Top Ten things that Could Derail Obama’s Afghanistan Plan

1. Obama’s plan depends heavily on training 100,000 new soldiers and 100,000 new policemen over the next three years. It has taken 8 years to train the first 100,000 soldiers fairly well, and the same period for the Europeans to train a similar number of police badly. Can the pace really be more than doubled and quality results still obtained?

2. Obama’s plan assumes that there can be a truly national Afghan army. But the current one is disproportionately Tajik and signally lacks troops from the troubled Helmand and Qandahar provinces. Unless the ethnic tensions are eased, training a big army could well provoke an anti-Tajik backlash in Pashtun regions that feel occupied.

3. Obama’s goal to “break the Taliban’s momentum” may well fail. Only 20 percent of insurgencies in modern times are defeated in a decisive military manner.

4. The US counter-insurgency plan assumes that Pashtun villagers dislike and fear the Taliban, and just need to be protected from them so as to stop the politics of intimidation. But what if the villagers are cousins of the Taliban and would rather support their clansmen than white Christian foreigners?

5. Obama is demanding that Pakistan help destroy the Taliban movement, a historical ally of Pakistan in Afghanistan. While Pakistan now has good reason to attempt to wipe out the Pakistani Taliban Movement, which has committed a good deal of terrorism against the country, Islamabad has no reason to attack the Afghan guerrilla groups fighting Karzai. They are fellow Muslims, and are Pashtuns (as are 12 percent of Pakistanis), and dislike India. The Northern Alliance elements in the Karzai government, which have recently grown stronger, are pro-India. Obama is asking Pakistan to betray its national interests, which is not realistic in the absence of some much bigger carrot than a few billion dollars in foreign aid.

6. Obama asserts that although the Afghan presidential election was marked by fraud, the results (the victory of Hamid Karzai) are legitimate within the constitutional framework. But isn’t it possible that Karzai has decisively lost legitimacy among broad sections of the Afghan public, wounding him as a partner in working for a recognition of the legitimacy of a greatly expanded foreign occupation army in the country?

7. Obama is demanding accountability from cabinet members in Afghanistan and offering agricultural and economic aid. But 15 present and former cabinet members are under investigation for massive embezzlement, and 7 key ministries were only able to spend 40% of their budget allocation last year. Isn’t Obama counting on a culture of official probity and a governmental capacity that simply does not exist in Kabul? What happens when there is more cabinet-level corruption and when the Ministry of Agriculture once again just can’t spend the money Obama gives it?

8. Obama assumes that the US is not fighting a broadbased insurgency in Afghanistan. This assumption is true in the sense that there is zero support for Taliban or Sunni extremists among Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks, and a majority of Pashtuns. But if we looked at the equivalent of counties in Helmand, Qandahar and some other Pashtun provinces, we might find substantial swathes of territory where the insurgency is in fact broadly based. Moreover, Pashtun guerrillas can count on a certain amount of sympathy from other Pashtuns in their struggle against foreign forces– including the 20-some million Pashtuns of Pakistan. If the issue is not the “cancer” of extremist ideology, but a form of religious Pashtun anti-imperialism, then that could be the basis for a broadly based movement.

9. Obama maintains that the “Taliban” have in recent years made common cause with “al-Qaeda” in seeking to overturn the Karzai government. But although the Taliban control 10-15% of Afghanistan, there are no al-Qaeda operatives to speak of in Afghanistan. That does not sound like much of a common cause. By confusing the Taliban with al-Qaeda, and by confusing the Taliban with other Pashtun guerrilla groups such as Hikmatyar’s Hizb-i Islami, Obama risks making the struggle a black and white one, whereas it has strong regional, ethnic and nationalist overtones (see 8 above). Black and white struggles are much more difficult to negotiate to a settlement.

10. The biggest threat of derailment comes from an American public facing 17 percent true unemployment and a collapsing economy who are being told we need to spend an extra $30 billion to fight less than 100 al-Qaeda guys in the mountains of Afghanistan, even after the National Security Adviser admitted that they are not a security threat to the US.

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8 Responses

  1. if you read the US military's own counterinsurgency manual

    link to fas.org

    You will find that even with the additional troops we will be only 1.3 MILLION troops short of the MINIMUM necessary to control the situation.

    Based on a population of 28.4 million and a standard 1:20 ratio, the US would need 1.4 MILLION troops to be successful. The only way to get the necessary troops would be to have a draft and print a lot more fake greenbacks.

    Since we can not win and there is no political will to sacrifice tens of thousands of our soldiers as cannon fodder, it is long past time to pull out.

    As to what will happen when we leave, I can only make some educated guesses but in the end, I just don't care what happens to the Afghans or Pakistanis. They do not have the capability to invade the US nor do they have the missile technology to nuke us and even if they do set off one nuke in the US using some other deliver mechanism, it will be suicidal because we will just nuke the whole country.

    Ron Paul may be a nutter about some things, but pulling our forces back into the US makes a lot of sense.

  2. It is THEIR country… all we might save is a little Face.

    Setting a deadline for Afghanistan should force their government to become compotent.

    I bet Bin Laden's Ego is bursting at the seams. We've murdered 1,500,000 innocent people trying to kill him… and missed.

  3. Like every other president selling a war, Obama presents the rosiest possible outcome scenario. I wonder how many experts really think things will change much by 2011.

