Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Comment on Belmont Club
"Insurgency vs counterinsurgency"

@Old Blue,
Expand that to 35,000 words, wrapping it around a story to personalize it and you have a book that will sell. Better you might have a screenplay. Wars are hard, you do not "choose" war. You accept it or surrender. We have been over the logistics involved in our fragile Afghan position ad nauseum. Right now the Northern route exits at Putin's sufferance. The loss of the Kyrghiz airbase s a warning that a worst case retreat through the North could end up like a retreat from Moscow. The Khyber route is cut. Our choices are:

1) Do nothing and keep a small footprint in Afghanistan, one warlord among many as the forces gather around us. We could hopefully do that for some time. Possibly events will happen to the West or East that will improve our position in the future or things may get worse.

2) Run away and accept another 20 years of violence and contempt in a world that knows the US is a paper tiger. This would be the Vietnam fantasies of the aging Left come true with a vengeance. Only now instead of facing the last hopeful thrashings of a dying Soviet dinosaur we would face the rising ambitions of a resurgent China and a triumphant Islam.

3) Add 30,000 or more troops to Afghanistan in the hope that they will so overawe the Taiban that, despite the fact that the social and political soil is much less fertile for making a surge work than they were in Iraq, everyone promises to be nice and devote themselves to community organizing and sustainable development while we quickly declare victory and go home. This is the strategy I most expect to lead to an American Dien bien phu.

4) Pour in all the resources needed to transform the Afghan society into something capable of supporting a civil society and accompany it with the long term deployment of COIN forces sufficient to do the job. This would be the 50 years at least of the American Raj approach. It has two problems, the geographic that makes the massive surge problematic and the American political which makes any long term commitment impossible.

5) Focus our efforts on Pakistan while conducting a holding action in the Taliban rear with raids into Pakistan's tribal areas from the West. This could entail an effective dismemberment of Pakistan in conjunction with India to ensure a safe supply route to Kabul. To do this would require the cooperation of China, which could prove expensive. It is doubtful that the present American administration has the stomach for such a policy.

So we have 5 options that range from the risky to the disastrous with the least likely to fail over the long term being those that Obama is least likely to pursue. My expectation is that he will attempt some kind of short term surge designed so that he can "Declare Victory" and pull out with the country collapsing behind him. Al-Qada may give him the fig leaf given that he has been negotiating with them for months. They may just spring the trap and eat 50,000 Americans.

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