Posts Tagged ‘Counterinsurgency’

Palästina: Der israelischer Widerstand gegen die Besatzung gibt etwas Hoffnung

Samstag, Juli 17th, 2010

“The olive branch in the West Bank


Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, was recently quoted as saying that relations between the U.S. and Israel were undergoing a ‘tectonic rift in which continents are drifting apart.’ If the quote is accurate, which Oren later disputed, it is surely an overstatement. Still, an interesting divergence is developing in the means by which the U.S. and Israeli militaries are dealing with Islamic militants in territories they are occupying.

In the past I have dismissed the U.S. counterinsurgency project in Afghanistan as a fool’s errand, but one has to at least give credit to the U.S. military for trying to wage counterinsurgency thoughtfully. Since Gen. David Petraeus rewrote the book on counterinsurgency, the U.S. has adopted an approach that seeks to isolate the Taliban from the wider population and to win the hearts and minds of that population. The U.S. has backed away from destroying the Afghan opium crop on which many Afghan peasants rely for income, realizing that eradication efforts were doing more damage to U.S. popularity in Helmand Province than to the opium trade. U.S. commanders are instructing foot soldiers, despite complaints that this endangers their lives, to hold their fire rather than risk killing civilians because civilian deaths are a propaganda gift to the Taliban. U.S. officials are experimenting with door-to-door opinion pollsters to try to discern what the ordinary Afghan person on the street wants. And the U.S. is pouring almost $4 billion a year in development aid into Afghanistan to build schools, roads, irrigation projects, and electric power-generating capacity in the hope of winning the affections of the Afghan people.

Contrast this refined counterinsurgency strategy with Israel’s sledgehammer approach. Where the U.S. seeks to win Afghan support with development projects, Israel expropriates Palestinian land for Israeli settlements and puts in place a blockade that is unmaking Gaza’s economy: If the U.S. is using development as a carrot, Israel wields collective impoverishment as a stick. Where the U.S. tries to separate Islamic fighters from the general population whose loyalty it seeks, Israel has made collective punishment its rule: All of Gaza is now blockaded because Hamas won the 2006 elections, and the Israeli military has had a policy of retaliating against individual attackers by blowing up their families’ houses. And if U.S. commanders are telling their soldiers to practice restraint, the Israeli rule of thumb seems to be that Israeli soldiers should always be one or two rungs higher on the ladder of escalation than those they seek to control. Instead of seeking to separate insurgents from the general population, as the Petraeus strategy does, it is as if Israel wanted to turn everyone into a militant.

The counter-productiveness of Israel’s strategy is captured vividly in the fine new documentary film Budrus produced by Ronit Avni and Julia Bacha. Budrus is a Palestinian village of 1,500 in the West Bank. When Israel started building its security wall to keep out Palestinian suicide bombers, rather than building it along the 1967 borders between Israel and the West Bank, Israeli authorities chose a bizarrely circuitous route for the wall that meanders like the creation of a drunken spirographer through Palestinian territory. In what is hard to understand as anything other than an act of petty bureaucratic sadism, Israeli planners chose a route that separates Budrus from much of the rest of the West Bank, cuts the village cemetery in two, and requires the upending of olive groves that have belonged to the villagers for generations and on which they rely for much of their income. Working behind Israeli and Palestinian lines, the film uses riveting cinema verite footage as well as interviews with Palestinian activists and Israeli soldiers to document the ensuing protests.

The action begins when the mayor of Budrus, Ayed Morrar, reaches out to the rival Hamas faction to organize nonviolent protests in defense of the village’s olive groves. At first the protests consist only of men, until Mayor Morrar’s 15 year-old daughter, Iltezam, asks why women and girls are excluded from the protests. Some of the hardest footage to watch in the film shows Israeli soldiers, mostly men, firing rubber bullets at the Palestinian women, tear gassing them, and beating them with nightsticks as they try to stop the bulldozing of their olive trees. It looks like something from Alabama circa 1965. All that’s missing is the dogs.

