21 August 2009

Afghanistan Shrugged, Part IV

Another day brings two more great articles on Afghan strategy at Foreign Policy Online, plus an interesting television interview (courtesy of Small Wars Journal) which...eh…I can't view since the connection is too slow to watch a streaming Youtube video (sigh).

Anyway, on to the articles in FP Online.

Article one is written by Stephen Walt (again), and it addresses the counter-arguments to his post the other day in FP Online. This is the latest in a series of great Afghanistan strategy debates which have taken place on FP Online in the past few days. For a little back story, two days ago, Walt wrote an article questioning the popular belief that, if abandoned, Afghanistan would fall back under Taliban control and would serve as a safe haven for the Taliban.

One of the key issues brought up by both Walt and his detractors is the role of Afghanistan as a safe harbor for al Qaeda. All parties are assuming that, if the US were to leave Afghanistan, al Qaeda would attempt to return to Afghanistan (with Walt arguing that AQ would not be welcome, while detractors argue that AQ would be welcomed by the Taliban). All parties are operating with the underlying assumption that a.) al Qaeda is based in Pakistan, and that it would b.) find it necessary to move into Afghanistan following American withdrawal. However, if al Qaeda already has safe haven in Pakistan, why would it need to move north? (I'm opening this up to someone smarter than I to answer it) How do we best counter an organization as de-centralized and mobile as al Qaeda?

Article #2 is somewhat pessimistic, touting itself as "Saigon 2009". While I disagree with the overall pessimistic tone, I will concede that it brings up two of the most salient facts about Afghanistan—strong, central, democratic government such as that which we are used to in the West will not be the most enduring institution in Afghanistan (the local tribes that have held power for millennia will continue to be), and that Afghanistan is an insurgent's paradise. (So much so, that it almost resembles Galula's description of the optimal insurgent environment to the "t").

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