Local defense initiatives in Afghanistan: Making everyone feel safer
By Douglas Valentine
Journal Guest Writer
May 10, 2010, 00:23
A recent communiqu� from the Pentagon, delivered
tongue-in-cheek to the public by Rajiv
Chandrasekaran in the April 26 Washington
Post, concerns the efficacy of the new �local defense initiative� in
As with other pacification programs, the local defense
initiative has multiple purposes, one of which is psychological; it is designed
to show progress toward the stated U.S.
policy of bringing democracy to Afghanistan.
The goal of such propaganda is to maintain public support
for the occupation forces, which in fact are an instrument of unstated U.S.
policy itself has a twofold purpose: 1) to further undermine any opportunity
for the sort of democracy in Afghanistan
that would include the Taliban, while 2) continuing to empower the reliable
elite who collaborate with American occupation forces in accordance with
Together, the unstated goal of occupiers and collaborators
is to create obstacles to universal suffrage, thus leaving the vast majority of
Afghans disenfranchised and unable to resist the American corporatization of
their nation and culture.
The reliable elite in Afghanistan,
like its patron brethren in the U.S.,
stand to profit mightily by this unstated policy of corporatization.
Unstated policy requires a veil of propaganda, of course,
and Pentagon PR experts present a product like the local defense initiative in
carefully crafted packaging. The Pentagon PR people exert whatever pressure
they can on the mainstream media to deliver it to the public exactly as they
have packaged it.
If a correspondent criticizes a Pentagon product, he or she
is denied further access to U.S.
officials and loses his value to his employers.
article is an example of a correspondent delivering the package intact, as well
as a veiled �Buyer Beware� warning to consumers at the same time. He does this
by presenting both the official line, as well as evidence contradicting
the reader will recall, is the author of Imperial
Life in the Emerald City, a subtle, satiric condemnation of the U.S. conquest of Iraq.
His article on the
local defense initiative follows the same pattern. It is full of self-evident
contradictions, but relies on the reader to provide the context and
analysis necessary to comprehend the official line as studied disinformation.
This article will provide some of that context and analysis,
and show how the local defense initiative functions as an instrument of
Instruments of unstated statecraft exist on two general
levels in Afghanistan.
At the tactical tier, they are directed against the civilian population,
primarily the Taliban, and can be referred to as pacification programs.
When pacification programs serve as cover for clandestine
operations, they are typically managed by the CIA through U.S. Special Forces. Private
contractors, many of whom are recycled Special Forces personnel, and foreign
nationals are also employed in this �cover� capacity.
Above that, on the strategic level, CIA officers conduct
intelligence and security programs unilaterally. CIA officers also work in
liaison with various Afghan agencies, organizations, and individuals, primarily
national intelligence agency (the KHAD), its military, and Interior Ministry,
which is responsible for the administration of the nation's provinces.
The CIA, and U.S.
military officers, politicians and business people, work toward American goals
in collaboration with Afghanistan�s
The CIA runs unilateral counter-intelligence and security
programs against double agents within the reliable elite, including (and
primarily) against Afghan President Hamid Karzai�s political milieu in Kabul, as well as all
KHAD, defense, and Interior Ministry officials. This includes those Afghan
officials who are loyal to Karzai, as well as those acting independently of the
central government in league with the U.S.
All U.S. security and intelligence programs, strategic and
tactical, liaison and unilateral, are coordinated, under National Security
Council and White House oversight, by the CIA at its station in Kabul, as well
as at regional and national headquarters.
For security reasons, none of these programs, including the
local defense initiative, exists independently of CIA oversight.
The Local defense
initiative as an instrument of unstated statecraft
Since January 2010, U.S. Army 1st Special Forces Group
detachments, with CIA �cognizance,� have been fostering the experimental local
defense program in 10 Afghan villages within a 20-mile radius of Kandahar, in
preparation for a major U.S. military offensive coming soon, perhaps in June.
Within these 10 unnamed villages, Special Forces personnel
are organizing selected Afghan villagers into defense forces to prevent Taliban
agents 1) from organizing secret cells within the villages, and 2) from
attacking U.S. military forces and convoys in the area. The local defense
forces also 3) interdict Taliban forces slipping into Kandahar.
Typically of traditional �Civic Action� pacification
programs, Special Forces personnel train the local defense forces in weaponry,
first aid, patrolling, setting up traffic checkpoints and searching vehicles. Although
Chandrasekaran does not say so,
in cases when a recruit shows aptitude or has a special skill, he is also
trained in spying, sabotage, and assassination.
Citing a spokesman for the Special Forces detachment
training the local defense force in one unnamed village, correspondent Chandrasekaran said the Afghan civilians recruited into
the program �are not paid or given weapons,� and �are supposed to be under the
authority of a group of tribal elders -- not just one person.�
That is the official
story, anyway. Later in the same article Chandrasekaran describes the recruits
as wearing uniforms and carrying �battered AK-47s.� He does not tell where the
weapons come from, but Russian-made AK-47s are the preferred weapon of the
Taliban, and an indication that the CIA lurks behind the �initiative.�
his credit, later reports that the local defense recruits are in fact
paid 10 dollars a day of the military's �discretionary money.� Moreover, they
are paid in return for spending
�part of their time working on reconstruction projects.�
pulling security and laying bricks,� the Special Forces commander explained.
does not elaborate on this contradiction either, it demonstrates how difficult
it is for the Americans to get Afghan civilians to join the CIA�s Provincial Reconstruction Teams, yet another highly touted pacification program.
