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Americans don’t want the war to continue in Afghanistan. There is a growing movement across the land to end the war. Recent polls show Americans want out. In a fantastic article Eric T. (Rick) Olson describes why the surge will fail in Afghanistan.
Honolulu – With great expectations on their shoulders, the first US troops of a 17,000-strong surge are headed to Afghanistan.
But to do what?
Even Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has admitted that these soldiers are being sent without a clear strategy. Several missions have been proposed to turn back a Taliban resurgence. How will 17,000 more troops accomplish any one of them – let alone all?
The beefed-up effort has been fueled by the belief that the successful surge in Iraq can be replicated in Afghanistan.
I speak from experience: For a year, I was the operational commander for all coalition forces in Afghanistan. Later, I was the deputy director of the Iraq Reconstruction Management Office. The conditions that favored success in Iraq are conspicuously lacking in Afghanistan.
That doesn’t mean success there will be impossible – just very difficult. It will require a custom strategy that takes account of hard, local realities.
Some US military officials have warned that what worked in Iraq probably won’t work in Afghanistan. Yet Washington’s strategy still seems based more on hope than judgment. By Eric T. Olson from the March 17, 2009 edition. Eric T. (Rick) Olson was the operational commander of all coalition forces in Afghanistan in 2004-05. He’s now working as a senior mentor for Army brigades.
The ranks of the “Exiters” from Afghanistan is surging because of several interlinked factors—the economy and China. Both are inter-related and the dependencies weigh heavy on the White House. Why the US gave up India as a Strategic partner? Without China’s help, the USA cannot sustain the bailouts or hope for a recovery. China is willing to give the US a reprieve, but may have a couple of strings attached. China will exact a price. It seems that Beijing at this point will require a pullout from Afghanistan and the resolution of Kashmir. We have always considered Kashmir as the silent “K” in Holbrooke’s mission. India’s worst nightmares come true: Long term strategic malaise in a changing world . The People’s Daily leaves no doubt that the resolution of Kashmir is not simply a “nice to have” on the “wish list” of Mr. Holbrooke–it a mandated requirement-China’s pound of flesh for agreeing to buy American T-Bonds. India feels the pain: The US begs Beijing for money
The signals coming from the Obama administration as a “strategic review” of Afghan policy is nearing completion this week are, to say the least, confusing. While much new thinking on the Afghan War has been promised, early leaks about the review’s proposals for the next “three to five years” largely seem to promise more of the same: a heightened CIA-run drone war in the Pakistani borderlands, more U.S. military and economic aid for Pakistan (and more strong-arming of the Pakistanis to support U.S. policy in the region), more training of and an expansion of the Afghan army, and of course more U.S. forces-the president has already ordered 17,000 extra troops into the war.
The new policy elements, evidently involving modest invitations to (and threats toward) Iran, a belief that up to 70% of Taliban fighters might be won over via the right combination of money and “reconciliation,” and a “scaling back” of hopes for Afghan democracy, hardly seem to add up to a brilliant thought exercise in the face of a disaster of a war now into its eighth year. In the meantime, of course, Americans, Afghans, and Pakistanis continue to die. Mother Jones Magazine.Tue March 17, 2009 4:42 PM PST, Introduction by Tom Engelhardt
Mr. Bruce Reidel, one of President Obama’s main advisors is a “Surger’ who wants to teach the Taliaban a lesson and show that they will stay in Afghanistan for a long time. Dr. Henry Kissnger is a “Surger” who wants to surround China through bases in Afghanistan and Central Asia. Pakistan and Afghanistan are also giving feedback on the review of Afghan policy that will be completed in March. Pakistan’’s ten economists are proposing a Marshall Plan for the region. One of the economists has suggested $60 Billion for Pakistan. The review on Afghanistan is a decision on whether Afghanstan becomes Obama’s Vietnam or Reagan’s East Germany. Based on the volume of paper from Washington, it seems the “Exiters” seem to be winning. Even Newsweek, a very sober and somewhat balanced magazine seems to have joined the “Exiters“.
