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Yes, The Weekly Standard Did

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Message Jim Dawson
The Weekly Standard just published a strong story about Afghanistan. The three authors, Max Boot, Frederick W. Kagan & Kimberly Kagan, spent 8 days traveling the country and feel hopeful that the war can conclude successfully.  They don't define what success is, but my assumption reading the article was that we will succeed when we can pull our troops out and  leave behind a stable Afghan government that provides its own security.

The positive focus was a welcome contrast from the doom and gloom in most US reporting.  The article is also refreshingly free of partisan  bickering and is properly focused on our efforts to secure the country. Far too many articles written about Iran, Iraq or Afghanistan actually focus on local US politics. We are all in this together and we need to find ways to solve these problems - regardless of political stripe.

Well done, Weekly Standard. We need more reporting on what is actually happening on the ground.  And the three authors offer a wealth of details about many aspects of our effort. The multiple voices  also mean that the article suffers from a lack of overall direction as separate sections are loosely stitched together, but the article is well worth reading.

The authors are not free of politics but they make a few excellent points that could really enlighten our national debate:

  • The term Taliban is all but meaningless. There are so many factions with layered, shifting allegiances that it is ridiculous to speak of them as a single, cohesive resistance.
  • Extra troops could secure and hold more areas of the country. But we do will not have enough troops to secure the entire country. The Afghan forces are performing well but there is not nearly enough of them.
  • The NATO structure needs overhaul as short assignments, too many players with different missions are leading to inefficiency and waste

I do have some questions for the authors.

There is no money, political will or plans to train enough Afghan forces to secure the country.  How can we succeed without finding a way to dramatically increase the size and capabilities of the local forces?

The authors rightfully point out that increased US troop strength could push some of the insurgent further west, close to Iran.  The authors says this is a problem because we don't have troops there and won't anytime soon.

Why do we need troops near Iran?

Iran has long been involved in that area of Afghanistan and shares language, custom and history with the Tajiks Western Afghanistan (25% of Afghanistan is Tajik). Iran helped us immensely during the 2001 war.  Iran doesn't want to see radical Pashtuns in power and they want to curb the flow of drugs. They would be glad to secure this area; why don't we work with them?

They are naturally allies here.  Why would we send in more Americans to fight in that god-forsaken terrain when it will antagonize a country that would love to do that fighting for us?

Economic development is crucial to a successive conclusion of the war. Security has to come first, but economic development needs to follow hard on its heels.  A working economy will be the best way to maintain stability and the lack of one will quickly erode all our hard fought gains.

We need to start thinking about how to rebuild the country.  Solving this may prove as difficult as creating security and we need to get it moving now.

Perhaps the American people can help.  We are sick of letting our soldiers do all the work. Poverty is caused  by a lack of money and there are new ways for those with resource to connect with those you don't.  If there are ways that we can help foster economic activity that will solidify the Afghanistan and bring our people home - count me in.

Let us all pick up on what this article started and continue to imagine how the US can succeed in Afghanistan, what peace will look like and how it will work.

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With a background in non-profit art, I moved into international and sustainable development. A part of that work is to help lift public debate about global issues such as, security (war), energy (oil-derived military policies), health and poverty (more...)
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