Watches and Time in Afghanistan

David Kilcullen, the Australian anthropologist who partnered with U.S. General David Petraeus to implement the American “surge” counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq, spoke via satellite to the Conference of Defence Associations Institute seminar in Ottawa today.

He was asked about the impending NATO troop withdrawals from Afghanistan, where Kilcullen’s experience is deep and ongoing.

“You find a lot of fear and sitting on the fence by Afghans,” he said. “Because the Taliban are telling them, ‘Sure, you can cooperate with the foreigners, but they’ll be gone in 18 months and we’ll still be here.’”

Kilcullen said the biggest threat to Afghanistan’s future is instability, and he said the source of this instability is not necessarily the Taliban, but a weak and corrupt Afghan government, which needs to be reformed before it is strengthened.

“If you are extending the reach of a government that everybody hates, you’re not helping. You’re hurting.”