limitations on anyone who would want to go and provide leadership and assistance on an economic level in the development of the Afghan economy. The State Department discourages such activity and will leave a civilian to their own devices if they are molested by Afghan authorities (which does happen, as Tim attests.)
So the only real avenue for reconstruction and development of Afghan infrastructure and the economy lie in governmental organizations such as the State Department and the Army. Unfortunately, these efforts are failing in many cases. Tim discusses why that is. Until some changes are made, this bodes extremely ill for the success of the counterinsurgency efforts in Afghanistan.
The task in Afghanistan is the same as in Iraq, but the situation is very different. The basic objectives are the same. First, secure the population so that they are not living under the sway of terror and insecurity. This is the key to the rest of it doing what it is supposed to do. Then you must provide good governance (not just governance,) reconstruction (or initial construction) of infrastructure, and assist with economic redevelopment (Iraq) or development (Afghanistan.) All the while you must maintain a dialogue with the people so that they understand what the goals and objectives are and can have a place in a developing democracy/republic.
Sounds simple, doesn't it? It's as difficult as making a sculpture out of mercury. Each area is different, and the basic recipe for success must be completely tailored for each individual area, down to the village and valley level.
Tim's post touches on all of the above, but not theoretically. He speaks from experience and observation about the reality of success and failure on the ground in Afghanistan. He points out directly that you cannot sit in FOB's and compounds and by your mere presence provide security and development.
This post is just such important feedback from a guy in country viewing our governmental efforts with a critical and experienced eye. If you haven't been reading his blog, I would recommend it. Tim also has a tendency to put up some really great pictures.
Scout the Counterinsurgent Patrol Dog, Afghan canine patriot, during combat operations in the Ghayn Valley, August 10th, 2007. She accompanied us on long foot patrols, guarded our Vehicle Patrol Base, and followed our mounted patrols all over the northern half of the Tag Ab Valley. She was even nominally accepted by the Afghan forces we worked with (which says a lot for a dog,) Died September 2007; assassinated at night by 7th SF Group sniper on Firebase Morales-Frazier, Nijrab District, Kapisa Province, Afghanistan after loyally following us into the firebase during Operation Nauroz Jhala.