On Point: An Afghan Anaconda


by Austin Bay
July 6, 2010

The Taliban's commanders know stability and wealth are theirenemies. Last week's suicide bomber attack on a U.S. Agency for InternationalDevelopment (USAID) office in Kabul is another act of terrorist symbolism and acalculated operation in the Taliban's "counter-counter-insurgency"strategy.

That attack, however, is also a sign of terrorist fear.Stability and wealth secure peace -- which makes them the allies of the UnitedStates and everyone else in the constructive world.

It is reminiscent of the Aug. 19, 2003, terror bombing ofU.N. headquarters in Baghdad. By destroying the U.N. building in Iraq, al-Qaidaand Saddam Hussein's ancient regime sought to force a withdrawal of U.N.personnel. This would achieve two goals. Even if manned by a small staff, aU.N. office served as a political symbol of international involvement in theprocess of creating a post-Saddam Iraq. A U.N. withdrawal perceptually isolatesthe U.S. and anti-Saddam, pro-democracy Iraqis.

The second goal was to make certain U.N.-associatedinternational aid and development teams -- some governmental, some private --left, as well. A liberalizing, productive economy threatens terrorists andtyrants. Al-Qaida depends on chaos, poverty and hopelessness to advance itsextremist ideology: See, nothing works, so accept our harsh theology andpolitical domination and at least you'll be right with God.

Saddam and his cohorts lived to steal, but his tyrannicalgame was to keep Iraqis dependent on him. Saddam's regime damaged Iraq'sagricultural sector with a purpose: Shia Arab farmers growing their own foodrepresented a threat to his control. Better the people depend on a monthly foodration provided by The Big Man. Don't cross him, or your family will starve.

Both al-Qaida's and Saddam's economic and political policiescontrast sharply with what USAID describes as its "twofold purpose offurthering America's foreign policy interests in expanding democracy and freemarkets while improving the lives of the citizens of the developingworld."

USAID has roots in the post-World War II Marshal Plan, theeconomic and political effort to bolster Western Europe and defend it fromdomination by Stalinist Russia. The Truman administration knew guns were onlyone weapon in that geopolitical conflict. Strengthening democratic governanceand fostering economic development were absolutely central to winning thatlong, debilitating struggle we call the Cold War.

Military-security operations protected these time-consumingprocesses. Rock and roll and blue jeans, protected by U.S. Army in Europe, wonthe Cold War. That is icon lingo for saying U.S. cultural attractiveness andeconomic productivity (rock and roll and blue jeans), complemented by asustained and powerful military effort, ultimately contained and defeated theSoviet Union. This is multidimensional warfare.

Gen. David Petraeus, America's new Afghan commander, isthoroughly schooled on multidimensional warfare and understands economicdevelopment's essential role in winning the long, debilitating struggle dubbedthe Global War on Terror. OK, the Obama administration insists on calling it an"overseas contingency operation," but 18 months deep into The Age ofObama, all but the most benumbed Obamaites recognize the phrase asreality-denying rhetoric.

In his contentious April 2008 testimony before Congress,Petreaus briefly referred to a chart titled "Anaconda Strategy versusal-Qaida in Iraq." The Anaconda Chart was a complex graphic that depictingthe U.S. strategy for winning Iraq's intricate, multidimensional war.

It identified six lines of attack on al-Qaida: 1) Kinetics(which includes combat); 2) Politics (Iraqi political reconciliation was key);3) Intelligence; 4) Detainee Ops (which includes counter-insurgency indetention facilities); 5) Non-Kinetics (education, jobs programs); and 6)Interagency. The "Interagency" line of operation included diplomacyand media operations. "Squeezing" al-Qaida in all dimensions was thebig idea guiding Anaconda.

Afghanistan differs from Iraq. The U.S. has pursued acomprehensive, multidimensional strategy in Afghanistan, but trust Petraeuswill vigorously pursue and energize Afghan Anaconda. Creating stability andwealth, however, takes time. President Barack Obama will have to exercise askill he has yet to demonstrate: strategic patience. 

To find out more about Austin Bay and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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