I am currently reading Washington Post Reporter Bob Woodward's book, Obama's War, and the issue IS Afghanistan. I am reading about what all the smart "Inside the Beltway" types are thinking, but my interests is what do others think? How do you view the goals, costs and tradeoffs. There is no doubt that our troops, and civilians in the area are being killed or maimed. There is no doubt that Afghanis are dying, as are people in Pakistan. Money is being drained away from the US economy.
On the flip side♠ the fact is that al Qaeda still sees the US, and the West in general as a threat to the people of Islam♥ and will continue to conduct a guerrilla war against us, even if we pull out of Afghanistan. What I don't know is if a partial or total Taliban victory will enhance the reach of al Qaeda, either physically or psychologically. Pakistan will still be of importance to the US, given it's nuclear weapons and relationship with India, the world's most populous democracy. And, there will be the question of what we owe the Afghan People and how we will acquit that debt.
In his book, Obama's War, author Bob Woodward notes that India, in 2009, was giving Afghanistan $1 Billion in aid per annum. The "B" word and not the "M" word. This is not just about the US and the UK, or even NATO. A lot of nations are involved, including Russia, Iran and China.
Then there is the question of if the centroid of al Qaeda training is no longer Afghanistan and Pakistan, but rather Yemen and Somalia? Note that the recent "Printer Cartridge" bomb effort seems to have originated in Yemen.
So, what is the problem we are trying to solve and in doing so, what is our aim, our strategic goal? Then, assuming we include Afghanistan in our overall solution, what is the way ahead? My view of the options include:
- Pull Out and Threaten. This would be to withdraw our forces and deal with whatever outcome we receive by using cruise missiles, stealth bombers and Special Forces to deal with real threats.
- Biden Option. This is Counterterrorism Plus. The idea is that we keep a reasonable level of ground forces in Afghanistan, to keep Pakistan happy and to provide the intelligence sources to allow targeting of counterterrorism attacks via Predator Drones and Special Forces.
- Patreaus Option. This is the use of NATO forces (to include a very large segment of US Forces) to conduct counterinsurgency, hoping to protect large segments of the population, to allow the growth of Afghan Army and Police forces. It also includes flooding in civilians from other Administration Departments to try and deal with corruption in the current Afghan Administration.
- Major Commitment. This would be a plan to find additional forces to flow into Afghanistan to flood the nation and provide not only greater population protection, but also a large amount of nation building.
What do you think, including you, Neal?
Regards — Cliff
♠ Does anyone under 30 even understand that term?
♥ In anticipation of a possible comment from Kad Barma, just because the faith of Islam does not accept al Qaeda does not mean that al Qaeda does not embrace it's vision of Islam.