Dutch troops focus on rebuilding Afghanistan, leave Taliban alone

first_imgThe central idea is that if foreign military forces show restraint and respect, and help the local government to govern, then these areas will expand, slowly but persistently, like an oil stain across a shirt. As they grow, the theory says, the Taliban’s standing will decline. To date, the Dutch, aided by U.S. soldiers and contractors who train Afghan police and soldiers, have helped Afghan units to coordinate security and build police posts. Simultaneously, they have sent teams of specialists and Australian engineers to choose development projects and plan them with village leaders. They have built or repaired schools, mosques, police garrisons, courtrooms and a hospital inside the more secure areas.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! QALA-E-SURKH, Afghanistan – The Dutch infantrymen stood on a ridge near the Baluchi Valley, an area in south central Afghanistan controlled by the Taliban and tribes opposed to the central government. Whenever they push farther, the soldiers said, they swiftly come under fire from rifles and rocket-propelled grenades. “The whole valley is pretty much hostile,” said one, a machine gunner. But rather than advancing for reconnaissance or to attack, the Dutch soldiers pulled back to a safer village. “We’re not here to fight the Taliban,” said the Dutch commander, Col. Hans van Griensven, at a recent staff meeting. “We’re here to make the Taliban irrelevant.” Thousands of fresh Western troops have flowed into Afghanistan since last year, seeking to counter the resurgent Taliban before an expected spring offensive. Many U.S. units have been conducting sweeps and raids. But here in Uruzgan province, where the Taliban operate openly, a Dutch-led task force has mostly shunned combat. Its counterinsurgency tactics emphasize efforts to improve Afghan living conditions and self-governance, rather than hunting the Taliban’s fighters. Bloodshed is out. Reconstruction, mentoring and diplomacy are in. U.S. military officials have expressed unease about the Dutch method, warning that if the Taliban are not kept under military pressure in Uruzgan, they will use the province as a haven and project their insurgency into neighboring provinces. The Dutch counter that construction projects and consistent political and social support will lure the population from the Taliban, allowing the central and provincial governments to expand their authority over the long term. Insurgency and counterinsurgency tactics have long been subjects of intensive tinkering and debate, as military and police forces from different nations, and even different units within nations, have chosen conflicting approaches. The Dutch-led force of about 2,000 soldiers has adopted what counterinsurgency theorists call the “oil spot” approach. Under this tactic, it concentrates efforts in less hostile areas, especially a basin around Tarin Kowt, the provincial capital, which overlaps an economic development zone designated by Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president. last_img