Posted tagged ‘General Stanley McChrystal’

America Confused?

October 7, 2009

Senator John McCain said it so clearly. “General McChrystal has said what he needs and the President should authorize the additional troops.” It must be very comforting to be sure you are right. And we know John McCain is right, at least of center.

For me it is very refreshing to hear a President say he is not going to initiate a “tactic” until he has defined his objective and main strategies. Unlike the previous Administration that shot first and planned later, Obama is trying to get the horse in the right order.

It is possible, of course, that in the end President Obama will see it like John McCain. What is not clear now is under what circumstances he may reach that conclusion. The present Afghanistan government has no chance to survive without US military presence. It is corrupt and its members are more interested in their personal well being than the survival of an independent Afghanistan. The Taliban are no group of geniuses. They are modernity rejectionists who prefer their women covered and always ready and willing to have sex with their husbands. But for those who want to traffic heroin or have more oil money than they know what to do with, there will be a steady flow of financial support for the Taliban insurgency. And where there is Taliban, al Qaeda or what ever similar organization that might emerge, will be there too.

Americans are being asked to believe that with military presence, nation building can take place, and that once the Afghan Government is strong, the Taliban can be stopped. Sounds simple and straight forward.

I suggest that if you accept this reasoning, you should reread the history of Vietnam.

Americans have spent over 4000 lives and close to $1 trillion on Iraq for reasons that no one can quite explain. Senator McCain was also sure that Iraq was a war we should fight. I am beginning to understand why Americans might be confused.

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Role Reversals

October 1, 2009

The great Afghanistan policy debate underway in Washington shines a light on what inadequate or faulty policy decisions can mean when they mature. In this case, 8 years have been essentially wasted along with hundreds of billions of dollars. The US, as part of a NATO force, invaded Afghanistan and toppled the Taliban government in order to root out al Qaeda. So far, so good. Unfortunately that was as far as it went and where it stopped.

The Bush Administration set the policy objective of pursuing al Qaeda and Taliban insurgents with one hand and helped set up a new central Afghan government with the other, both on a shoe string. That was a lot to do, yet early into the Afghan effort, Bush and Cheney decided to invade and occupy Iraq, and that was not necessary.  In the country where terrorists thrived,  poppies grew and government bribes were collected as a matter of daily business in Afghanistan, and life went on. Is there a question why the situation today is so fragile?

The US military command has now come forward with a policy of sorts. Focus on protecting the population or risk losing control of Afghanistan. Presumably protection includes eradicating poppy fields and ending the widespread graft and corruption too. This policy proposal raises all sorts of questions.

  • Why should the Military be recommending a policy that seems so obvious and so much the normal product of the State Department?
  • Why should we expect the US to succeed in Afghanistan when no outside force has before, including the Russians and the colonial English?
  • How can the US support an indeterminate effort while facing a $10 trillion deficit over the next 10 years?
  • Why should the US care about Afghan’s future government and most importantly, why is this America’s problem anyways?

Poppies, unbridled extremism, and regional instability are all sure to follow an American withdrawal. But aren’t these, all nation’s problems?

New Afghan Strategy

August 20, 2009

It is very difficult to avoid cynicism when discussing US national interest in Afghanistan, and the current military strategies to meet these goals. There is nothing about Afghanistan that makes it relatable to us, like Mexico or Canada, or even Russia or China. Afghanistan is not a trading partner, a vast oil reserve country, or one rich in minerals.

For example, from a cynical view, Bush’s invasion and occupation of Iraq is easily understood in terms of oil. Afghanistan, on the other hand is the result of following the al Qeada organization to its base. Seven years have passed and Afghanistan is no closer to being free of al Qeada or, more disturbingly,  is the Karzai government able to rule than the moon is made of blue cheese.

President Obama called for more troops and a reassessment upon taking office. In a few months, a new General, Stanley McCrystal, was placed in charge, and he called for a reassessment. We are now hearing that even more troops will be asked for. What type of strategy is that?

If you ask the military how to get a job done, you should expect a guns and tanks answer. Where are the outside the box thinkers? Look at the facts in Afghanistan. It is a country where most of the population is uneducated. It is a muslim country where stoning and second class status for women are the norm. It is a country where poppies are a cash crop and bribery is a way of government life. It is a country that is mostly rural and extremely mountainous in large areas. In a few words, it is locked in the middle ages and has almost nothing going for it to do better.

Fighting in Afghanistan is like trying to push the evening tide back. You can’t do it. The source of violence and support for al Qaeda is not the Afghan people. They would be happy to tend to their fields and keep their women in line. It is outside influences combined with a useless religion that sustains the military capability of Taliban insurgents. We do not have enough guns and tanks (nor the money) to fight this head on.

It is time to recognize that until there is real nation building in Afghanistan and the complete introduction of modernity, there can be no end to the terrorist behaviors. This task can not lie solely on the backs of Americans since the threat is global. We need to withdraw our troops, impose a blockade, and wait until other nations such as Saudi Arabia, Russia, and China choose to help finance the birth of Afghanistan as a modern nation, and ensure the supply of money and weapons is shut off.

The new US strategy must reflect that we will no longer be the suckers who pay and waste our soldier’s lives, and we will make life miserable for any group in Afghanistan that attempts to conduct foreign terrorism.  And we will do it from a safe distance.

Worrying Signs

August 1, 2009

General Stanley McChrystal has completed his assessment of what it will take to achieve US goals in Afghanistan. He is calling for a “change in strategy” and an increase in US troop strength to 400,000. Sound like Vietnam?

This news which is breaking on a weekend at the beginning of August is not what the doctor ordered. If President Obama thinks he has problems with health care or restarting the economy, he hasn’t seen anything yet. Stationing 400,000 troops in Afghanistan is not what those who voted for Obama in 2008 had in mind as “change”.

If the US considered itself an Empire (even a benevolent one), 400,000 troops would be understandable (although probably not enough) given the conditions on the ground in Afghanistan. But we are not an Empire, and unless you have been asleep for the past 9 months, we are a nation heading towards bankruptcy. But there are more reasons why.

The biggest one is that there is no way to make Afghanistan safe from Taliban influence until the Afghans themselves decide to reject this brand of Islam, and that is not going to happen. Afghanistan is a terribly broken country, poverty stricken, graft and bribe infested, and unfortunately lacking in any particular natural resource. On top of this, the situation in Afghanistan is prime territory for any religious group but the franchise in Afghanistan is Islam. Modernity is not going to happen.

The US entered Afghanistan shortly after 9/11 in order to root out the Taliban who were allowing al Qaeda a free hand in organizing global terrorist activities. This was necessary and initially achieved its objectives. It is now 7 years later and many dollars and lives have been spent. More than doubling the troop number will not change these basic conditions no matter how much we want to think so, or how hard we try.

The nature of Islamic global terrorism, like all other cross boarder efforts, is that it requires financing. In Afghanistan, the Taliban gets its funding from Poppy harvests and from Middle East sources. If the money dries up, the Taliban (or any other future group) will dry up to.

If the US is looking for a new strategy, try this. Withdraw our troops from Afghanistan, blockade the coast line, and stop buying Middle East oil. This situation spotlights two huge weaknesses, the US’s ability to successfully curtail drug use and trade, and our insatiable apatite for oil. Fighting both of these with “new strategies” will lead to more fruitful results than sending 400, 000 more soldiers and untold gobs of money into a rat hole.