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Point 3: Avoid Civilian Casualties, Minimize Military Casualties

Criticism of Drone Attacks

Colonel David Kilcullen, an Australian military advisor to General Petraeus, says the use of drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan " are totally counter-productive. It is a strategic error to personalise the conflict in this way, it'll strengthen the enemy and weaken our friends. How can one expect the civilian population to support us if we kill their families and destroy their homes."

ACLU exec. Dir. Anthony Romero Letter on Drones to President Obama:

"The program you have endorsed also risks the deaths of innocent people. Over the last eight years, we have seen the government over and over again detain men as ‘terrorists,’ only to discover later that the evidence was weak, wrong, or non-existent. Of the many hundreds of individuals previously detained at Guantanamo, the vast majority have been released or are awaiting release...This experience should lead you to reject out of hand a program that would invest the CIA or the U.S. military with the unchecked authority to impose an extrajudicial death sentence on U.S. citizens and others found far from any actual battlefield"

New Yorker article on drones by Jane Mayer

Secure Urban Centers as the Military Priority

Gilles Dorronsoro, an analyst with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, suggested securing urban centers as the military priority, in a report in August 2009, "Afghanistan: Fixing a Failed Strategy"(p.38). It is possible that some of these steps have already been taken:

"The new strategy I suggest requires a redistribution of troops. Two elements are critically wrong at present: the overemphasis on the South and the lack of sufficient troops in the North. The Coalition is fighting where it is losing (in the South) and has no counterinsurgency troops where the Taliban could be beaten (in the North). This misallocation of resources is both the result of a flawed strategy and of NATO’s approach. Some 20,000 troops should be mobilized where there is a real need and a real prospect of success—not in the rural Pashtun belt or in Helmand, where Coalition troops are fighting a losing battle with high casualties. In the North, the Taliban are locally strong in Kunduz, Badghis, and Faryab, but in most places the situation is still reversible ... In addition, the Coalition is wasting its resources on the construction of huge bases, which often upset the local population and, because of their size and associated maintenance costs, cannot be handed over to the Afghan National Army at a later date. Bagram Air Base near Kabul is becoming a miniature American town, further alienating the Afghans. Smaller bases should be the rule, and more effort put into the relationship with the local population."

"In sum, the United States and its partners should:

"-- Stop insisting that the Coalition forces will stay indefinitely; it reinforces the (now widely held) belief in Afghanistan that the Coalition is an occupation force and negatively influences public opinion.

"-- Shift Coalition resources from the Pashtun belt; the situation in the countryside is not reversible there. More troops there mean more resistance and more casualties. With Western public opinion increasingly turning against the war, this strategy is self-defeating.

"--. Secure the urban centers as a priority. If a state can be rebuilt in Afghanistan, it will start in the cities. This strategy will result in fewer casualties and increased local participation.

"--. Stop the Taliban in the North with a more aggressive counterinsurgency, especially where their progress threatens North–South communications.

"--. Allocate resources where they can make a difference (urban centers, peaceful districts), instead of fueling a war economy and the insurgency itself."

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