What Should President Obama Do About Afghanistan?

Way back in 2002 when the Bush administration was beginning this war, I did write the White House protesting because as I said then …”This will be a quagmire. Nobody  wins in Afghanistan. They are a tribal Islamist society and that is what is important to them.” And I was right. I had read a history of Afghanistan then which led me to this view. Recently I finished another book on Afghanistan, The Wrong War: Grit, Strategy, and the Way Out of Afghanistan,  by Bing West, a marine veteran, a former assistant Secretary of Defense during the Reagan Administration and author of The Village which virtually serves as a textbook for counterinsurgency in the marine corps. He was imbedded with several units in Afghanistan and this book paints a bleak picture of our participation in this war. From reading this I have come to the following conclusions.

The majority of the Afghan people do not care about Democracy at all. They care about their Family, their Tribe and their God. We have not defeated the Taliban. They are everywhere but are protected by the village elders, the police, the mullahs, and the people, because Afghans know they will be here forever.  They will always return and since many of them are family or fellow tribesmen, to them goes the people’s allegiance. Afghans know The Nato forces will eventually go away and they fear the revenge of the Taliban to those who had heloped the Americans.

The Taliban initially didn’t get the elders on their side. They got the village mullahs.  By intertwining religious fervor with tribal identity, they have got the people on their side for the long run.

We  have spent vast amounts of money in this war. Not only what we spend in troops and material and support, but huge amounts in bribes and payments to Afghans. Typically we have gone into a village, met with the elders, promised protection against the Taliban , promised to build schools, wells, irrigation systems. Given them the money to do this and then the Afghans either don’t do it or come back and then ask the troops to actually build whatever. After 10 years of this we have produced a society which depends on us. We have turned our soldiers into Peace Corpsmen, but then at night they have to turn into warriors.

Let’s talk about our magnificent soldiers, who return time and time again, who are hampered by rules of engagement which require permission to actually fire on what they know is the enemy. They are relegated to existing for long periods of time in the most rudimentary of conditions, in terrible weather, surrounded by enemy they interact with daily. Since there are so few of them, they  must endure multiple deployments.Too many of them have died. Even more of them have been horribly injured for life.  Is there any wonder why there is such a high incidence of suicides among them.

And then there is the elephant in the room, Pakistan, which serves as a refuge, a supporter and a supplier of the Taliban. At every level of the government, the Pakistanis are playing both sides of the coin, keeping in good with the Taliban while bleeding the U.S.  for financial support. Remember where Oama bin Laden was hiding, and who was obviously aware of that. Realize that the Pakjistanis who helped point him out were recently arrested by the Pakistani police. Pakistanis are not our friends, and they have nuclear weapons.

Realistically to succeed at destroying the Taliban influence in the area will take many more years, and may never happen in the mileux of terrorists, corrupt politicians, radical religous zealots and opportunists which is Afghanistan.

I understand the arguments for continuing what we are doing. I fear for the women and children of Afghanistan when we leave.  I don’t want to cut and run, but to continue as we have is insane, cruel to our armed forces and their families, devastating for our economy and fruitless. There have been opportunists on our side getting rich from this war as well. They, in my estimation, are truly traitors, but we’ll leave them for another posting. So what should Presiden Obama do?

My Recommendations:

1. Pull out 50,000 troops this summer and fall.

2. Become Lean and Mean. Keep small cadres of advisors and counterinsurgency specialists partnering U.S. units and Afghan units together to continue training them and supporting their efforts. This will limit the amount of material we need sent in through Pakistan as support and lessen our dependence on them.

3. Continue and increase drone strikes and air support

4. Stop doling out money needllessly —these people have been draining the well and not reciprocating with information, assistance or loyalty.

5. Strongly encourage the Afghan government to stop corruption especially within its own structure. Enable field commanders to be able to fire incompetent personnel e.g. governors/policemen & Afghan army personnel

6. Forcefully address the Pakistan Problem by cutting off the money faucet.


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