Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Afghan Surge Prep Notes

As defeatists, and some alledgedly smart cats - who ironically have solved all their problems in climate controlled environs with a friendly give and take, a complaint form or perhaps ultimately - a pink slip - reveal that they have never had to stand up to bullies, stare down creeps at the mall or battle the octopi xformation that seemingly nice guys undergo when they get a girl alone.

They are ready to split from Afghanistan and say the heck with it.

"Why are we there?" they wail.

OTOH, such a weak game of pretending it's 1999 instead of 2009 is addressed by a rowdy Yankee senator that Afghanistan is actually Al Qaeda's graveyard.

Vulcan v2.0 soulmate Max Boot (love that name! - plus - he got game baybee!) delivers vital meds

"Keep in mind that until fairly recently, the conventional wisdom was
that we had already won in Afghanistan and could never win in Iraq. Now we hear the reverse, but the new zeitgeist is no sounder than the old. We can win in Afghanistan, as we are now winning in Iraq."

Winning in Iraq sweetly consorts fellow Vulcan v2.0 Frederick Kagan into the pic.

Dr. Kagan is the cat who queered the mix with the ancient realpolitik avatars and their "Iraq Surrender Group" by thinking up and creating Surge - dissing and proving sourmouthed 'retreat at any cost' doofuses have about as much smooth as a certain broke game player sitting on the passenger side of his best friend's ride hollering at hotties at the mall - asking if those are astronaut pants -

"Cause your asset be outa this world ladygirl!"

Dr Kimberly Kagan's other half shared some Afghanistan Surge prep notes and this is just a tiny tease - to really satiate desires subtle and gross - check it out in the flesh

Afghanistan is not now a sanctuary for al-Qaeda, but it would likely become one again if we abandoned it. Mullah Omar, the head of the Taliban government we removed in 2001, is alive and well in Pakistan. He maintains contacts with Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and the other key al-Qaeda leaders, who are also based in Pakistan (although in a different area).

Mullah Omar supports Taliban fighters in southern Afghanistan from his Pakistani havens, while al-Qaeda and its affiliates support insurgents in eastern Afghanistan. Allowing Afghanistan to fail would mean allowing these determined enemies of the United States to regain the freedom they had before 9/11."

Success in Afghanistan does not require creating a paradise in one of the poorest countries on earth, but we cannot define victory down. Preventing Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for terrorists again, helping Pakistan fight its own terrorist problems, and liberating ourselves from dependence on Pakistan will require building an Afghan state with a representative government.

There is no such thing as "the Taliban" today. Many different groups with different leaders and aims call themselves "Taliban," and many more are called "Taliban" by their enemies. In addition to Mullah Omar's Taliban based in Pakistan and indigenous Taliban forces in Afghanistan, there is an indigenous Pakistani Taliban controlled by Baitullah Mehsud (this group is thought to have been responsible for assassinating Benazir Bhutto).

Both are linked with al-Qaeda, and both are dangerous and determined. In other areas, however, "Taliban" groups are primarily disaffected tribesmen who find it more convenient to get help from the Taliban than from other sources.

The consistent unwillingness of the U.S. government to commit to the success of its endeavors in Afghanistan (and Iraq) over the long term is a serious obstacle to progress. The Pakistani leadership appears convinced that America will abandon its efforts in South Asia sooner rather than later, and this conviction fuels Pakistan's determination to retain support for (and therefore control of) Afghan Taliban groups based in its territory.

It also contributes to instability within Pakistan, because Pakistani leaders are tentative about committing to the fight against their internal foes as long as they are unsure of our determination to do our part.

We cannot dismiss our extensive and painful experiences in Iraq, but we must recognize the differences between that country and Afghanistan.

Perhaps the most important lesson of Iraq that is transportable to Afghanistan is this: It is impossible to conduct effective counterterrorism operations (i.e., targeting terrorist networks with precise attacks on key leadership nodes) in a fragile state without conducting effective counterinsurgency operations (i.e., protecting the population and using economic and political programs to build support for the government and resistance to insurgents and terrorists)

Pashtuns are not Arabs. They have different traditions, different tribal structures, different ways of resolving differences. One of the most important (and least remarked-upon) differences is that Iraqis fight in their cities and villages while Pashtuns, on the whole, do not.

The Afghan National Army consists of perhaps 70,000 troops (on paper). This number will rise gradually to 134,000--itself an arbitrary sum, based on assumptions about what the fifth-poorest country in the world can afford to pay for an army that is certainly too small to establish and maintain security. The Afghan National Police are ineffective when not actively part of the problem. Afghanistan is significantly larger than Iraq, its terrain is far more daunting, and its population is greater.

There is simply no way that Afghan Security Forces can defeat the insurgents on their own, with or without large numbers of coalition advisers.

Adding more troops to a failing strategy rarely works. Current military and political leaders recognize this, which is why reviews are underway in CENTCOM, the Joint Staff, and the White House to develop a new strategy for Afghanistan.

Developing a coherent plan for the entire country requires the involvement of our many allies. That involvement, in turn, requires coming to a common understanding of the situation, the tasks to be performed, and the challenges we face. When Afghanistan became a NATO mission, the presumption was that it was primarily a nation-building exercise. Many allied countries committed troops without intending to participate in counterinsurgency efforts.

Although it is natural to complain about the national caveats that restrict some (but by no means all) allied troops from leaving their bases or fighting, we must recognize that many of our allies never signed up for this kind of war. They have therefore been reluctant to admit that we now face a full-fledged insurgency.

While the situation in Afghanistan is indeed deteriorating, it would be wrong to rush forces out of Iraq this year in response. Most important, as detailed above, we have not yet established the conditions in Afghanistan that would allow a surge to be decisive.

The dramatic improvement in the situation in Iraq has already increased our options and flexibility--forces are moving from Iraq to Afghanistan this year without imposing unacceptable risks on our position in Iraq. General Odierno has identified 2009 as a critical year for Iraq, starting with the successful Iraqi provincial elections that just occurred and ending with the election of a new central government.

This essay does not provide a plan or a strategy for success in Afghanistan. It provides, rather, a set of guidelines for thinking about how to develop one, and for evaluating plans articulated by the administration, its generals, and outsiders. Ultimately, a plan for winning in Afghanistan has to be developed in Afghanistan, just as the plan for winning in Iraq was developed in Iraq

Hard is not hopeless in Afghanistan any more than it was in Iraq. The stakes are high, as they always are when America puts its brave young men and women in harm's way."

Pic - "Taleban are NOT bulletproof" by Adie Webster


Karen said...

Terrific post. And, yeah, Max Boot rocks.