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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 12/8/09

Lightning Bolts and Slopes in Afghanistan

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I have a rendezvous with Death
At some disputed barricade . . .
I have a rendezvous with Death
On some scarred slope of battered hill . . .
But I've a rendezvous with Death
At midnight in some flaming town

There was a remarkable admission of the fragility of the military mission the president has ordered escalated in Afghanistan which came from Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. At Camp Lejeune Monday, the admiral told a group of 700 departing troops, "We don't have a lot of time. We've got about 18-24 months Ś the slope on this insurgency is going in the wrong direction " We've got to turn that insurgency around Ś reverse the momentum is what Gen McChrystal says is his top priority of this insurgency."

"We are not winning, which means we are losing and as we are losing, the message traffic out there to the (insurgency) recruits keeps getting better and better and more keep coming," Mullen said. "That's why we need the 30,000 and in particular, and you are the lead on this, getting in there this year, over the next 12 months, almost in lightning bolt fashion."

It's an amazing proposition, on its face, that this heightened counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan can accomplish in 18-24 months with 200,000 troops what the Army's own manual on COIN says would take a minimum of 600,000 to have any significant success in cowing insurgent populations into submission.

It's a dicey proposition because the success of the president's military enterprise in Afghanistan presumes that, on the other side of the offensive line our military forces draw in the dirt, the rest of the Afghan population will line up behind the regime we've enabled into power out of gratitude and appreciation for the beneficence of U.S. cash the administration plans to invest in the institutions which governments rely on to deliver services, administer justice, and provide the population with basic policing and security.

The admiral described the stakes in their nation-building challenge beyond whatever offensive action planned for the incoming troops.

"I don't underestimate the challenge that President Karzai has, not just at the national level in Kabul, but throughout the country down to its tribal leaders, to deliver security goods and services to the Afghan people and if we don't get that right. If we don't get that right -- 30,000, 60,000, 90,000 -- it wouldn't make any difference," Mullen said.

It's that political/social component of the Afghanistan enterprise, which is meant to serve as the panacea for the administration's cautions that their ambitions in Afghanistan 'can't be solved by military means alone'. Yet it is a dilemma of our present political system that the president finds it easier to commit troops to fight and die and get Congress to cough up the money than it is to generate support among legislators for the investments in the aid and development side of nation-building - which this White House and Pentagon will need to transform the results of their escalated occupation from a mere redrawn line in the dirt to the political and military buffer they envision erecting against their al-Qaeda nemesis next door in Pakistan.

Yet it is the offensive role of the increased forces against the Afghanistan Taliban which will dominate the new mission from the start. Around 900 US Marines and sailors, British troops and more than 150 Afghan soldiers and police took part in Operation Khareh Cobra, or "Cobra's Anger" in the valley of Now Zad justy days after the deployment order was signed for a little over half of the 30,000 troops the president asked for. The aim of the offensive is to make good on President Obama's direction in the presentation of his plan to use the increased force to give the Afghan regime and military the 'space to take over'.

It doesn't take much imagination to wonder about the consequences of the blowback which is certain to come from the military rousting of the Afghan resistance communities, but Michele Flournoy, the Pentagon's policy chief, in testimony Monday at the American Enterprise Institute, expressed confidence that the military offensive would push the Taliban back on their heels.

"In general (the insurgents) have got to be worried," she said Monday at the American Enterprise Institute. "I think what they tried to do is create the conditions for reassessment that would lead for the US to start pulling out its forces," she said.

"And what do they get instead? They get an additional 30,000 (troops), plus an allied show of resolve, an increased commitment, an increased investment," she said. "On the other side of the border, they're coming under pressure from the Pakistani military that they've never experienced before."

However, this weekend, Sen. Russ Feingold questioned the actual placement of troops as he understood them. "Pakistan, in the border region near Afghanistan, is perhaps the epicenter of global terrorism, although al Qaida is operating all over the world, in Yemen, in Somalia, in northern Africa, affiliates in Southeast Asia, he said. "Why would we build up 100,000 or more troops in parts of Afghanistan included that are not even near the border? You know, this buildup is in Helmand Province. That's not next door to Waziristan. So I'm wondering, what exactly is this strategy, given the fact that we have seen that there is a minimal presence of Al Qaida in Afghanistan, but a significant presence in Pakistan? It just defies common sense that a huge boots on the ground presence in a place where these people are not is the right strategy. It doesn't make any sense to me."

The Secretary of State put the military mission and concerns about Pakistan's border with Afghanistan at the head of her remarks before the Senate Foreign Relation's committee this week. "The extremists who have taken root in the border area of Pakistan and Afghanistan have attacked us before, they've attacked our allies, they are now attempting to destabilize, if not overthrow the Pakistani Government and take back enough control, if not the entire country of Afghanistan," she told the senators.

"We believe that if we allow Afghanistan to become a failed state, if we allow the extremists to have the same safe havens that they used before 2001, they will have a greater capacity to regroup and attack again, and also to continue to provide the leadership, the operational and logistical support that they currently provide to global extremism. We believe they could drag an entire region into chaos, and we know that based on the reports from our military and civilian leadership, the situation in Afghanistan is serious and worsening," she warned.

She sought to assure those listening in the committee and abroad that the U.S. is in the Afghanistan enterprise for the long haul. "Our resolve in this fight is reflected in the commitment of troops since the President took office, and in the significant civilian commitment that will continue long after our combat forces begin to leave," she said.

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Ron Fullwood, is an activist from Columbia, Md. and the author of the book 'Power of Mischief' : Military Industry Executives are Making Bush Policy and the Country is Paying the Price
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