As one might predict, when the Palestinians’ non-violent protest is met with armed violence, young Palestinian men respond by throwing stones, the weapons of weak but angry teenagers, at the Israeli soldiers. The soldiers respond with live gunfire. By meeting non-violence with violence, the Israelis radicalize their opponents and start to trigger a familiar cycle in which each side’s escalation legitimizes the other.

In this film, and in their relations with Palestinian militants more generally, Israel follows an escalatory strategy of violence that brings to mind the failed policies of McNamara and Kissinger in Vietnam. It is the opposite of the Petraeus strategy. Whatever resistance the Palestinians attempt is treated as a bid that the Israelis must counter. If the resistance is non-violent, the response is tear gas, nightsticks, and rubber bullets. The response to stones is live bullets. Hamas rockets that mostly miss any worthwhile target are met with targeted assassinations and bulldozed homes. The theory seems to be that the exercise of violence is like bidding at an auction and that the Palestinians, once they see they are outbid, will, like a good rational actor, fold their hand–just the way McNamara, equipped with all those algorithms he learned from operations analysis, expected the Viet Cong to call it a day under the bombardment of the B-52s.

But Palestinians–watching bulldozers destroy the family livelihood, or the humiliation of their sisters at checkpoints, or the maiming of teenagers at street protests–are not rational actors calculating the costs and benefits of further violence. They are enraged and humiliated human beings who are embittered by life under collective punishment and determined not to surrender the one thing left to them: the ability to resist. Unless Israel wants an endless emergency, a permanent cycle of violence, their Palestinian strategy is failing miserably.

At this point some readers will argue that I have not put the blame where it truly belongs: with the Palestinian terrorists. To be sure, Palestinian militants have committed terrible crimes: blowing up civilians on buses, and randomly rocketing the homes of innocents. But Budrus dramatizes the no-win situation within which Israel has imprisoned the Palestinians. If the Palestinians resist the occupation with violence, they are condemned as terrorists, they are shot at, imprisoned, blockaded, their homes destroyed–and their land is taken away, bite by bite. If, as in Budrus, they resist with non-violence (as so many American opinion-makers lecture at them that they should), they are tear-gassed, beaten, shot at with rubber bullets–and their land is taken away, bite by bite. Damned if they do, damned if they don’t.

The protests in Budrus take a fascinating and unexpected turn when the poor villagers of Budrus suddenly find themselves joined on the frontlines by a group of young Israeli activists, standing shoulder to shoulder with them in defense of their olive groves. This development, quietly courted by the mayor of Budrus, is disorienting to many others. An Israeli minister suggests on television that the Israeli activists be tried for treason. We see Israeli soldiers, in some of the film’s most revealing footage, instructed by their superior to fire rubber bullets only at the Palestinians, not at the Israeli protesters. As for the Palestinian villagers, most have never met Israelis opposed to the occupation; they have to rethink their assumption that all Israelis are enemies. It is moving to see a group of Palestinian women being beaten for trying to prevent the arrest of an Israeli activist.

After 10 months of protests that left one Palestinian dead, 300 injured, and 36 arrested, Israel gave in and changed the route of the wall. Almost all the olive trees, as well as the integrity of the Budrus cemetery, were saved. Meanwhile, in a development the U.S. media have almost entirely ignored, the joint Palestinian-Israeli protests have continued in other parts of the West Bank.

