After that somewhat depressing post, let's cheer up with...war. Here are the proceedings of a conference on whether or not the aid ISAF boasts of delivering in Afghanistan actually works, whether on its own terms or as a military strategy. I notice that "winning hearts and minds" has achieved the ultimate honour of being granted an MLA (Multiple Letter Acronym) - WHAM - even at a conference where Templer's criticism of his own remark was repeatedly quoted. There is much interesting stuff in there - notably that greater "religious seriousness" was correlated with less violence, and that field studies tend to bear out the Kilcullen interpretation - the people they interviewed didn't want the Taliban to take over, rather, they supported them in order to exert pressure on the Afghan government, as an intermediate institution.
Also, they point out that small-scale aid projects are effective in both the aid sense and the counter-insurgency sense, but that the big ones suffer from the false perception that economic development and modernity are forces for stability - they are not.
I'd quote more, but their server is 503ing.
Here is the British contribution to another conference on the Afghan war, which I find to be one of the most interesting parts of the whole thing (Jason Sigger has links to the whole lot here). A British company commander gets $4,000 to spend on reconstruction work - specifically, the kind of quick-reaction small scale projects that the Wilton Park conference found to be most effective - during his tour, but any one of his soldiers can spend $100,000 on destruction at any time by firing off a Javelin anti-tank missile, and the last British brigade in Afghanistan got through 254 of them in six months. It doesn't help that they rarely get brought back unused - simply because once you've fired one, you don't have to tote the damn thing any further. Oh, and the intelligence people are struggling with dire government IT. Perhaps the camo app store might help?
The US National Security Strategy uses the word "energy" more often than "military", and "climate change" more often than "intelligence"; but I'm surprised that it only uses the word "urbanisation" once.
And here's a really excellent article on the logistics of Afghanistan.