Get Afghanistan Right

This is “Get Afghanistan Right Week” and here is some information to look at:
We Can’t Afford to Sink Deeper into the Afghan Quagmire
Let’s be clear: the war in Afghanistan is not “the good war.” It is not “the right war,” as President-elect Obama has called it. Nor is it really Bush’s war, considering how many Congressional representatives (Democrats included) initially supported it and continue to favor the Obama administration’s calls for escalation. And yet it’s not quite Obama’s war either — though it could be soon. Right now it’s just our country’s war, and as such we need to be able to discuss it frankly and freely — with open discourse that was absent in the run up to both this war and the one in Iraq.
Taking Down Pro-Escalation Arguments
In this month’s issue of Foreign Policy, Nathaniel Fick and John Nagl lay out a detailed pro-escalation argument. Alex Thurston takes them apart.
Obama’s Got One Thing Right About the Mess In Afghanistan– It’s Inexorably Connected To The Mess In Pakistan
Five Suggestions for Diplomatic Progress in South Asia
It’s not fair to criticize escalation in Afghanistan without offering alternatives, so here are the five things to do instead of escalating.
More good stuff here.
And my previous article Operation Enduring Failure
What do you think?

5 thoughts on “Get Afghanistan Right”

  1. The top American commander in Europe, Gen. Bantz Craddock, of all people, has weighed in on Afghanistan:
    Criminality and drug trafficking are the drivers behind the precipitous decline in security throughout Afghanistan in recent years, Craddock said, “sixty percent of the country has criminal problems, not insurgent problems.” He said NATO is not losing there, “but it’s not winning fast enough.” Corruption in the Afghan government is rampant and getting worse, he said. While security and development efforts in eastern Afghanistan are coming along, a “security stalemate” exists in the south, “because of the poppy belt, and a very coherent Pashtun insurgency, the Taliban are very coherent in the south.”

  2. Rachel Maddow got it right when she asked Steve Clemons, “what’s the goal in Afghanistan?” Steve answered basically, “it depends on who you talk to.”
    So what’s to get right in Afghanistan? What the American people need to understand is that Washington literally does not know what it is doing there.
    Afghanistan is another testament to the wit and wisdom of Yogi Berra, “if you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there.”

  3. The five suggestions are excellent steps toward breaking the cycle of violence. Two are both critical and hard for American decision-makers to wrap their minds around.
    1. Engage Iran. Iran must be part of a solution, especially now that Bush has helped it to emerge on the regional stage. Not only did it provide valuable help to the U.S. after the initial post-9/11 invasion of Afghanistan, it is a natural enemy of Sunni jihadis.
    2. Address Kashmir. Nothing can be resolved in South Asia without recognizing the tight linkages connecting regional violence and Kashmir.
    As with Gaza, it is our biases and false assumptions and hidden agendas that make these problems intractable. Two of the most important biases are that “we are innocent” and that “they only understand the language of force.” Indeed, the opposition seems closer to the truth.

  4. From my own desultory experiences in the Nixon-Kissinger Fig Leaf Contingent (Vietnam 1970-72) and from observing Vietnam II in the Bay of Goats (i.e., Iraq and Afghanistan) for the past six-going-on-who-knows-how-many years, it never ceases to amaze me when I hear Americans claim that our so-called enemies (both real and imagined) “only understand the use of force.” While perhaps true of our enemies, this conceit still begs the question of why Americans generally don’t.
    And as far as concerns the incoming President Obama’s alarming fascination with Afghanistan as a “good war,” I wish he would consider Rudyard Kipling’s observations on imperial military campaigns in that part of the world:
    “When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains,
    And the women come out to cut up what remains,
    Then roll to your rifle and blow out your brains;
    And go to your god like a soldier.”

  5. What it’s supposed to be doing there is eliminating al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Both the leadership of the terrorist group and the Mullah Omar leadership of the extremist dictatorship need to be captured. But this should not be done by propping up local warlords and then letting them slaughter the population in civil war; the early 90’s can’t be repeated. What people refer to as “nation building” should maintained interest in Afghanistan by regional powers and the West to prevent civil war. Not the neglect that led to the time of the rapes, nor the other extreme of forcing the government structure and policies to be exactly the same as Western states.
    The Taliban has a lot of military and political strength at this moment. I want this military escalation to have the short term goal of stopping the Taliban’s progress. Secure the Khyber pass, push them away from the major cities, keep them away from roads. That goal won’t defeat the Taliban. For that, long term political solutions are needed. I read Alan Thurston’s five suggestions, and I didn’t see any reason why they couldn’t be pursued in tandem with an escalation. His second point about regional cooperation is a good long term solution. If the escalation can remove the Omar regime, the many “Taliban” factions can then be negotiation partners. It’s removing that era’s leaders that make this the “right war” (There are no “good wars”.). I am encouraged by Obama’s alleged fascination with Afghanistan. An escalation leading to the long term suggestions could achieve the goal of subverting the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

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