The article reveals
other unstated truth about U.S.
pacification programs, and the contradictions between its stated and unstated
policies in Afghanistan.
Chandrasekaran notes, for example, that the recruits, having
been anted up by their tribal leaders for a pittance, as a sop to the American
invaders, �show more interest in lolling about their compound than imposing
authority on the village.�
This fact, of course, directly contradicts the initiative�s
promoters, who describe the local forces in glowing terms throughout the
When confronted with the discrepancy, members of the
detachment told Chandrasekaran that the force's effectiveness had �more to do
with perceptions of security among the villagers than the amount of time its
members strut around.�
As noted earlier, without irony, the major value of local
defense forces is their ability, when properly presented, to shape perceptions --
American as well as Afghan.
Another issue Chandrasekaran finesses is the fact that local
defense forces are ineffective because they are essentially unnecessary. The
Afghans have reached an accommodation among themselves -- between rival tribes
and with the Taliban.
As the tribal leaders, whose members compose the local
defense force, initially told the Special Forces, �We don't need your help.�
article illustrates how �security� and �reconstruction� are inseparable, and
will is imposed through coercion, and bribery.
It is also imposed
through the duplicity of Human Terrain and Provincial Reconstruction
teams, which provide the cultural intelligence the CIA and its operatives need
to exploit local rivalries.
Pacification in Afghanistan
While the local
defense forces are �supposed to be� under Afghan authority, we learn later in Chandrasekaran�s article that they are actually under
American control, as part of a unilateral program that would certainly violate
Afghan sovereignty, if it existed.
Providing context here is crucial, for pitting the provinces
against the central government (as it does in Mexico
and numerous other nations around the world) is one way the CIA keeps any
vestige of sovereignty from developing in Afghanistan.
In accordance with this unstated policy of divide and
conquer, it matters little to the American overlords that the local defense
forces are ineffective. As Chandrasekaran
reports, the recruits are viewed as cannon fodder, as �a tripwire,"
according to their co-creator, Special Forces Lt. Col. David S. Mann.
As noted, the local
defense forces are also a source of endless propaganda, enabling the occupiers
and their collaborators to say that, thanks to them, �everyone feels
exploitation of people and facts is the essence not only of unstated American
policy in Afghanistan,
but of the propaganda the mainstream media spews about CIA and Special Forces
Within the huge gap
between stated policy and operational reality is the wiggle room U.S. forces
need to operate outside Afghan sovereignty and within the moral vacuum
generated by their veiled aggression, which has its objective the destruction,
by any means from blackmail to assassination, of not just the Taliban, but any
faction of Afghan society that opposes American policy.
Make no mistake about it: the local defense forces are
composed of collaborators whose primary �security� function is to induce other
Afghans to identify Taliban members and sympathizers, so U.S. forces can interdict and
As a Special Forces
spokesperson told Chandrasekaran, �People in the area have become
confident enough to report Taliban activity to the village defense force and
Whether that is fact or propaganda is hard to say. What is
true is that overcoming issues of sovereignty and loyalty is easy for the
American spies and assassins. Corrupt provincial warlords, often installed at
the urging of Americans, are perfectly willing to sell the CIA the right to
organize private armies in exchange for protection for their rackets, including
Afghan officials in the central government also compete for
these lucrative franchises. Afghan Interior Minister Hanif Atmar, for example,
has withdrawn his support for the local defense initiative.
Don�t be confused: Atmar isn�t against pacification; he just
prefers to have the programs under his ministry, so he can exert control and,
one assumes, pocket the kickbacks.
Overcoming issues of national sovereignty is far easier in
outlying provinces like Kandahar,
where the central government has little sway.
As Chandrasekaran notes in this regard, Afghan President
Hamid Karzai has expressed �fears the [local defense] teams could turn into
offensive militias, the sorts of which wreaked havoc on the country in the
1990s and prompted the rise of the Taliban.�
Thus, U.S. Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry is �blocking the
release of money needed to broaden the (local defense) initiative and (has)
instructed State Department personnel in the country not to assist the effort
until the Afghan government endorses it.�
That, again, is the stated policy, and again, don�t be
confused. President Obama has set a deadline for withdrawing U.S. troops, and his political survival, as well
as the careers of his military commanders, relies on a successful pacification
campaign in Afghanistan.
Thus, as Chandrasekaran reports, �A senior U.S. military
official said Karzai has provided a tacit blessing for a small number of
experiments so long as the forces that are created are connected in some way to
the Afghan government. The official said the Special Forces aims to build those
And that, tacitly, is how stated and unstated policy is
Valentine is the author of �The Phoenix Program� and his latest book is �The
Strength of the Pack: The Personalities, Politics and Espionage Intrigues That
Shaped The DEA.� Please visit his website at www.members.authorsguild.net/valentine/bio.htm.
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