I love it when a succinctly-put phrase, or a concise, hard-hitting sentence or two, breaks it all wide open and I’m struck by genius. I really love that. (And of course I mean the ‘genius’ of another…my IQ isn’t that high!)
In the process of re-reading, reviewing & organizing papers and notes, in order to begin this post, I read such a statement that I must’ve missed the first time around. Following the trend of thought & logic presented by former West Point professor and Yale graduate Frederick W. Kagan, concerning the necessary ingredients for victory in Afghanistan, I found this most enlightening (to me) conclusion: ” That does not mean the problem lies with our overall “footprint” in Afghanistan, but rather that we should rethink where (emphasis mine) to put our feet……Understanding this principle is vital, because if we misinterpret the nature of the “footprint” problem we might come to the erroneous conclusion that success requires fewer forces rather than more—or, as some senior leaders are increasingly suggesting, that our presence is the problem.” (Frederick W. Kagan, “Planning Victory in Afghanistan“ )
Alternative viewpoints can be invaluable. Alternative viewpoints conceived our American democracy. Such viewpoints engender conflict, struggle and ultimately require compromise in policy, as was with our Constitution. These are good things.
This will probably be my last post on Afghanistan (for awhile, at least). (I hope I’m not hearing cheers out there!) Anyway…in my recent readings & writings, I’ve noticed similarities and/or parallels of sorts, between the above-quoted Frederick Kagan’s viewpoints, and ensuing AfPak developments. My intent with this post is to point them out.
“Afghanistan is not now a sanctuary for al-Qaeda, but it would likely become one again if we abandoned it.”
” Allowing Afghanistan to fail would mean allowing these determined enemies of the United States to regain the freedom they had before 9/11.”
I continue to be completely unable to comprehend how so many Americans appear to not get this, as dwindling support for our military presence here would seem to suggest. With sharpened Taliban fighting skills leading to greater Taliban control (Bad News, Pt.1) of this critical area, it should be obvious that insurgency dominance is equivalent to a wide open door for al-Qaeda. “Birds of a feather…”, right? Though all indications evidence al-Qaeda & its key leaders to be primarily Pakistani-based, as well as the removed head of the Taliban government, from these havens contacts are maintained between the two organizations, and insurgent activity is supported in both southern & eastern Afghanistan. Give up Afghanistan, and you’re giving bin Laden free reign. Do that, and America will be looking at a disaster scenario far worse than 9/11.
At the time Mr. Kagan wrote this article (2/09), I don’t recall just how committed the U.S. was to success in Afghanistan. Apparently not enough, though – “The Pakistani leadership appears convinced that America will abandon its efforts in South Asia sooner rather than later…”, resulting in continued Pakistani support for the Afghan Taliban operating in their territory. Such support ensures a certain level of control over the insurgents, which is desirable for the Pakistanis, especially if they are unsure of American reliability in this endeavour. “ Until it is widely believed that the U.S. will remain in the fight until the insurgency is defeated, doubt about our commitment will continue to fuel the insurgency.” Locally, the Afghanistan populace, fearing Taliban retaliation, may hesitate to commit to us if they doubt our commitment to them. Kagan concludes that “we must make it clear that we will do what it takes to win” in order to gain the trust and cooperation of the people of both countries.
Based on previous patterns of American retreat/abandonment in Middle East crises/attacks, from 1983 through 1992, Kagan also theorizes that, by duking it out in Afghanistan, a ‘changed…global perception’ of American fortitude would vastly improve our own security, homeland and abroad.
(All quotes are from F.W. Kagan’s article “Planning Victory in Afghanistan”)
I have a number of points yet to make here, and hope to publish another post or two in this vein of thought, before finishing up with AfPak subject matter. However, this may take awhile. For over a year I have been struggling in situations that have become, finally, intolerable, remaining in them for several reasons, one of which was to continue with ‘God, History and You’. I can no longer do this. GH&Y is not shutting down, but it is necessary to let it go a bit, for a season, while I attend to other matters. Posting will be sporadic, if that…! (although that’s nothing new, really, is it?!) I may be off the radar for a time. Hopefully, once issues are settled, I’ll have a renewed focus.