Connect to share and comment

Life, death and the Taliban: Counterinsurgency

"We totally missed the boat."

Agoglia is sharp, honest and over-caffeinated. He has deep knowledge of Afghanistan and came highly recommended to me by several top U.S. military commanders who arranged for a rare opportunity to go inside the training center.

Agoglia got right to the point when I asked what effect the war in Iraq had on the fight in Afghanistan.

“We f---ing missed the boat. We totally missed the boat, man. We had a chance in 2004 to provide good, solid governance and we trusted that (President) Karzai would do it,” he said, adding that there were far too few troops in Afghanistan to execute an effective counterinsurgency campaign during the year 2004, when the U.S. was focused on Iraq and assigned 135,000 troops to that country while there were only 35,000 in Afghanisan.

The increase of 21,000 troops this summer will bring the total U.S. force in Afghanistan to 68,000 this fall. But even with this increase,  the troop ratios in Afghanistan are still dramatically lower than the U.S. military’s own stated doctrine for counterinsurgency, which calls for "a minimum of 20 counter-insurgents for every 1000 residents in the area of operation." Even when NATO troops and 175,000 Afghan army and police are added to the equation, the ratios are significantly under what is called for. But troop strength is not the only issue.

Agoglia continued, hardly stopping for a breath, “From governance flows security and development. And without governance, I don’t care how many forces you put on the ground, you won’t get security and you won’t get development.”

“We were out there chasing Al Qaeda and Tommy Taliban, and their own government was becoming very corrupt and very problematic. The people are getting taken advantage of by those people who are supposed to be protecting them.

“We just haven’t understood the place. We haven’t understood that you gotta provide for the population and you gotta show ‘em you are the guys who are going to win. And we haven’t demonstrated that to the people because we haven’t understood how important it is.

“(The) Taliban gets it. They get it. And they know that the immediate thing they can offer is security and justice, swift justice. And a population at war, they are looking at that and saying, geez, we got it a little better with them Taliban.

“We lost years. F---in’ years, man. Years.”