Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Afghanistan blues....


British blogpal Canker writes in his post Terror incognita on what appears to be a fundamental problem in Afghanistan - disagreement between the Brits and Americans on how to handle the resurgent Taliban.

He's right.It is worrisome when allies disagree on strategy. But in reality, neither the British approach or ours is likely to yield the fruits of victory.

The key to understanding that, of course is contained in the Robert Fox First Post article Canker links to -

"From their safe zone in Waziristan in Pakistan, they plan to establish a separatist 'Talibanistan' across southern Afghanistan before mounting an offensive on Kabul next year."

There's the problem in a nutshell..the fact that these jihadi scum have a `safe zone' at all. You can't win a war when the enemy has a refuge to flee to so they can regroup, rearm and attack again. That's exactly what the Taliban has done.

In spite of the professions of Pakistan's president, General Musharref, Pakistan is NOT an ally of the west in this fight. And it needs to be made clear to him in no uncertain terms that he had better pick a dog in this fight, or face the consequences.

And those consequences ought to be complete and decisive.

12 comments:

louielouie said...

the brits & yanks didn't agree on very much back in the early 40's.
i didn't like mushroom from the start.
the reason for this in-action is to perpetuate the GWOT not end it.
bush just wants to do business with these guys. the security of america is not an issue here.
but to the point of the essay:
the decision should be made is one that does not have mushroom in the picture. paky is just one bullet away from being a islamic terrorist camp with nuclear arms/capability. what comes after mushroom? all he is doing is biding his time running interference for the isi until his book deal cashes in and he moves to aspen.

nazar said...

We can't even confront Iran. How are we supposed to confront Pakistan? Besides, even if Musharraf wanted to be on our side, he couldn't. I don't think he has a very strong hold on his country.

So let's say we do confront him, and depose him. Who will take over? The jihadi clerics, or a "moderate" islamic group? I think we all know the answer to that one, and unless we're ready for war with Pakistan, we'd better keep quiet about this Talibanistan.

Freedom Fighter said...

Hi Nazar,
A couple of points...first of all, I don't agree that we can't confront Iran.

Inability is not the same as lack of will. As a matter of fact, just like Iraq, a soloution is relatively easy and practical. More on this later.

As for Pakistan...you worry about Musharref being deposed. Did it occur to you that this new Talibanistan is a state within a state that could end up deposing Musharref anyway?

As for war with Pakistan, I think that the US could pretty much destroy any offensive capacity of theirs for quite some time, and at any rate destroy their nuclear capacity.

One less jihadi threat.

It's important, I think, to recognize the psychology at play here. These people understand strength, and the normal phrase that characterizes their attitude is `at your feet or at your throat.'

When they are confronted with strength, they tend to become amenable to reason quite rapidly.or at least cease being a threat

Remember Qadaffi after the airstrike in the eighties? Or after he saw Saddam dragged out of a hole? Or how quickly the Syrians left Lebanon after we invaded Iraq and Assad was worried about being next?

And did you also notice how quickly their attitudes have changed now that the Bush Administration has opted for a limited defensive war of attrition with no end in sight and our military appears bogged down?

Or, we can continue to be bled slowly in wars with no conclusion.

Think about it.

nazar said...

I find it hard to believe that a breakaway "state within a state" could depose Musharraf.

And you brought up a point: Those Pakistani nukes. If we ever were to fully confront Pakistan, do you doubt for a second that they would be used?

As for confronting Iran, sure, we could lob a few tactical nukes at Tehran or some of their nuclear powerplants, but think of the consequences. You said yourself that even if we used "tactical" nukes against their powerplants that would only set them back a couple of years, but not prevent them from obtaining nukes. If we bombed Tehran, it would be like another Hiroshima. Are we willing to accept so much blood on our hands?

"Tactical" nukes are illusory. It makes it sound like collateral damage will be reduced, but a nuke is still a nuke.

Something has to be done about Iran, but massive bombing shouldn't be the first option. Remember how Kennedy blockaded Cuba during the missile crisis, instead of bombing it or invading it like his generals wanted to? I feel that we need to get serious about fighting the jihadis in Iraq to send a message to Tehran. That includes taking out all the Iranian-backed militias. If they still persist, we could forment an insurgency within Iran or try a blockade on Iranian ports to stop the flow of oil. Of course, the UN wouldn't be so big on that, and it would hurt us too, but we gotta do something. And if your theory of them being "at our threats or at our feet" is correct, then a blockade would work, no?

When Reagan bombed Qaddaffi we weren't quaqmired in other countries, and our Army was three-quarters of a million strong, compared to half a million right now. Also, people took us seriously. Right now, it seems like America is a paper tiger.

