Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Will Afghanistan Become a Somalia on Steroids?
One of the most knowledgeable journalists on all things Afghani is McClatchey Newspaper's Jonathan Landay. He's been running the hills with the Mujaheddin since the Soviet days.
Recently, Landay appeared on the Diane Rehm show on WAMU radio. The question was whether, in the post-bin Laden era, the United States should pull its forces out of Afghanistan.
Landay made the case that the United States is obliged to stay. He contends the U.S. has created a volatile situation in which a precipitous American withdrawal could turn Afghanistan into a "Somalia on steroids."
According to Landay, tribal leaders are already reconstituting their forces in anticipation of a resumption of the civil war that was interrupted by the American invasion in 2001. He says it will be a repeat of the Northern Alliance forces versus the Pashtun, presumably again under Taliban leadership. This time, however, it will be infinitely worse than it was when American forces showed up a decade ago.
Landay foresees the next Afghan civil war as a proxy war between India and Pakistan, nuclear-armed India backing the Northern Alliance while nuclear-armed Pakistan supports the Pashtun forces. With a fierce proxy war on Pakistan's doorstep the prospect of a direct conflict between Pakistan and India is dangerously enhanced.
Unfortunately, Landay doesn't have a clear vision for how or when America can safely leave Afghanistan. He seems to believe, or hope, that the solution, the right moment, will become apparent eventually. Worse yet, he offered no suggestion as to how Obama can restore American public support for continuing the conflict.