Ironically, the real X-factor in how the Afghan War will be pursued in the years to come probably lies nowhere near Afghanistan. Just how severely, and for how long and in what complex ways, the global economic collapse will affect the United States and Washington’s revenues may be the true determinative factor in whether the Obama administration slowly makes its way further into, or out of, the war. Will this president, with so many giant programs and problems on his plate, really be capable of fighting an Afghan war at more intense levels and in more expensive ways for long? Certainly, the Europeans and the Canadians, who think they’ve seen which way the wind is blowing, doubt it. According to an unidentified “senior French official” speaking to Agence France Press, “We are lowering our ambitions… The Americans are now looking for a way out, they no longer regard Afghanistan as strategic. It’ll take two to five years, but we’re in a logic of disengagement.” Mother Jones Magazine.Tue March 17, 2009 4:42 PM PST, Introduction by Tom Engelhardt
Mr. Ralph Peters once a “Surger” is now an “Exiter“. Mr. Peter’s four possibilities can be listed as choice between an exit strategy or a hasty retreat after the defeat.
A closer look at the Iraq surge may provide some needed perspective.
The surge involved 30,000 more troops but its main ingredient was a new operational approach. Instead of “commuting to the war” from bases, soldiers were asked to “live with the people.” Their job? Protect Baghdadis from raging violence. Smaller security stations helped soldiers be both more responsive and effective in urban operations and instill confidence in locals. Barriers and checkpoints limited the movement of militants and terrorists. And some nonviolent “soft cleansing” was permitted, transforming some of Baghdad’s mixed neighborhoods into single-sect ones, further reducing violence.
But securing the Afghan population is a much more daunting challenge.
Iraq is like New York State: both feature mostly urban populations with dominant capitals. Pacify the Big Apple and you pacify the whole state; pacify Baghdad and you pacify Iraq. But Afghanistan is more like Alaska: both have rural populations with capital cities far removed from large, mountainous regions. Baghdad alone accounts for 7 million Iraqis – about one-quarter of the population. In Afghanistan, barely one-tenth of the population lives in the five largest cities. Because Baghdad is the political and socioeconomic center of the nation, the calming effect of the surge there reverberated across the country. But there is no such city in Afghanistan.
“Living with the people” in Afghanistan will require a completely different configuration. It would require small numbers of US soldiers living in countless small villages, where they’d be unable to support each other in emergencies. And since only about 20 percent of Afghanistan’s roads are paved, quick-reaction forces would slow to a crawl, especially in the mountains and in bad weather.
If protecting the population is what’s needed to reverse recent Taliban successes, then the best way to do so is through local, small-scale policing where the Taliban has been most successful: in small towns and villages. But the brigades at the heart of the coming surge are insufficient in number and they’re not organized, trained, or equipped to do this kind of policing. The mission of the surge force needs to be rethought, with a primary focus on achieving the ability to build effective local security forces.
As difficult as the security surge will be, the key test in Afghanistan – as it was in Iraq – will be whether political, social, and economic progress is made.
In Iraq, the military surge was accompanied by a political surge, with two key objectives: (1) governmental reform at the national level, and (2) increased capacity in provincial and local governments.
To reach the first objective, US commitments to Iraq were tied to measurable progress. Thus were born the so-called benchmarks, which helped prod Iraq’s government to achieve important milestones in political, economic, and social conditions. To date, no similar set of benchmarks has been set for the Afghan government, led by President Hamid Karzai. By handing Mr. Karzai a blank check so far, Washington has undermined the incentives for the central government to make badly needed reforms and win the support of Afghans.
To reach the second objective, the US ramped up the work of provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs). These small, interagency units strengthened local governments while nurturing political and economic institutions at the grass roots. PRT experts proved quite effective at their work, spurring national reform along the way. So far, the plan for Afghanistan does not include a similar PRT surge. To make matters worse, PRTs there are thinly staffed and resourced. Vital expertise is lacking.
