Afghanistan - The Link Dump

Doug Traversa, a 20-year Air Force veteran who spent a year in Afghanistan and is now studying to be a Unitarian Universalist minister, has decided the war in Afghanistan is bull:
If I were called back on active duty and sent there, I would not be pleased. I no longer believe in this war. I don’t want to die for a bunch of criminals posing as a government. I certainly don’t want my sons put in harm’s way to prop up a government unable to actually govern.
Unfortunately, his two sons both just enlisted, one in the Army and the other in the Marines. This post was in early June, when his youngest son graduated from high school. At that time he was also encouraging his daughter to join the Air Force, to keep the tradition going. Since then, it appears the election was the turning point for him.

That would be the election that shouldn't have happened - from "The Afghanistan Impasse" by Ahmed Rashid:
US officials told me in April 2008 that President Bush had been warned by his military commanders that Afghanistan was going from bad to worse. More troops and money were needed; reconstruction was at a standstill; pressure had to be put on Pakistan; the elections in April 2009 should be indefinitely postponed. Bush ignored all the advice except for asking the Afghans to postpone the elections until August. He left everything else to his successor to sort out. When Obama took over in January, the crisis was much worse and Pakistan and Afghanistan immediately became his highest foreign policy priorities.
Nice. Steve Coll has more details on the current state of the Afghan election dispute and the tribal machinations behind it. He also says the counter-insurgency strategy will be deeply influenced by those two factors:
It is questionable whether the United States can succeed with a counterinsurgency campaign against the Taliban, no matter how many more troops are sent; the experts on Afghanistan that I know are divided on that issue. It seems unarguable, however, that such a campaign will be excruciatingly difficult if international forces are expected to simultaneously repress the Taliban and sort out a central government that is at prolonged and perhaps violent war with itself. A loyal opposition to Karzai questioning the election’s legitimacy would be one thing, and bad enough; a dysfunctional split or open revolt would be another.
He also talks about what isn't mentioned now, our exit strategy:
[The current debate] is whether to send more U.S. troops to partner with Afghan security forces in order to buy enough time—three to five years—so that Afghan security forces can successfully take the lead against the Taliban, and U.S. forces can withdraw to a supporting role and be reduced in number, as has happened in Iraq. For all of the controversy about sending more U.S. troops, there is relatively little controversy in Washington about the need to build up the Afghan army and police as quickly and effectively as possible. This project, however, carries risks that are hardly ever reviewed in public.
Is it necessary to say that the risks are significant? Unfortunately, there is plenty more where that comes from, and a few will be listed after the jump, but I had to end this section with a potential solution to Afghanistan's political problems. Jon Krakauer and Ansar Rahel make the case for holding another loya jirga:
Afghans need to start again from scratch and choose their leader by a fresh process that restores legitimacy to the national government. Fortunately, such a process already exists — one that is both highly respected by the Afghan people and recognized in the Afghan Constitution: the convening of an emergency loya jirga, or grand assembly. The loya jirga has been called in times of national crisis in Afghanistan for centuries.
Nicholas Kristof, "The Afghanistan Abyss" September 5:
The solution is neither to pull out of Afghanistan nor to double down. Rather, we need to continue our presence with a lighter military footprint, limited to training the Afghan forces and helping them hold major cities, and ensuring that Al Qaeda does not regroup. We must also invest more in education and agriculture development, for that is a way over time to peel Pashtuns away from the Taliban. This would be a muddled, imperfect strategy with frustratingly modest goals, but it would be sustainable politically and militarily. And it does not require heavy investments of American and Afghan blood.
Why do we allow debates as important as this to become a false dichotomy?

Robert Dreyfuss, "The Afghanistan Apocalypse" August 26. Nice names for these articles, huh? Dreyfuss went to a talk at the Brookings Institution where the four panelists were all Afghanistan hawks. One was Anthony Cordesman, a conservative military expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, who was part of McChrystal's review team. One interesting tidbit:
He blasted General James Jones, the national security adviser, for expressing White House opposition to additional troops during a meeting with McChrystal at which Bob Woodward of the Washington Post was present.
Have we found our leaker? Part II discussed a similar talk at the Heritage Foundation and was written a day later. There is some damning stuff about the Afghan election from someone who was on the ground, but most of this article is devoted to how silly the other three panelists were:
Comic relief at the Heritage Foundation event was provided by David Isby, a self-described "military expert" and apparent loony right-winger. His two gems: (1) "We need a relationship with Afghanistan like that we have with Israel." And (2) "Every mosque in Afghanistan on Friday preaches propaganda for the enemy." Leaving aside his idiotic comment No. 1, and taking up the second idiotic comment, Isby seems to believe that the problem in Afghanistan is that the people who live there are Muslims. He proposed some cockamamie idea about how America could help reinvent Islam in Afghanistan -- a proposal that, if the Taliban got ahold of it, would adorn every recruiting poster they print. (I know that they don't actually produce recruiting posters. It's a metaphor.)
Brookings is indeed in the center in this debate, but the center is a shade left of neocon. Heritage is the right, which in this case is outright looney.

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