How do you defeat a dangerous insurgent group that has embedded itself within a civilian population? This vexing question is at the center of the ongoing debate over the counterinsurgency approach in Afghanistan–a conversation that plays itself out at the White House, the Pentagon, and the State Department, on Capital Hill, and through a seemingly endless herd of pundits on cable news shows, op-ed pages, and in the blogosphere. And there is a good reason for such a considered and public discussion. Beyond the direct involvement of U.S. forces, success in Afghanistan, however that is ultimately defined, has clear implications for international peace and security. Failure, says the cliché, is not an option.
While we discuss the way forward in Afghanistan, a calamitous counterinsurgency operation is unfolding in the Democratic Republic of the Congo without the benefit of the same kind of thoughtful debate. In the forested terrain of Congo’s eastern provinces, the Congolese army and United Nations peacekeeping forces are waging a campaign that has little chance to succeed and has deepened what was already one of the world’s worst humanitarian emergencies. As in Afghanistan, the strategy in Congo demands a rethink.
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