So like I was saying, I don't like the idea of Musharraf indirectly supporting the jihadis, but I like the idea of a nuclear Pakistan under mullahs even less.

louielouie said...

hi nazar,
there are two points that you made i would like to address.
if we did go to war with paky, and they did use their nukes, who would they use them on and where? remember this would be a war fought within the borders of paky. in essence they would be nuking themselves as the fallout would have to go half way around the marble to get to the US.
also, any action taken against iran would make our best friends and close allies the chinese and russia very mad. remember they are our best friends. i know this because bush told us he has looked into puken's eyes and seen puken's soul. these are our best friends, right behind saudi arabia who is our eternal friend. just ask bush, he'll tell you.

Anonymous said...

nazar wrote: We can't even confront Iran. How are we supposed to confront Pakistan?

That struck me as weird - isn't it relatively easier to deal with Musharraf than Ahmadinejad? After all, Pakistan is much more reliant on us, so we do have leverage with them as compared to a vitriolic, confrontational Iran.

And if Pakistan were to threaten to use nukes, don't forget who's beside them - India. Do you think India will simply acquiesce in the nuclear option being exercised so readily, and the second-strike nuke that might hit Pakistan and possibly also India as well?

Freedom Fighter said...

Hi Y'all.

Nazar, with all respect, I think there are acouple of things you aren't looking at.

The Pakistani nukes could be neutralized quite easily by a comprehensive strike..they have no navy to speak of, no nuclear subs, not much of an air force and no second strike capacity.

What's more, I think that if musharraf was pressured significantly and forced to take sides, he would solve the problem without such measures being necessary..but, either way is fine by me..

As far as your Iran/ Cuba analogy goes, I think there are a couple of things wrong with it.

Cuba was an island within easy reach and easily isolated. Iran is not. A blockade by itself won't work.

Cuba has NOTHING anyone wants except baseball players and musicians. Iran has oil and a much more strategic location than Cuba. Sanctions won't work as long as Iran has oil and natural gas to sell.

Cuba never possesed nukes. Iran is on the verge, if not in possesion already.

Cuba did not have networks of Cuban agents willing to die to kill Americans within the US. Iran does. And Cuba, while hostile, never went to actual war with us. Iran has been in a defacto war with us since 1979.

Moreover, Cuba was controlled by Russia, who had much to lose in a war with the US. Iran has no such control, and may actually welcome a conflict with the West to accelerate the coming of the Mahdi.

If you check the site, you'll find an article by me that you may have read about why, economically,Iran HAS to go to war soon.

The actual mechanics of destroying Iran's war making capacity are actually fairly straightforward and do not involve any silly notions of `nation building'. I plan a post on this soon.

Two points to close,my friend:

1) Without eliminating what Iranhas to sell, blockades and sanctions are meaningless

2) A conflict with Iran is inevitable. Would you prefer that it was at a time of our choosing or theirs?

Nazar,thanks as always for what you contribute here. It's an important part of the site.

nazar said...

Louie: If Pakistan used a nuke, they would be using it in their own country or Afghanistan, but also on our soldiers. Expect massive casualties. They could wipe out the majority of our military in Afghanistan.

FF: We could definetely try a "first-strike" on Pakistani nukes, but either way, it's still a huge gamble. We can't be entirely sure of their second-strike inability, and personally, I don't think nukes are something worth gambling with.

Secondly, I have absolutely zero confidence in Mushy. Just look at all the attempted assasinations on him. It's a miracle he's still there, and he has a very precarious hold on his country. I don't think it's realistic to expect him to make any major reforms if pressured.

I feel that my analogy to Cuba is entirely appropriate. First of all, Castro had fully operational intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that were capable of reaching as far as Seattle, courtesy of the Soviets of course. That's how the whole Cuban missile crisis started-an American U2 spy plane took pictures of them, and Kennedy rightly felt that Soviet ICBMs couldn't be tolerated 90 miles off American territory.

Secondly, declassifed documents in the following years revealed that the Soviets fully intended to use the ICBMs in Cuba to wipe out any American invasion force. An air strike probably wouldn't disabled all the ICBMs, considering that they were protected by multiple SAM (surface to air missiles), and then the Soviets in Cuba would have retaliated against the United States. Like Cuba in 1962, Iran also has Russian SAMs (you even did an article about it, I remember) that would shoot down American bombers.

In light of this, Kennedy's blockade was the correct action. If it didn't work, he would have had to invade or bomb Cuba of course, but those two options presented grave consequences, as they do in Iran right now.

