There Is No Plan

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Nobody Fights in Afghanistan and Wins.

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From a superficial perspective, the idea of diverting US forces to Afghanistan as we draw down troops in Iraq seems like a good idea. But Afghanistan is a deeply inhospitable, corrupt, backward, and highly unstable failed state with an almost feudal social structure. It’s been resisting modernity and foreign control for millenia.

Before we do anything we need to make a strategic decision about our goals. It’s clear that the Taliban must go, but forget democracy, stability is just fine. It’s equally clear that increasing US ground forces by a few combat brigades will not do the job. The war would slog on for many years at great cost in lives and treasure. The Kush would be a graveyard for our grunts. There has to be another way. And there is.

There are two connected ways to beat the Taliban. We need both to win.

The first lies in economics of the Taliban.

The Taliban are really drug traffickers with a mission from God. They rely on weapons and recruits paid for by opium money. No opium. No money. No money. No recruits. No recruits. No power. All we have to do is to bribe the opium farmers not to plant the poppies. Over time we have to make the farmers very, very rich (in Afghan terms).  Of course we’d need to make sure we weren’t being played, but if there’s enough cash in it for the farmers, and we’re able to keep them honest, they’ll become a force we can rely on – just like the Sunni Awakening in Iraq. Afghans are fierce fighters and when there’s money at stake – watch out. Supporting this with a US or WFP strategy to improve agriculture will be very useful. We’ll need Special Forces teams on the ground doling out the money, and ground troops to verify, patrol and protect the farms, but the total investment will be a fraction of the costs planned.

The second part of the solution lies in cutting the Taliban off from their outside suppliers.

These are primarily Iran, Pakistan’s ISI, and other sources of Finance from the underbelly of the Saudi establishment for example. In the case of Iran, weakening their ties to the Taliban will be a part of a US diplomatic offensive to build a new rapprochement with Iran. We won’t have to ask them to choke off Taliban support. If Iran and the US get along (which they should) it will happen automatically. As for Pakistan, we have to help the Civilian government get out from under the heel of the Pakistani Army and ISI. The best way is to support the army not castigate it. After all it’s the first line of defense in Pakistan. There’s nothing a third world army likes more than US training and support. It will buy their loyalty and give the civilian government the breathing rooom it needs to make inroads against the Pakistani Taliban. Finally, Saudi we should put pressure on our Saudi “friends” to stop exporting Wahabbiism. And now we’re planning to go it alone on energy, we have some leverage to get them to do our bidding.

The end result could be that Afghanistant goes back to being a distant and dusty backwater with no strategic role to play. The world would be an awful lot safer.

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Written by coolrebel

January 27, 2009 at 6:14 am

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