I was gradually arriving at the conclusion that I have found to hold good in various different places. Briefly it is that three separate factors have to be brought into play in order to make a man shift his allegiance. First, he must be given an incentive that is strong enough to make him want to do so. This is the carrot. Then he must be made to realize that failure will result in something unpleasant happening to him. This is the stick. Third, he must be given a reasonable opportunity of proving both to himself and to his friends that there is nothing fundamentally dishonorable about his action. Some people consider that the carrot and the stick is all that is necessary, but I am sure that many people will refuse the one and face the other if by doing otherwise they lose their self-respect. – General Sir Frank Kitson

The enormous challenges in Afghanistan are forcing International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) leaders to reconsider the use of SOF for population centric counterinsurgency (COIN) strategies.  Reasonable fears of warlords and tribal factionalism have been over come by the lack of success in conventional forces efforts to control the vast area of operation and the time line for withdrawal of ISAF.  Empowering village self-defense has become the major line of operation for the coalition.  This effort has been undermined by recent suicide attacks.  Smart leaders are making changes to protect ISAF forces and expand this effective strategy.

The primary U.S. objective in Afghanistan is to prevent the use of Afghan territory for terrorist attacks against the U.S. homeland and American interests.   Drone strikes and direct action missions have not been enough to accomplish this.  Sanctuaries in Pakistan are a ongoing source of leadership and technical expertise for insurgent groups operating inide Afghanistan. Geopolitical realities constrain operations in Pakistan and the 1,500 mile Afghanistan-Pakistan border cannot be controlled.

Afghanistan can become a place hostile to these foreign fighters.  Mao said that the insurgent must move through the population like a fish through water.  Empowering the population, will change the temperature of that water so that insurgents can not flourish.

International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) in Afghanistan don’t have the forces to protect every village, nor should they try. Like water flows around obstacles, insurgents avoid strength and seek weakness.   Afghan Local Police (ALP) provide 16,000 armed Afghans protecting their own villages as a way to spread security to remote areas of the country.   ALP allows villagers to control their own destiny to an unprecedented degree. The ISAF campaign plan has shifted from protection of the population to enabling the population to protect itself.

The bad guys hate this. Their latest tactic is to find disgruntled men in the program and encourage them to attack ISAF troops.  On August 17th, a new Afghani Local Police recruit at a small outpost in western Afghanistan shot two American Special Forces members.  Since 2010, there have been three other instances of Afghan Local Police recruits turning their guns on their American counterparts.

Maj. Gen. Tony Thomas, commander for Special Operations forces in Afghanistan has suspended training with new Afghan recruits until current Afghan troops can be re-vetted for ties to the insurgency. This is a positive move to take an operational pause and work out a new response to enemy tactics.

In 2004, Green Berets from 19th and 20th Special Forces were working in eastern Afghanistan.  They identified vulnerable areas outside the influence of the Afghan National Army and ISAF.  In classic SF fashion, they convinced CJSOTF-A to allow deployment of A teams to strategic villages along known infiltration routes.  Once there, they used attached infantry or Marine platoons to established a secure perimeter.  They then recruited organized and trained local defense forces. After initial attacks, insurgent activities dropped off sharply.   Bad guys were unable to recruit or move freely in areas with armed locals.