An Israeli activist tells us in Budrus that ‘nothing scares the army more than nonviolent opposition.’ I hope this is true. The Hamas lawmaker Aziz Dweik was surely right when he told the Wall Street Journal that ‘When we use violence, we help Israel win international support.’ But maybe the deeper comment was made by Mayor Morrar when he said in a subsequent interview that ‘criticism of the occupation by its own people is more powerful than criticism by someone who lives under it, whose opinion is pre-determined. It is very important to find someone amongst your opponents who is willing to side with you.‘ If the film shows us anything, it is that 10 Israeli protesters are worth 100 Palestinians. Their participation in the protests shows that Israelis and Palestinians can work together and, in a context where Israeli soldiers look awfully like Police Commissioner Bull Connor’s men beating up blacks in Birmingham, the appearance of blond-hair under the nightsticks makes it that much harder to dehumanize the protesters, that much harder for soldiers to ignore the quiet questions about the orders they are just following, that much harder for the state to simply crush resistance. So far, 600 Israeli soldiers have refused deployment to the West Bank and Gaza.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has always seemed intractable. No strategy of Palestinian resistance seems to work, peace initiatives invariably falter, and meanwhile the machinery of Israeli settlement grinds on, year after year, displacing more Palestinian land into settlers’ hands. But something new and interesting has happened in Budrus. Maybe Israel’s freedom riders bring a glimmer of hope.

Copyright © 2010 Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. All Rights Reserved.”


(Quelle: Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.)

Afghanistan: Bundeswehr möchte gerne bombardieren

Freitag, Juni 11th, 2010

“Deutsche Tornados sollen Taliban bekämpfen

Interview Der Chef des Isaf-Regionalkommandos in Nord-Afghanistan, General Frank Leidenberger, zum Einsatz der Bundeswehr

Die Bundeswehr ist seit 2002 in Afghanistan, aber die Sicherheitslage ist immer kritischer geworden. Haben wir die Talsohle erreicht, oder wird es noch schlimmer?

Leidenberger: Wer die Lage mit mehr Kräften in mehr Bereichen verbessern will, trifft zwangsläufig zunächst auf mehr Widerstand. Wir operieren inzwischen nachhaltiger und in mehr Räumen als bisher. Die Prognose von General McChrystal ist deshalb objektiv nachvollziehbar, dass es erst schlechter wird, bevor eine Besserung eintritt.

Also stärker rein, um schneller rauszukommen – bringt das den Erfolg?

Leidenberger Ich denke wirklich, dass wir hier Erfolg haben können, wenn wir ausreichend Kräfte und Mittel nachhaltig und über einen gewissen Zeitraum hinweg einsetzen. Gerade im Norden ist der Aufstand ja räumlich relativ begrenzt. Wenn die afghanischen Sicherheitskräfte gewachsen sind, dann kann man den Aufstand auch zurückdrängen und schließlich beseitigen.

Es gibt Zweifel, ob die Soldaten optimal ausgebildet und ausgerüstet sind.

Leidenberger Wir sind hier vor Ort gut ausgerüstet. Niemand ist optimal ausgerüstet, denn in jeder Situation ist immer wieder neu zu überlegen, was gut ist, was sich bewährt hat und was noch besser wäre. Die Ausbildung spielt eine besondere Rolle. Die Bundeswehr unternimmt alles, um die Soldaten bestmöglich auszubilden. Aber es gibt immer wieder Bereiche, in denen wir an Grenzen stoßen. Wir haben eben keine ausreichende Zahl an geschützten Fahrzeugen, um daran auch in Deutschland ausbilden zu können. Das holen wir dann, so gut es geht, hier nach. Wir tun das Menschenmögliche – es wird jedoch ein kontinuierlicher Prozess bleiben.

Was machen Sie hier eigentlich? Unterstützen Sie? Oder führen Sie Krieg?

Leidenberger Rein rechtlich handelt es sich hier um einen nicht internationalen bewaffneten Konflikt. In der militärischen Ausprägung betreiben wir “counter insurgency”, das heißt, wir bekämpfen einen Aufstand. In fünf Operationslinien versuchen wir, die afghanische Bevölkerung zu schützen und ihr zu helfen sowie die afghanischen Sicherheitskräfte zu befähigen und zu unterstützen. Zudem helfen wir bei der Verbesserung der Regierungsführung und Administration. Die wirtschaftliche und soziale Entwicklung des Landes bleibt ein Schwerpunkt unseres Einsatzes.

Muss dieser Aspekt der Bekämpfung noch deutlicher werden? Sie haben deutsche Tornados in der Luft. Aber nur zur Beobachtung. Zur Kampfunterstützung müssen Sie fremde Jets anfordern. Sollte hier das Mandat noch einmal geändert werden?

