Thursday, August 21, 2008

If You Only Read One Post on Afghanistan This Month, This Should Be It

And no, I didn't write it. Instead, it's a brilliant piece by Seumas Milne explaining why the Afghan fire is bound to spread and what we're doing to fan the flames:


Raphael Alexander said...

If I'm to understand you correctly, the only "way out" is complete acquiescence and surrender to the Taliban?

The Mound of Sound said...

Raphael, I think the article suggests reconciliation based on negotiations. Something has to be done to drive a wedge between the Taliban (which come in many varieties) and al-Qaeda. Right now we're at risk of losing some of the other tribes to the Taliban side.

It seems there are four options - a negotiated settlement, surrender to the Taliban, continue our backsliding ways, or defeat the insurgents AND the terrorists. Which of those do you believe are attainable? Once you narrow down your list to genuine prospects, it comes down to a negotiated settlement of continuing the backsliding.

There's no danger of them defeating us militarily. There is, as Petraeus warned years ago and Brzezenski warned a couple of weeks ago, a growing prospect of the Afghan people turning against the Infidels - us.

So, unless you see some means of raising several hundred thousand combat troops within the next 18-24months, you have to accept that our warfighting days are waning. Then, what is your Plan B?

Raphael Alexander said...

The position of withdrawal and negotiation with the Taliban is untenable. The bloodbath in the wake of their broken agreement will be truly horrific. What I think we should do is continue to press NATO and Americans for an increase in troop levels, aggressive recons of Taliban territory, and bombing along the Pakistani border. We need to use Brzezenski's idea, along with MI5 in the UK, to bribe and turn farmers and warlords and regional Taliban commanders to our side in order to get at the bigger fish. Instead of pumping billions into the war, put a few million into bribery and get some names and locations.

The ISAF is going to have to get more ruthless to defeat this foe.

The Mound of Sound said...

Raphe, be real. For ISAF to become "ruthless" enough to defeat the insurgency and the terrorists would necessitate a level of barbarity intolerable to Western democracy. Not to say it hasn't been done, it certainly has. The Romans were masters at it. So were the Nazis (despite all the stories you may read about resistance movements).

The way it works is to become even nastier, even more vile, than the opposition in order to make the peasantry more fearful of you than the insurgents. You see, you have to direct your brutality at the peasants, the innocents caught in the middle. There's a reason why the other side targets those people and, if you want to beat the insurgents, you have to beat up the same bunch of innocents. Life is indeed a bitch.

Could you imagine footage of that on the 6 o'clock news while you and the loved ones are sitting down to dinner?

You can bribe warlords. You can buy their allegience albeit temporarily and provided you're not asking them to do anything that hurts them directly. But they're notoriously treacherous and, let's face it, they know they have to live with each other after the latest iteration of Infidels is long gone.

You would find it informative to this debate to read how the Taliban came to power in the first place. Pakistan's ISI installed them only because the Pashtun alternative, Hekmyatr was far worse.

We have this illusion that there are good guys and bad guys in Afghanistan. By the furthest stretch of our standards they're all bad guys. Karzai is playing up to us right now but he's desperate to save his own skin. That's why he won't crack down on the warlords or even arrest a single key drug lord, not even his brother, Ahmed.

This little hellhole has bedevilled Westerners for centuries. Solve one problem only to give rise to two more. We're busy fighting the fire in the kitchen when every other room in the house is also ablaze.

The Mound of Sound said...

One more thing. Check out the January 20, 2007 post "Why We Lose to Insurgencies" which contains excerpts from an article by Ed Luttwak.