February 9, 2009

ISN'T A "SANCTUARY" THE SAME THING AS FLYPAPER?:

Planning Victory in Afghanistan: Nine principles the Obama administration should follow (Frederick W. Kagan, 2/09/09, National Review)

1. UNDERSTAND WHY WE’RE THERE

Afghanistan is not now a sanctuary for al-Qaeda, but it would likely become one again if we abandoned it. Mullah Omar, the head of the Taliban government we removed in 2001, is alive and well in Pakistan. He maintains contacts with Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and the other key al-Qaeda leaders, who are also based in Pakistan (although in a different area). Mullah Omar supports Taliban fighters in southern Afghanistan from his Pakistani havens, while al-Qaeda and its affiliates support insurgents in eastern Afghanistan. Allowing Afghanistan to fail would mean allowing these determined enemies of the United States to regain the freedom they had before 9/11.

Pakistan itself is another reason Afghanistan is vitally important to America. It’s a country with 170 million people, nuclear weapons, and numerous terrorist groups. As long as Afghanistan is unstable, Pakistan will be unable to bring order to its own tribal areas, where many terrorist sanctuaries persist. It will also be distracted from addressing the more fundamental problems of Islamic radicalism that threaten its very survival as a state. Further, Afghan instability makes the U.S. dependent on Pakistan logistically—there is no way to replace completely the land route from Karachi with another route through Central Asia. This dependence in turn reduces our ability to influence Islamabad on other matters of great importance, such as stabilizing civilian rule in Pakistan and stopping support for terrorist groups like the one that attacked Bombay.

2. KNOW WHAT WE HAVE TO ACHIEVE

Success in Afghanistan does not require creating a paradise in one of the poorest countries on earth, but we cannot define victory down. Preventing Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for terrorists again, helping Pakistan fight its own terrorist problems, and liberating ourselves from dependence on Pakistan will require building an Afghan state with a representative government.

Afghanistan has a longer tradition of such political organization than Iraq has. It has been independent since 1747, and had a functioning constitutional and parliamentary monarchy in the middle of the 20th century. Centrifugal forces in Afghanistan have always been powerful, making the prospects for a strong centralized government in Kabul poor, but the country is neither ungovernable nor artificial. It cannot be stable at this point in history, however, without a representative system. Its multiethnic makeup and decades of internal war mean that any attempt to impose a strongman or to break the country up into effectively independent, warlord-ruled fiefdoms will lead to perpetual violence.


Given the improbability of establishing a stable multiethnic democratic state there isn't perpetual inter-tribal violence a satisfactory outcome and given our success in using Predators to decimate al Qaeda isn't luring them out into the open in an Afghanistan they think they can run a good tactic?

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Posted by Orrin Judd at February 9, 2009 1:57 PM
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