  4. "Obama maintains that the "Taliban" have in recent years made common cause with "al-Qaeda" in seeking to overturn the Karzai government. But although the Taliban control 10-15% of Afghanistan, there are no al-Qaeda operatives to speak of in Afghanistan. That does not sound like much of a common cause"

    According to this link link to mcclatchydc.com
    U.S. intelligence assessments found that the Taliban have much closer ties to al Qaida now than they did before 9/11 and that they would allow al qaida to re-establish bases in Afghanistan.
    Also in the book the looming tower it said that in 1992 there was 92 al qaida members worldwide so isnt a hundred members of al qaida a lot.

  5. @DMoloney The McClatchy article that you cited, Are Obama advisers downplaying Afghan dangers? is dated 11-OCT-2009 and as such appears to be a remnant of the all too public tit-for-tat media campaign between certain military staff officers and White House staff advisors. The article asserts that non-public Recent U.S. intelligence assessments have found that the Taliban and other Pakistan-based groups that are fighting U.S.-led forces have much closer ties to al Qaida now than they did before 9/11, would allow the terrorist network to re-establish bases in Afghanistan and [this] would help, [thus] Osama bin Laden [to] export his radical brand of Islam to Afghanistan's neighbors and beyond, unnamed officials said. This statement appearing to provide rhetorical ammunition to the generals' "counter-insurgency" agenda versus the more narrowly focused "counter-terrorist" agenda, as the debate was framed at that time. Note that it is one "intelligence assessment" of likely many other views produced by our intelligence agencies… but fwiw careful reading reveals that the actual "threat" of "Taliban ties to al Qaida," (were this hypothetical future to actually happen) is that this would "allow Osama bin Laden to export his radical brand of Islam." (and when you think about it, al Qaeda does not need any base in Afghanistan, or any other place, to "export its brand" ~ any more than similarly configured hollow corporations e.g., like Nike need Seattle, or Levis needs to be in San Francisco "to export their brands" :)

    otoh, further down in the meat of this old newswire artifact there are a remarkable number of talking points and recent conclusions recently emphasized by professor Cole:

    White House officials, they said, have concluded that McChrystal's approach could be doomed by election fraud, corruption and other problems in Afghanistan; by continued Pakistani covert support for the insurgency; by the strains on the Army, Marine Corps and the federal budget; and by a lack of political and public support at home, which they fear could also undermine the president's domestic priorities.

    "McChrystal and Petraeus are ignoring the problems their (counterinsurgency) approach would face in Afghanistan and here at home," said one intelligence official with extensive experience in South Asia and counterterrorism. "We don't have a reliable partner in Afghanistan or Pakistan; doubling the size of the Afghan army is a pipedream, given the corruption and literacy problems; and neither Congress nor the American people are likely to give it the money, the troops or the decade or so it would need to work, if it would work."

  6. "Note that it is one "intelligence assessment" of likely many other views produced by our intelligence agencies…"

    The link used the words intelligence assessments(plural) not assessment.

    "al Qaeda does not need any base in Afghanistan, or any other place, to "export its brand"

    Yes al qaida will continue to export its brand but will it do it as effectively without a network of bases in afghanistan,unlikely,if these bases were pointless why did al qaida waste resources making them in the first place or wish to set them up again.

    Afghanistan is indeed important as pointed out by Peter Bergen "Nearly every major jihadist plot against Western targets in the last two decades somehow leads back to Afghanistan or Pakistan. The first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 was masterminded by Ramzi Yousef, who had trained in an Al Qaeda camp on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Ahmed Ressam, who plotted to blow up LAX airport in 1999, was trained in Al Qaeda's Khaldan camp in Afghanistan. Key operatives in the suicide attacks on two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998 and the USS Cole in 2000 trained in Afghanistan; so did all 19 September 11 hijackers. The leader of the 2002 Bali attack that killed more than 200 people, mostly Western tourists, was a veteran of the Afghan camps. The ringleader of the 2005 London subway bombing was trained by Al Qaeda in Pakistan. The British plotters who planned to blow up passenger planes leaving Heathrow in the summer of 2006 were taking direction from Pakistan; a July 25, 2006, e-mail from their Al Qaeda handler in that country, Rashid Rauf, urged them to "get a move on." If that attack had succeeded, as many as 1,500 would have died. The three men who, in 2007, were planning to attack Ramstein Air Base, a U.S. facility in Germany, had trained in Pakistan's tribal regions."

    link to peterbergen.com

    The link also shows that members of the taliban have stated they have firm links with al qaida and vice versa, i know some will counter this with recent claims that the taliban do not seek to commit terrorism in the west but this is more than likely just propaganda, according to the peter bergen link above the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan has already attempted an attack.

    Im aware that they are other intelligence individuals who claim that the Taliban wouldn't allow al Qaeda to reestablish bases inside Afghanistan,
    link to ipsnews.net
    however most of the critiques come from former not current members of intelligence agencies such as John McCreary and although their opinions should be noted they do seem to be based a bit on wishful thinking in believing that the Taliban will behave rationally when in the past they have constantly failed to adopt a realpolitik view and act on it.

    We should also not presume that just because their is dissent in the taliban against al qaida it would nullify the threat, there has always been dissent yet nothing was ever done,even after the embassy bombings which destroyed any chance of the taliban having any reasonable relations with the west,or after cole,even after 9/11 they didnt cut relations with al qaida. I know some will say they offered to turn bin laden over if evidence was provided however when evidence was provided linking bin laden with the embassy bombings they still acted as his host.

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