I think the key to COIN is getting the people on your side. For an "outsider" it is more difficult. The difference is that, it appears, that none of the previous outsiders who have had tried to militarily "conquer" A-stan have not even attempted the COIN approach.I'm sure it wasn't intended, but you perhaps give the impression that before McCrystal came along that the US was wily-nily killing civilians, and the notion of minimizing civilian casualites is some sort of novel approach.
You're correct, Hew, I did not mean to give the impression that the US was unduly killing civilians. Indeed, however, I'm sure many of the other invaders were not careful on that score, and inflamed the populace by that kind of disregard for civilians.
From the CBS article that Stan linked to above:
The obligatory and obvious disclaimer: it sucks that we inadvertently kill any innocent civilians. But 256? In one year? That's insanely lower than I would have guessed, and in the grand scheme of things (i.e. ummm, this is a WAR), seems pretty praiseworthy that it's already that low.
Considering the terrain situation in A'stan, and the use of air power, it is almost surprising that the numbers are not higher. OTOH, I seem to recall one incident were there were multiple civilians killed, and there was some controversy about the circumstances.
If McChrystal believes civilian casualties are the main reason that we're not winning, and that the main thrust of his strategy is to lower that number (likely at the expense of killing fewer bad guys and thus increasing the danger to our people),
I can understand the importance of civilian protection being a key factor in COIN ... because it is the Americans who are "outsiders". Likely the Taliban are cut some slack because they are "their own". I think that it is natural to emphasize the faults of the "outsider".
then I'm not too confident that we're going to eventually win. For the love of Pete, the Taliban and al Qaeda INTENTIONALLY kill more civilians than that in a given week or month with IEDs and assassination, and we're supposed to believe that Afghanis find that acceptable and our accidents are atrocities?!?
In the end, if the "outsiders" do provide the emphasis on improved life, and respect for the people, I do believe that will carry weight. And it takes longer than taking less care for the civilians. Essentially, it becomes a matter of giving the civilians something they are motivated to protect themselves; and empower them to protect it.
They're either an incredibly stupid people or we have the absolute worst propoganda/public relations program in the history of warfare. Or McChrystal has completely misread the situation.