The war in Iraq is over, well,
maybe. On Aug. 31st our President did not exactly say that. He said,
Iraq war was nearing
an end," whatever that is supposed to mean. Well, he did say all
combat troops have left Iraq. No, that is not right. Combat brigades merely
changed their names to Advise and Assist brigades.
These combat brigades, who are not really combat brigades, but armed to teeth like ones, number about 50,000 American troops. They also die like those real soldiers in combat brigades notwithstanding that their description was administratively changed.
I will continue to follow the lead of the MSM in ignoring the State Department's hired guns in Iraq who number 100,000 and likely to grow in number. Not unlike the Advise and Assist troops, they are not combat soldiers, either, although armed to teeth like ones. They are called contractors.
Ignoring this mass of oxymoron issues, I am going to follow the advice of my President. I am going to "turn the page" to the good war, Afghanistan.
Our ever-popular NATO commander, Gen. David Petraeus, recently demoted to the position, has already asked for more troops, a practice of generals since time immortal. Hat in hand he went to NATO headquarters in Brussels requesting 2,000 more troops. It is not clear where he is going to get them, probably the U.S. because the EU clearly wants out " if he gets them. Prior to his assignment as NATO commander in Afghanistan, Petraeus was the CentCom commander in charge of both the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as much of the Middle East op area.
The expenditures for the training of the ANA (Afghan National Army) and the ANP (Afghan National Police) is projected to taper off from $11.6B next year to an average of $6.2B over the next four years, according to a detailed NATO training mission document.
The question must be asked. Is it worth it? Many feel that Afghanistan's strategic interest to the United States is minimal. George Friedman of Stratfor writes, "The only justification for the war is that al Qaeda launched its attacks on the United States from Afghanistan. But that justification is no longer valid. Al Qaeda can launch attacks from Yemen or other countries. The fact that Afghanistan was the base from which the attacks were launched does not mean that al Qaeda depends on Afghanistan to launch attacks. And given that the apex leadership of al Qaeda has not launched attacks in a while, the question is whether al Qaeda is capable of launching such attacks any longer. In any case, managing al Qaeda today does not require nation building in Afghanistan." He adds, "The threat of terrorism cannot become the singular focus of the United States. Let me push it further: The United States cannot subordinate its grand strategy to simply fighting terrorism even if there will be occasional terrorist attacks on the United States. Three thousand people died in the 9/11 attacks. That is a tragedy, but in a nation of over 300 million, 3,000 deaths cannot be permitted to define the totality of national strategy. Certainly, resources must be devoted to combating the threat and, to the extent possible, disrupting it. But it must also be recognized that terrorism cannot always be blocked, that terrorist attacks will occur and that the world's only global power cannot be captive to this single threat."
Recently, Hamid Karzai, the President of Afghanistan, known also as the mayor of Kabul, implored the Taliban to come to the table for truce talks. It is a one-sided conversation. The Taliban is not interested. The Taliban at this point do not feel the pressure required for them to capitulate or negotiate and therefore continue to follow their strategy of surviving and waiting for the coalition forces to depart.
On the other hand, top administration officials have been indicating that only token military withdrawals will occur in July 2011, and Obama is not refuting the statements. Indeed, in his comments from the Oval Office on Aug. 31, he stated that the July 2011 withdrawals would be "conditions based."
Reader, I, too, am trying to make sense of all this. Unfortunately, it gets a little worse.
Armed resistance in Afghanistan is nothing new. It has existed there for centuries, driven by a number of factors. A ten-year old boy in Afghanistan can field strip an AK-47 and fire it with extreme accuracy. One of the primary factors in this calculus is the country's geography. Because of its rugged and remote terrain, it is very difficult for a foreign power (or even an indigenous government in Kabul) to enforce its writ on many parts of the country. From the days of Alexander the Great to the British Empire in the 1800's (twice) to the Red Army invasion of Afghanistan, which led to an eight-year war culminating in the Red Army retreating with its tail between its legs, Afghans have resisted all foreign invaders before the birth of Christ. Also, Afghanistan is a different world. To many troops it is almost as if they landed on a different planet.
Finally, there is religion. While Afghanistan is predominantly a Sunni Muslim country, there is a significant Shiite minority as well. The hardcore Pashtun Taliban are not very tolerant of the Shia, and they can also be harsh toward more moderate Sunnis who do things such as send their daughters to school, trim their beards, listen to music and watch movies.
With respect to Afghanistan I am bundle of contradictions, and not unlike our political and military leadership, I am rapidly running out of solutions to the problem, assuming I ever had any good ones in the first place. A precipitate withdrawal would be very unwise. This is equally true of a years long stay in Afghanistan. There are very serious doubts whether any semblance of victory in Afghanistan is possible. After all, the U.S. has not achieved that in nearly nine years of fighting. Worse, the Taliban with its affiliates in Pakistan is now stronger than at any other given point. Is there any real expectation that change is in the air for Afghanistan, or will Afghanistan remain as it has for the past 2500 years? Logic dictates the latter is true.