Follow-up on Afghanistan

I think the key point on Thursday was made by Ron. How much is it worth to us to keep Afghanistan from becoming a “base” for Al-Qaeda? What is a base anyway, and could we prevent one from being established an easier way than long-term, bloody nation-building in the most un-built nation on the face of the earth?

Here’s the opinion of a retired countrtterrorism expert (not the cable news kind, many of whom seem to have more opinions than experience). He says that having a haven in Afghan does not increase AQ’s ability to attack the U.S. homeland nearly as much as most of the media assumes.

Also, I’d add that we should keep in mind that the new pessimism towards Afghanistan is based on new developments inside that country, not on new U.S. political dynamics (new president). The CIA concluded in 2008 that our whole mission in Afghanistan is veering towards total, catastrophic failure. Plus, their presidential election this year was a sham and Karzai is losing legitimacy hand over fist. We may have another Diem on our hands.

Finally, like I said on Thursday, we have more than just 2 options: double down or run away, Monty-Python style. We could keep a residual force focused on counterterrorism, etc.

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2 responses

  1. I watched the Afghan War documentary the other evening called “Tip of the Spear.” As one who served during the Vietnam War, I was struck by the similarity between then and now. The only real difference is that our people are better equipped and better trained now. But what has not changed is the fundamental nature of geurilla war. We got to the village every day, and get ambushed on the way there or back. We extract promises of cooperation from the village leaders. Guerillas go to village every night, eat, sleep, and kill anyone who talked to us during the day.

    Can anyone tell me when and where a guerilla force was ever beaten by a “modern” army using conventional warfare?

  2. The other night I said the batting average for Western armies defeating 3rd world guerillas was zero. But, in a way I was wrong.

    In the 50s and 60s there were a zillion Marxist-style insurgencies in many places: Central America, Phillippines, Indonesia. They were defeated in part through stunning violence and suppression–often with our help. But, in Southeast Asia at least, they really had the wind taken out of their sails by rapid and more-or-less broadly-based economic and social development. The Asian economic miracle. Same deal in Italy and Greece and in Marshall Plan Europe in general.

    My point is that we can’t expect to defeat Taliban by force alone because–as Carl implied–force alone never has. The despair is that Afghanistan is so broken (and never was intact) that no ammount of nation building could lead to enough material progress to break the appeal of the Taliban enough to “win” the war.

    Maybe Karzai should negotiate a coalition government with the Taliban? Awful for the Afghans, but tolerable for us?

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