Monday, May 21, 2012

Afghan War "As We Understand It" Ends in 2014

Or at least it does according to president Obama fresh from the NATO leaders summit in Chicago.

Gen. John Allen, commander of the NATO forces in Afghanistan, told reporters that the recruiting of Afghan security forces is “several months ahead of schedule.” He said that would lead to a full Afghan national security force by the end of this year and a transition to Afghan forces taking the lead role in 2013.

U.S. and NATO combat troops will remain through 2014, in a supporting role but still exposed to possible combat, though the number of troops remains undecided.

For Obama, the timetable allowed him to boast that the alliance was unified behind a vision of a future after 2014 “in which we have ended our combat role, the Afghan war as we understand it is over, but our commitment to friendship and partnership with Afghanistan continues.”

But, hasn't that always been our problem, our woeful inability to understand the Afghan war?   Can't we understand that the Afghan army and the country's security forces are severely limited in their effectiveness and future prospects by the wobbly viability of the central government hunkered down in Kabul?   Can't we grasp that the very notion of central government is farcical in the face of the country's sharp ethnic divisions - Pashtun, Hazara, Uzbek, Tajik, Baloch, Turkmen and others - reflected in a parallel and often conflicting and competing structure of tribalism and warlordism?   Can't we get that?    Can't we fathom that a rigged government structured on a bureaucracy, judicial system and security services that are inherently corrupt and predatory of their own people cannot bring peace to a country?  Can't we admit that Afghanistan is an utterly failed state dependent on a narco-economy that results in what Chatham House has called a "criminal nexus" of government, the drug lords and the insurgents, all drinking from the same well?  Can't we realize that, even if we had a magic wand to cure the tribalism, the warlordism, and all the malignancies that beset the central government, Afghanistan's future will be determined as much by externalities, notably Pakistan, China and Iran, as anything within the country?

The Afghan war as we understand it will indeed be over by 2014, as we understand it.

Update - for the latest on Afghanistan's opium crisis, click here.

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