Archive for October, 2009

I imagine this idea has been broached before, or at least the ideas behind have been. Basically, it involves how to best make Afghanistan stable. I was thinking about this when I was reading Steve Coll’s post Ink Spots. In it, he states “As Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post described recently, McChrystal’s plan is to create a series of “ink spots” centered on large population areas, and then to try to connect some of these ink spots together by taking control of intercity roads.”  He describes it as possibly the best of bad-case scenarios, because even if successful, the Taliban will still control many rural areas throughout Afghanistan.

Independent of the difficulty of successfully completing the strategy, I wonder if Coll is wrong about the potential benefits. In networks, under the “small world theory,” a small number of highly concentrated areas can drastically extend the network’s connections.  Here, if Afghanistan was truly able to have large population centers stable and make the roads safe between, it could start to drastically erode the Taliban’s presence because those outlier towns would each start to connect to other areas which are Taliban controlled. But if the larger nodes are “safe” and Taliban free, and are able to disperse that amongst smaller nodes because of safe travel, the idea that 1) the government can stabilize population centers 2) residents realize this and begin to more forcefully push back against the Taliban may accelerate the Taliban’s decline.

Obviously this is all conjecture, and no doubt securing roads between the more populous areas is exceedingly difficult, but if it can be done, it may very well help establish control beyond those areas to a greater degree than Coll believes.


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