It is doubtful that a military surge, even if accompanied by a strong political surge, can be successful without dealing directly with the growing unrest in the Pashtun territories that straddle the border with Pakistan. US authorities have trouble policing the border with Mexico – how can they expect to keep tabs on the Afghan-Pakistani border, which is roughly as long? The challenges in this region are vexing to both nations. Current proposals include sweeping military campaigns, broad international compacts, programs of economic development and aid granted to the governments of both nations, and grand bargains of all types struck between various parties. All these have been tried before. None have worked.
What has not been tried (because it has been judged too painstaking) is a systematic effort to address problems in the Pashtun areas on a village-by-village, tribe-by-tribe basis. The tools of such an approach are readily available. They include precisely planned and executed military operations to attack extremist networks without killing innocent civilians, microloans, and microgrants that go directly to meet the needs of local markets and small enterprises (which could avoid the corruption that besets the national governments), and reconciliation agreements that target the interests of small groups and recognize the pitfalls associated with applying broad labels (“Taliban,” “militant,” “drug cartel,” and the like). President Obama took a step in the right direction this month when he suggested that he would support dialogue with Taliban moderates.
Critical to the success of such an approach will be careful and meaningful cooperation between the Afghan and Pakistani governments and the leadership of the US and NATO headquarters. Washington should also court greater international support from stakeholders who have yet to contribute.
For the secretary of Defense to publicly acknowledge that forces are deploying without a clear plan should indicate the difficulties ahead. But the words of another key military leader are worth recalling. At the time of the surge in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus observed that “hard is not hopeless.” “Hard” can become more “hopeful” with a greater – and smarter – effort in Afghanistan, too. Rethink the Afghanistan surge. A US general explains why the Iraq model doesn’t apply. By Eric T. Olson from the March 17, 2009 edition. Eric T. (Rick) Olson was the operational commander of all coalition forces in Afghanistan in 2004-05. He’s now working as a senior mentor for Army brigades.
The much heralded Obama review is almost over. Some of the facts are clear. Others are not. NATO has refused to sign up more troops for the American war in Afghanistan. The drone bombing is untenable for the government in Islamabad. The US wants to triple the aid to Pakistan, and it recover financially. Washington realizes that Pakistan has genuine interests in Afghanistan and that there can be no peace in Afghanistan without the help of Pakistan. About the rest, the News reports filtering in give us mixed messages–much of it obfuscated in typical diplomatic jargon–”Pakistan and Afghanistan are linked” “there is no military solution” and “we must help to stabilize Afghanistan and Pakistan“. So far so good, but then comes the whammy–”save heavens in Pakistan have to be eliminated“, “we must ensure that the Taliban never come back to power“, and “we must ensure that Afghanistan stays clear of Al-Qaeda”. So what does one make of this. The only answer is that confusion rules.
Afghanistan: The writing is on the wall. Can Obama read it? Time is not on the side of the USA. The war in Afghanistan is unsustainable and the Taliban can carry on forever, harassing the supply chain, continuing the hit and run operations against the US forces, keeping the Europeans at bay, and keeping the pressure on Kabul with hard hitting and morale destroying attacks every few weeks.
Our analysis of the Obama Doctrine is also been echoed by a fantastic analysis published in Mother Jones Magazine. Tom Engelhardt in an effulgent article clearly defines the facts that the US has very few options in Afghanistan, and that financial constraints, a resurgent Russia, a rising China, and an increasingly assertive Pakistan will play havoc with Obama’s policy in Afghanistan if any of them feel that their interests are being infringed upon
The New York Times, the so called liberal paper has a few blindspots when it comes to reporting. Pakistan is one of them. David Sanger reports that the US may now begin bombing Quetta. If this is true, not government in Islamabad can tolerate Quetta being bombed by drones. No government in Islamabad can survive the tide of a very active and well informed Pakistani public and a very vibrant media.
