Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Afghanistan Blues

Team Obama is already talking about their new approach to Afghanistan.

Obama got a great deal of campaign mileage out of his belief that the US 'took its eye off the ball' by fighting in Iraq instead of the `real war' in Afghanistan, even though bin-Laden himself declared Iraq was al-Qaeda's central front on their war against us. A glance at a map, showing the relative geographic and strategic importance of Iraq as opposed to Afghanistan explains why al-Qaeda was so anxious to fight there and why they were willing to suffer such tremendous losses in manpower and resources to try to keep it.

That war in Iraq is largely won, no thanks to Obama and his party, who did their very best to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory while our troops were in the field. So President Obama will likely get his chance to conduct that 'real war' an dsee what he makes of it.

The new president-elect and his foreign policy team like the idea of what they call a more regional strategy in Afghanistan,including talks with Iran and pushing negotiations between the Afghan government and what Obama's national security advisers call the "reconcilable" elements of the Taliban.

Additionally, the new Commander-in Chief wants a 16 month deadline for the withdrawal of all US forces from Iraq, a transfer of three combat brigades to Afghanistan, and a new focus on our supposed real enemies, bin-Laden and al-Qaeda.

Team Obama is also emphasizing how popular the new president-elect is in Europe, and expects that to translate into increased troops commitments from our balky NATO allies.

This is troubling on several accounts.

First, while al-Qaeda is an important subcontractor in the jihad against the West, they're just that - a subcontractor. And aside from that, they're a widely diffused network of affiliated groups and wanna-be's, many of them in the west. If bin-Laden and Zawahiri died tomorrow, al-Qaeda and its offshoot like Jamayaah Islami and Abu Sayef would keep going without any problem. So would the Muslim Brotherhood and Hezbollah, both of whom have organizations and cells here in America and are much better organized, funded and deadly than what's left of al-Qaeda and its adherents here in America.

The key to winning the War on Jihad lies in confronting - militarily or otherwise - the nation states that fund, support and provide havens for the Islamist terrorists and export jihad to our shores, as I've mentioned many times. No terrorist group in modern times has ever lasted long without that kind of secure base.

And that also brings me to the second problem with Obama's approach. Al-Qaeda and the Taliban have a safe haven in Pakistan, and heavily leaning on the Pakistani government is pretty much a non starter. As a matter of fact, creating a hostile Pakistan is an almost certain way to doom our efforts to fight in Afghanistan, unless the Obama Administration is intending to invade the whole country with those three brigades, as Obama foolishly suggested.

Again, all you have to do is look at a map.

Afghanistan is landlocked, and 75% of the supplies for our troops come through Karachi and overland to Afghanistan through the Torkham border crossing. If that route is blocked off by a hostile Pakistan angered at what they would perceive as attacks on their sovereign territory, the alternative is either a costly and inefficient airlift or shipping the stuff through the Black Sea into Georgia and Azerbaijan (assuming they let us) and then crossing the Caspian Sea and shipping the stuff through Turkmenistan and then over impassable, mountainous country into Afghanistan from the Northwest. I might add that the last time we attacked Waziristan with drones the Pakistanis cut off supplies to our troops for a couple of days.

Back when Musharraf was in power, the Pakistanis leaned a bit more towards looking the other way when we bombed the North West Frontier Provinces. But he's gone now, and the President-elect had a part in his demise. Hearing an American presidential candidate from a major party talking about invading part of Pakistan helped undermine Musharraf, who was seen by the people now in control of the country as a US stooge.

As for Obama charming the Europeans into stepping up their troop commitments, let's just say I have my doubts.

After all, that was supposed to be his job as Chair of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on European Affairs, the committee that has the direct responsibility of negotiating to increase the European's lack of combat troop support for NATO's mission in Afghanistan..a subcommittee Obama failed to convene even once.

The problem is that most of the NATO countries involved in Afghanistan are simply refusing to provide combat troops. The Canadians, the Dutch, the Danes, the Brits, our non-NATO allies the Australians and a few others are providing the boots on the ground with us, but most of NATO would like nothing better than to pull out, even if it means turning the country over to the Taliban.

And the British are wavering, as they did in Iraq. While the individual British soldier in the field has fought valiantly, their combat mission is hogtied by the refusal of the Brown government to provide them with the necessary equipment needed to fight this war like sufficient numbers of helicopters, armor and airborne drones. Their top commander has gone public in declaring the war 'lost'., and both the Canadians and the Dutch have already threatened to pull their troops out unless the other NATO nations start doing their fair share.