Leidenberger Aus rein militärischer Sicht sage ich: Natürlich sollte man das überprüfen. Warum sollen deutsche Soldaten am Boden nicht von deutschen Flugzeugen aus der Luft unterstützt werden können? Warum brauchen wir unsere Alliierten dazu? Insgesamt, auf die Isaf bezogen, wäre das auch mandatskonform. Wir haben die Fähigkeiten zur luftgestützten Aufklärung bereitgestellt, als das in der Vergangenheit in der Entwicklung des Einsatzes von uns gefordert wurde. So wie sich inzwischen der Charakter dieses Einsatzes verändert hat, so sollten wir auch die hierfür notwendigen Fähigkeiten bereitstellen, um erfolgreich zu sein.

Gregor Mayntz sprach mit Brigadegeneral Frank Leidenberger (Chef Isaf-Regionalkommando Nord) im BundeswehrLager in Mazar-i-Scharif.”

(Quelle: Rheinische Post.)

Afghanistan: Noch mehr Tote erwartet

Freitag, April 30th, 2010

“Afghanistan forces face four more years of combat, warns Nato official

Nato’s top civilian official in Afghanistan warns of further deaths in ‘very tough year’ for British and other foreign troops

British and other foreign troops deployed in Afghanistan face a ‘very tough’ time ahead and can expect to be engaged in a combat role for three or four more years, Nato’s most senior civilian official in the country said today.

Mark Sedwill, a former UK ambassador to Afghanistan, warned of further troop deaths in the region, saying: ‘We cannot allow judgment of success to be the absence of casualties.’

Speaking on the margins of a Royal United Services Institute conference in London, Sedwill laid out crucial steps towards ending the conflict, to be taken over the next few months.

A ‘critical test’ would be the imminent operation in Kandahar designed to improve security and governance in the Taliban’s heartland, he said.

That operation was not primarily a military one, Nato insists. However, as more troops are engaged in counter-insurgency operations in southern Afghanistan, it was inevitable there would be more casualties, Sedwill said (…).”


(Quelle: Guardinan.)

Afghanistan: Demokratie “nicht prioritär”

Mittwoch, April 21st, 2010

“Angesichts zunehmender Gefechtsverluste in Afghanistan soll Berlin die Verschmelzung von “Entwicklungshilfe” und Aufstandsbekämpfung rasch vorantreiben. Dies empfiehlt eine aktuelle Studie des Sonderforschungsbereichs 700 der Freien Universität Berlin, die vom Bundesministerium für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung in Auftrag gegeben wurde. Die Untersuchung schließt an tradierte Modelle der Anti-Guerilla-Kriegführung an, wie sie unter anderem von Frankreich während seines Kampfes gegen die algerische Unabhängigkeitsbewegung entwickelt wurden. Danach sind ausländische Interventionstruppen zur Sicherung ihrer Herrschaft auf die enge Kooperation mit lokalen Eliten und Warlords angewiesen – selbst wenn diese wie in Afghanistan von der einheimischen Bevölkerung als Bedrohung wahrgenommen werden. Das von der westlichen Propaganda zur Legitimation des Afghanistan-Krieges immer wieder angeführte Argument, man strebe eine Demokratisierung der afghanischen Gesellschaft an, wird ausdrücklich suspendiert.”


(Quelle: German-Foreign-Policy.Com)


♦ Raul Zelik: Aufstandsbekämpfung und Besatzungskrieg. Die Entwicklung asymmetrischer Kriegführung durch den Westen.

♦ Katja Mielke & Conrad Schetter: Wiederholt sich Geschichte? Die legitimatorischen Deutungsmuster der Interventionen in Afghanistan 1979 und 2001.

♦ Reinhart Kößler: PERIPHERIE-Stichwort: Protektorat – „neue Protektorate“

alle Artikel in: “Peripherie” Nr. 116 – ausleihbar in unserer Bücherei.