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Friday, September 12, 2008

A Man, A Plan, Afghanistan

This is a wonderful outline of possible measures that could be implemented in Afghanistan to "win" the war. Outlining the deteriorating state of Afghanistan, Peter Bergen writes:
Don't be surprised. The U.S. invasion of Afghanistan achieved wonders--but only in the short term. Today, Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders are running free. Pakistan seems unable or unwilling to clamp down on leading militants on its territory, and jihadist attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan have increased enormously in the past year. More Pakistani citizens died in militant violence in 2007 than in the previous five years combined. Similarly, in Afghanistan's eastern provinces, violence is up by 40 percent in the last several months; more American soldiers are now dying in Afghanistan than in Iraq. And, as is by now well-known, U.S. intelligence assesses that Al Qaeda has regrouped along the Afghan-Pakistan border.

Citing how few security forces are present in Afghanistan, Bergen says that an Afghan draft could be used to create an Afghan National Guard with NATO taking the lead for training them. Despite this suggestion, Bergen paints a grim picture by comparing troop levels in Iraq to Afghanistan. Remember, General David Petraeus outlined a much larger force for counterinsurgency operations, what I will call the "necessary" force to "win." We still do not have the "necessary" force in Iraq, what we have is the "sufficient" force that does an adequate job of keeping the peace and treading water. In Afghanistan, we do not even have the "sufficient" force:
Iraq has around 550,000 members of the Iraqi security services and some 140, 000 American soldiers stationed there, while Afghanistan--which is one-third larger and has four million more citizens--has only 140,000 soldiers and police and around 70,000 US and NATO troops. You can't bring security to the country with those low numbers. And, without security, you can't have reconstruction.

Still, Afghanistan does not need a lot more American boots on the ground. It needs the right kind of boots. Because the U.S. military and NATO are now stretched to breaking point, the vast majority of additional soldiers and policemen must be supplied by the Afghans. To that end, the coalition must send more Special Forces and civilian advisers who specialize in the training of indigenous forces.
In addition to a draft, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has also been contemplating the formation of tribal militias in order to hurt Taliban authority:
Ordinary Afghans tend to trust their tribal shuras to solve their problems, and these "Sons of Afghanistan" would fill the security void until the Afghan army and police reached levels at which they could secure their country--many, many years from now. Such tribal militias could be paid with U.S. funds just as the Sons of Iraq are. Such a plan, though, must be implemented carefully, to avoid recreating the warlord-led militias that have been so successfully disbanded since the fall of the Taliban.

In addition to more troops, Bergen argues for three projects that the troops should be working on to complete in order to keep regular Afghans' support: 1. Fixing the electrical grid, 2. securing the Kandahar-Kabul road, and 3. "finishing the Kajaki dam in southern Afghanistan should become a top priority; when completed, it will provide electricity to some two million Afghans, most of whom live deep in Talibanland."

Finally, Bergen deals with American drug policy in Afghanistan:
Also currently feeding the Taliban's ranks is America's boneheaded counternarcotics strategy. America's primary policy prescription is poppy field eradication, and a more failed policy is hard to imagine: Afghanistan continues to produce ever-larger amounts of opium and its derivative, heroin--providing 93 percent of the world's supply--and the Taliban insurgency is financed in good part by this trade. What's more, two million Afghan farmers and their families survive on poppies, and those whose crops are destroyed are generally the poorer ones who can't pay the bribes to have their fields left alone. No surprise that those farmers are easy recruits to the Taliban cause.

Instead of penalizing these poor farmers, the United States needs to invest in the legitimate Afghan agricultural economy--though subsidies, price supports, and seeds for alternative crops--and to build roads to get those crops to market. As it did with Colombia's drug kingpins in the 1990s, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration should make use of Afghanistan's shame-based culture and make public the list of the country's top drug suspects, including government officials.
My take on this situation revolves around U.S. policy towards Pakistan. Bergen deals with this towards the end of the piece, but not at length. Though citing how the ISI tolerates the Taliban because they fear that the U.S. will make a sloppy withdrawal, Bergen makes no mention of a U.S. brokered peace between India and Pakistan in Kashmir. This should be of even greater importance to the U.S. than the Israel-Palestine situation. Pakistan has tried to embrace the United States for years, and we have turned the other way, instead embracing India more. On the Indian front, we still haven't even gotten them to crack down on the drug trade which runs through India to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Our neophyte policies toward the India-Pakistan conflict must stop, and hopefully will with a new administration. We could better focus our diplomatic efforts on the India-Pakistan conflict than on the Israel-Palestine situation. On a similiar note, the U.S. must also deal with that Kurdistan-Turkey problem in Iraq as well... the next administration should attempt for broker a peace deal there too. Just think, we could have four democratic, predominantly Muslim nations if we broker peace between a new Kurdistan, Turkey, Iraq (sans Kurdistan which should be given independence), and Pakistan.

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