31 March 2009

Afghanistan Update

Well, the more things change, the more they stay the same, apparently.

Two sites have commented on the latest Afghanistan plan. The first is Fabius Maximus' blog, which lays out the US' Afghanistan/Pakistan policy and places it alongside the pre-surge Iraq policy from late 2005. Let's see if you can name the conflict:

(1) Victory in XXXX is a Vital U.S. Interest

  • XXXX is the central front in the global war on terror. Failure in XXXX will embolden terrorists and expand their reach; success in XXXX will deal them a decisive and crippling blow.
  • The fate of the greater Middle East - which will have a profound and lasting impact on American security - hangs in the balance.
Ha! Obviously this is a speech from Bush on Iraq. You want to know how I can tell? Because it uses the phrase "global war on terror", which officially as outdated as the word "gnarly".

The next link comes from Defense and the National Interest and concerns the latest Afghanistan study group. An article from the Washington post points out that there were two camps in the Afghanistan study group--one camp led by Vice President Joe Biden, who advocated a more limited Afghanistan campaign, and another led by Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and General David Petraeus, who advocated a massive nation-building campaign.

The massive nation-building campaign is cute, to be sure, but I don't see it as anywhere near realistic. Afghanistan will always remain a poor, rural nation. Its institutions--schools, infrastructure, transportation--are comparable to those of Sub-Saharan Africa. A democracy requires an educated citizenry, and with rampant illiteracy, it won't happen for generations. NATO could spend thirty years and trillions of dollars and still not have an effective nation-state, particularly with levels of corruption being as high as they are.

The Taliban will most likely always be active in the area--they're far more effective in catering to the needs of the population than the local government. While containing or limiting the Taliban insurgency--which is increasingly divorcing itself from Al Qaeda--is certainly a reasonably attainable goal, the real crux of our national security issue lies with disrupting Al Qaeda's network. Therein lies a considerable misconception of the Afghan War--the blurring of the line between the Arab fighters of Al Qaeda and the local insurgency of the Taliban.

While I respect General Petreaus' policy guidance, and indeed, it would be the exemplary way to go about the war if we lived in a perfect world and America had unlimited resources and time, he falls into the trap that John Nagl has also been accused of falling into. That is to say that General Petraeus, much like Nagl, in the words of a poster on Armchair Generalist:

[Nagl] takes a military bias toward the idea: he is looking at how to achieve whatever objective is given to the military, not whether the objective is in itself a good idea.

Which is probably the correct position for the military to take: "how do we achieve what we have been asked to do?"

Counter-terrorism against Al Qaeda and counter-insurgency against the Taliban, blended with heavy doses of counter-narcotic warfare, leads to "hybrid war". There, just by using that term, I should get about a hundred or so hits--it's worth at least one Megan Fox picture.

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