You raise some interesting points regarding Iran's geographic location. I believe our prescense in Iraq and Afghanistan is a major threat to Iran, and those two countries are effectively bases for American military personnel. As for a blockade, it could go a long way if we cut off their ports, and formented strife within, just like Reagan did in Nicaragua. We would have to turn a blind eye to international laws, of course, but it's better than "negotiations." Besides, like I said, if a blockade doesn't work, we can always escalate pressure. Kennedy's Cuban blockade gave him and Khrushchev room for action. Khrushchev backed off in an exchange of an American pledge to not invade Cuba, and the removal of American nukes in Cuba. Once again, if your theory of these people being "at our throats our at our feet" is correct, then a blockade alone would send a strong message that would make them quickly drop their nuclear ambitions, right?

I'm not sold on the idea that Iran has to go to war with us soon, based on economics. It would be much more simple and easier for them to blackmail us by basically making us pay them billions of dollars to not develop nukes. We give Egypt $5 billion a year dont't we?

nazar said...

Kennedy's Cuban blockade gave him and Khrushchev room for action. Khrushchev backed off in an exchange of an American pledge to not invade Cuba, and the removal of American nukes in Turkey, not Cuba. Made a typo there.

Freedom Fighter said...

Hi Nazar,

You appear to contradict yourself a bit, if you don't mind.

On the one hand, you say that Musharref's grip on power is tenuous while on the other you say that we shouldn't take chances with nukes and point out the US casualties that would ensue if Pakistan launched a nuke at Afghanistan.

If Musharref's grip on power is that feeble, why take a chance on him keeping power rather than a bunch of Islamist nutcases taking over and getting control of the nukes? Why not deal with the threat now?

If you have a rattlesnake in the backyard who's hibernating and hasn't bitten anyone yet, do you trust to his continued benevolence or do you eliminate the threat when it's at its weakest?

The same question could be asked about Iran.

As I attempted to explain, a blockade and sanctions will not work by themselves because of Iran's land borders and because it has something to sell that others want to buy very badly. Much of Iran's missile technology was obtained from North Korea and shipped through Russia - for a fat commission, of course.

You might also want to review how well sanctions worked against Iraq.

As for bribing the mullahs, that was just tried with the economic incentives package, and Iran told us to go pound sand. Nor is there any verifiable proof that the mullahs would keep their end of the bargain. North Korea certainly didn't!

As for the SAMs, I agree with you that casualties will happen. Unfortunately,the Bush Administration has stood by and allowed the Iranians to increase their military. That prioblem will only get worse the longer we wait.

Again, the core question is - do we fight at a time of our choosing or Iran's?

I also suggest you read a bit more on the Cuban Missile crisis. You'll find that while Khruschev had missiles in Cuba, they were totally under Soviet control and were only handled by Russians, with security codes to ensure that Fidel couldn't do anything stupid.

FF

nazar said...

FF, I meant that if the Islamists in Pakistan get power, there's a good chance they would use nukes. So would Mushy if we attacked him. His power is weak, but he does give us concessions, such as letting us use Pakistani airspace, and letting American CIA officials operate inside Pakistan. Better than nothing.

Your rattlesnake analogy is good, but the problem is that the rattlesnake is wide awake, not hibernating. As for the jihadis, it seems like in many cases, he turns a blind eye to them, but Islamists would be actively supporting them. Think Iran and Al-Sadr's militia.

FF, I never even mentioned sanctions. Sanctions are a joke. It took over 40 years of sanctions to convince South Africa to give up apartheid, I don't expect Iran to be any different. Furthermore, I was advocating not only a blockade, but also initiating an implosion of the mullah's regime in Iran from the inside, all at the same time. I realize that Iran has land borders, but last time I checked, 40% of the world's oil passes through the Persian Gulf, much of it Iranian oil. All we have to do is blockade the Iranian ports, and the Iranians would find that no matter how bad the Russians or Chinese want to buy their oil, they won't be able to do without shooting at us, which it's safe to say they won't do. Of course, they could build a pipeline, but that would take years. Pardon me, but in the short term, the Iranians would be left with their balls hanging in the wind. Your theory is that these people are highly susceptible to decisive force. A blockade coupled with an Iranian insurgency would bring them to their knees, then.

As for the Cuban Missile Crisis, of course the Soviets had complete control of the missiles. Did I ever imply otherwise? Hell, they didn't even tell Castro when they removing them!

By now, I've said pretty much all that I've got to say about this topic, so I'll leave you with that, and this time, let you have the last word.

Enjoyed the debate, by the way.

Freedom Fighter said...

Here's my last word; I hope you turn out to be right and I turn out to be wrong on this one..your way would be a lot easier.

I have an article planned on a possible military interdiction of Iran that should be interesting, and needn't involve a costly invasion. I better get to it!

I likewise always appreciate what you bring to the table.