Now Obama and NATO might very well be planning to pressure the Karzhai government into negotiating some kind of half-assed `settlement' with the Taliban that would last just long enough for us to declare victory and leave. Both the Iranians and our European allies would be just fine with that, the Iranians because it would be one less area in the region with a US presence that Iran could project its power and influence into and the Europeans because it would get them out of a commitment they have little stomach for.

The only people who might be somewhat distressed at this situation would be the Afghan people left to the tender mercies of a bunch of 7th century barbarians..and us ultimately, when Afghanistan again becomes a terrorist training ground and launch point for the jihad against the West. Only this time, perhaps with nuclear weapons courtesy of Pakistan.

There is, of course, the alternative of actually winning in Afghanistan.If you take winning to mean establishing a reasonably stable nation state there,we have a fighting chance of success provided we also deal with the problem of Pakistan. But if we're talking, as Barack Obama and others are of merely "defeating al-Qaeda and capturing bin-Laden" we will be stuck in a never-ending war of attrition.

I hate to say it, but right now it looks like amateur hour at the White House.

I hope I'm wrong.


Dave Schuler said...

The key to winning the War on Jihad lies in confronting - militarily or otherwise - the nation states that fund, support and provide havens for the Islamist terrorists and export jihad to our shores, as I've mentioned many times. No terrorist group in modern times has ever lasted long without that kind of secure base.

I agree with that completely and that's why I said back in 2003 that the only way that I could support the invasion of Iraq is if it were a preface to going to Damascus and Tehran as well. Riyadh is need be but I suspect that our Saudi friends would find good reason to crack down on their own when they were the last men standing.

Invading Iraq to set up a model democracy there was as fatuous as invading Sicily to establish a model democracy would have been in 1943.

But my sense at the time is that too many Americans didn't agree with me and, consequently, I thought the invasion of Iraq was politically imprudent. Events have proven me right.

Freedom Fighter said...

Hi Dave,
Love your Sicily analogy.

I couldn't agree with you more...and I know a bit more than the average bear about Saddam's tacit connections with al-Qaeda and other Islamist terrorist groups and Saddam's possible connection with the first WTC bombing.

He simply was not an imminent threat to us, and the only reason I supported the invasion of Iraq was because I thought it would be an example to the other jihad supporting nations, and a base against Iran. The Kurds would have been glad to provide that for us,and would have been our loyal allies in this war if Bush and Condi hadn't stupidly sold them out under the guise of 'nation building.'

Of course, our real reason for going into Iraq was for the Bush family's bidness partners, the Saudis and the UAE..perhaps you remember this.

The War on Jihad is the paramount challenge of our time, and it's going to cost us a great deal more in blood and treasure because of the poor leadership we've had over the past 16 years..and probably the next four, sad to say, unless I have greatly misjudged Barack Obama, and I don't think I have.

Here's hoping I'm wrong.


B.Poster said...

Actually the paramount challenge of our time is dealing with a resurgent Russia and I would agree that the last sixteen years of generally poor leadership from both political parties had made this very difficult. Fortunately there may be some silver linings here.

As I hve been saying here and elsewhere for quite some time, the Russian leadership is extremely arrogant. Arrogant people are known to make mistakes. At least for now, it seems Russia miscalculated when it engaged in the massive invasion of Georgia. This has sent a chill up the spines of foreign investors. Foreign capital seems to have been fleeing Russia. This has hurt the Russian stock market badly. Folks are probably asking themselves, "might we or our investment be the next target of Russian aggreesion?" This does not mean they trust America or are going to side with America in any thing but foreign capital seems to be leaving Russia at a time when they could most use it. If Russia had a problem with the Georgian government, they could have used their first rate intellegence agents to remove the Georgian government. The invasion was unneccessary and seems to have cost Russia dearly at least for now.

With oil prices falling this has no doubt hampered Russia's income. This will put a restraint on their ability to act.

These events may be God's way of giving us time and space to deal with the paramount threat of our time. Will we use this time wisely? I pray we do.

If we do use this time wisely, we may be able to defeat Russia. Defeating will also deal a crippling blow to our most dangerous Islamic enemies of Iran and Syria.