Leaving Las Ghanistan
The Obama Administration has engaged in a review of its Afghanistan policy so that the President can reconsider General Stanley McChrystal’s request of 40,000 American troops to repel the revitalized Taliban insurgency. All signs point to the President approving McChrystal’s recommendation, but American national interests would be better served by a draw down of US Forces in the AfPak theatre.
In 2008, Presidential Candidate Obama declared the Afghan conflict a War of Necessity which was essential to the national security of the United States. The rational behind this statement was that the Taliban would infiltrate Afghanistan, and once again establish bases from which they would launch terrorist attacks against the American homeland. US Intelligence however, has revealed that Afghanistan is not the only launching pad available to the Taliban and Al Qaeda networks. Radical Jihads and Mujahideen (holy fighters) forces are present in cell forms in Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and Pakistan. If the goal of the Afghan War is to destroy Taliban footholds, then President Obama would theoretically need to invade 4 other nations that are infested by Al Qaeda.
Not only is General McChrystal’s counter-insurgency plan short sighted, but it also makes the mistake of importing the lessons learned in the War in Iraq to the Afghan battlefield. The “Surge” waged by General David Petraus in Iraq was effective in large part because of the “Sunni Awakening” that coincided with the increase in US forces. In short, the US Military paid Sunni and Shia tribal leaders to end their offensives against one another and American forces. The resulting cease fire drastically decreased US causalities and put an end to the repetitive cycle of secretarian violence. Without the acquiescence of Iraqi tribal leaders the “Surge” would have fell flat on its face, and the ground war in Iraq would remain in chaos.
This reality means that even if McChrystal is granted additional troops by President Obama, violence in the region will only increase unless said increase is accompanied by diplomatic concessions made to and by the Taliban, the very enemy we seek to exterminate. The Obama Administration refuses to sit down with the fractious Taliban and Al Qaeda leaderships because of their apparent role in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. This inflexibility is counter productive and limits the counter-insurgency McChrystal seeks to wage.
The alternatives to increasing troop levels in Afghanistan are far from limited. Vice President Joe Biden is on record as suggesting a limited US presence capable of launching US Special Forces, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), and Predator drone attacks against the Taliban’s leadership. American Intelligence has become more effective in recent months, and such strikes have resulted in the deaths of numerous high level terrorists on the battlefield. Biden’s limited approach should receive serious consideration, and at worst be modified so that the current number of US Troops remains stagnant and becomes sufficient to continue an effective pursuit of our enemies.
Another strategic alternative would be for the Obama Administration to proceed in . Afghan poppy productions accounts for over 90% of the world’s heroin production, and most of the profits are funneled to the Taliban. The resources made from the drug trade literally become more bombs, guns, and RPGs that the Taliban can use against US Troops. US Forces have seem limited strategic success in using pesticides to destroy Afghan poppies, but this action has lead to increased attacks against American forces and backlash from the communities that rely on these crops. The Obama Administration should continue waging a drug war against the cartels of Afghanistan and explore alternatives which concentrate on the problem the opium crops are creating. US Forces should continue to promote the growing of legal and profitable crops such as wheat and fruit trees, which characterized the Afghan plains prior to the Soviet Unions destruction of the agricultural industry after their 1979 invasion.
Afghanistan is a raw and fledgling democracy. Hamid Karzai’s re-election was largely seen as a fraud to neutral observers, and President Obama would be hard pressed to detail why a corrupt partner such as Karzai is worth the investment of 40,000 American soldiers. The War in Afghanistan began for nobel reasons but when considering the new conditions on the ground a greater expenditure of American blood and treasure makes little sense — especially when our strategic objectives can seemingly be met with a substantially smaller and less expensive force. Hopefully President Obama will spur his critics and declare once and for all that the United States is “Leaving Afghanistan”. 40,000 American soldiers and their families are hoping he does exactly that.