If President Reagan will be remembered for the breakup of the USSR, and the reunification of Germany, President Bush will be remembered for losing wars in Iraq-Afghanistan and losing the Central Asian republics to Russia. Mr. Ralph Peters is wrong when he says that “Afghanistan wasn’t a war of choice“. President Bush had a choice of stationing 5000 marines in Tarbela and smoking out the evil guys. He chose to carpet bomb all of Afghanistan with Daisy Cutters and not work to moderate the rulers of Kabul. He had an opportunity to use a moderate Afghanistan to placate and win over the Central Asian Republics. By listening to the likes of Mr. Peters, Bush lost the battle and America lost the war, and the world lost Central Asia to Moscow. The implications of the IMU activity in Pakistan
The covert programs in Pakistan are as counterproductive as the overt bombing. Someone once said “if you continue with the same ingredients, and follow the instructions, the chances are that the repeated experiment will produce the same results”. Mr. Obama’s policy is a continuation of the failed policies of President Bush. The US policy in Afghanistan for the past decade has yielded 80% of Afghanistan to the Taliban, plus FATA and Swat to the militants in Pakistan. Bombing Quetta and the settled parts will ensure a violent Pakistani response.
Whatever the truth of the matter—and the Obama administration may be the last to know what that is right now—here’s the saddest thing: When it’s all over and we finally do leave, as Pratap Chatterjee, the author of a new must-read book, Halliburton’s Army: How a Well-Connected Texas Oil Company Revolutionized the Way America Makes War, discovered on a visit in November, the Afghans of Bamiyan Province will be at least as poor as they ever were in what will remain a devastated country. It’s rare for us to get a view of the areas of Afghanistan where Americans are not fighting. So think of today’s report as a glimpse of the unknown Afghanistan that escapes American notice—and aid. (And click here to view three videos put together by cameraman Ronald Nobu Sakamoto with Afghan scenes from 2002 and 2008 that vividly capture some of the experiences Chatterjee describes.) Mother Jones Magazine.Tue March 17, 2009 4:42 PM PST, Introduction by Tom Engelhardt
We have advacated the futility of the war in Afghanistan for a decade. What could have been accomplished by a small contingent of US Marines was handed over to a war machine. The carpet bombing of Afghanistan and drone bombs and covert actions in Pakistan have now led to the defeat of NATO and ISAF. Only the proclamation of the defeat is left. The spin doctors are busy tyring to put a good face on the retreat. Justifying the Banality of Occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan: The Thinktanks attempt to complete the circle of complicity between a sycophantic press, and a non-inquisitive servile public. The nation is forced to accept the only argument that it is being repeatedly inundated with
Can Obama duplicate Swat peace deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan Fixing Afpak: Inability to define exit strategy spells inevitable US military catastrophy in Kabul Obama’s sane policy: Negotating with the Taliban Betrayals, blackmail in Bakiyev cloaking failure as success hiding the defeat declaring victory withdrawing from Afghanistan within 12 months Obama to unveil new policy: Marshal Plan & end to bombing raids in Pakistan
Obama advisor Weinbaum predicts total Afghan policy review: Sees focus on talks & Reconciliation Afghanistan: Gen. Petraeus’ Pakistani advisers: Indians jittery Obama adviser gives deep insights into new Afghan policy
Failure and Defeat in Afghanistan: Inevitable Frustration & misdirected Payback for ally Pakistan US Charge of the Light Brigade into Pakistan is a US failure and has to stop
Facing the Khyber poltergeist & Ganges hobgoblin NATO war: UK 1880 defeats in Afghanistan
“Charge of the Light Brigade” in Afghanistan AGAIN: Unfortunately the lessons of the unmitigated disaster of “Auckland’s Folly”, (First Anglo-Afghan War 1838–42) have not been taught to the Oxbridge students.
Unite! Erase the Durand Line Solution: Fixing “AfPak” expedites the inevitable union between Pakistan & Afghanistan The emerging “Leave Pakistan to Afghanistan” strategy goes mainstream–Extricating the US from the Lost in the Khyber
Justifying the Banality of Occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan: The Thinktanks attempt to complete the circle of complicity between a sycophantic press, and a non-inquisitive servile public. The nation is forced to accept the only argument that it is being repeatedly inundated with