Colombia Can Teach Afghanistan (and the United States) How to Win

By Haddick, Robert | Air & Space Power Journal, Summer 2010 | Go to article overview

Colombia Can Teach Afghanistan (and the United States) How to Win


Haddick, Robert, Air & Space Power Journal


On 1 December 2009, Pres. Barack Obama revealed his new strategy for Afghanistan.1 After adding 30,000 US Soldiers and Marines to the fight in 2010, the president intends to begin withdrawing US forces in July 2011 and turning responsibility for security over to Afghanistan's forces. Mr. Obama's plan calls for Afghanistan's army to be ready for this responsibility in 18 months. Yet, in spite of years of effort, Afghanistan's security forces will struggle to meet this goal. In the recent battle for Marja in Afghanistan's Helmand province, US and British infantry had to lead the assault against the Taliban, a worrisome indicator of the Afghan army's readiness.2

Recent US government reports reached troubling conclusions about Afghanistan's army. For example, 19 percent of the soldiers in the Afghan army quit or desert each year.3 The Afghan army lacks competent leadership at all levels as well as the ability to generate qualified leaders rapidly. Moreover, although the US government spent more than $5.6 billion in fiscal year 2009 on training and supporting Afghanistan's security forces, the number of Afghan battalions qualified to operate independently actually declined.4 In spite of these problems with Afghanistan's existing army, Afghan and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) officials want to accelerate its expansion, from 97,000 troops currently to 171,600 by the end of 2011 and 240,000 within five years.5

Ten years ago, Colombia faced a security crisis in many ways worse than the one Afghanistan currently faces. But over the past decade, Colombia has sharply reduced its murder and kidnapping rates, crushed the array of insurgent groups fighting against the government, demobilized the paramilitary groups that arose during the power vacuum of the 1990s, and significantly restored the rule of law and presence of government throughout the country.

Over the past decade, with the assistance of a team of US advisers, Colombia rebuilt its army. In contrast to the current plan for Afghanistan, Colombia focused on quality, not quantity. Its army and other security forces have achieved impressive success against an insurgency in many ways similar to Afghanistan's. Meanwhile, despite the assistance of nearly 100,000 NATO soldiers and many billions of dollars spent on security assistance, the situation in Afghanistan seems to be deteriorating.

Afghan and US officials struggling to build an effective Afghan army can learn from Colombia's success. This article explores the similarities and differences between the insurgencies in Afghanistan and Colombia, examines how Colombia reformed its security forces, and discusses how to apply Colombia's success to Afghanistan.

Similarities and Differences between the Insurgencies in Colombia and Afghanistan

Counterinsurgency forces in Colombia and Afghanistan face several similar challenges. First, rugged terrain in both countries provides locations for insurgents to hide and limits the ground mobility of counterinsurgent forces. Second, insurgents in both Colombia and Afghanistan take advantage of cross-border sanctuaries and have financed their operations with narcotrafficking.

At their worst, the two insurgent forces had similar strengths. At their peak strengths (around 2001), the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and National Liberation Army (ELN) insurgent groups could field a combined 21,500 fighters, about 1.9 fighters for every 1,000 military-aged males in Colombia.6 The upper estimate of the Taliban's current strength is 17,000, or 2.3 fighters for every 1,000 military-aged males in Afghanistan.7

In the mid-to-late 1990s, the rule of law in Colombia was minimal. In 1995 a quarter of Colombia's municipalities had no police.8 In the late 1990s, Colombia's annual murder rate was 62 per 100,000- nearly 10 times that of the United States.9 The police and court systems were thoroughly corrupt, and paramilitary militias formed in the absence of state authority. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Colombia Can Teach Afghanistan (and the United States) How to Win
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.