Sunday, November 15, 2009
By Stephen Grey
THE inhabitants of combat zones in southern Afghanistan may face biometric tests in a new initiative to prevent the Taliban from infiltrating villages.
After studying counter-insurgency methods employed from the Boer war to the conflict in Iraq, British commanders are drawing up plans for “gated communities” from which the enemy can be excluded by identity checks. The checks may involve fingerprints, retina scans or even DNA tests.
Brigadier James Cowan, the new commander of British forces in Afghanistan, revealed last week how far the campaign in Helmand is being rethought.
“In counter-insurgency you are not here to beat the enemy. You are here to win the people — because the enemy will always be able to regenerate,” he said in the first newspaper interview he has given in his new role. “What you have to be able to do is give people the security they crave.”
The shift in emphasis from killing Taliban fighters to counter-insurgency has often been misleadingly presented as simply trying to win “hearts and minds” — perhaps with crude bribes such as building wells or health clinics, or through short-term job creation.
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