July 8, 2010

WHICH IGNORES THE BEST PART:

A de facto partition for Afghanistan (Robert D. Blackwill, July 7, 2010, Politico)

Announcing that we will retain an active combat role in Afghanistan for years to come and that we do not accept permanent Taliban control of the south, the United States and its allies could withdraw combat forces from most of Pashtun Afghanistan (about half the country), including Kandahar, over several months.

We would stop fighting and dying in the mountains, valleys and urban areas of southern Afghanistan — where 102 coalition soldiers were killed in June, the most in any month of the war and almost three times as many as a year ago. But we could be ready to assist tribal leaders on the Pashtun periphery, who may decide to resist the Taliban.

We would then focus on defending the northern and western regions — containing roughly 60 percent of the population. These areas, including Kabul, are not Pashtun dominated, and locals are largely sympathetic to U.S. efforts.

We would offer the Afghan Taliban an agreement in which neither side seeks to enlarge its territory — if the Taliban stopped supporting terrorism, a proposal that they would almost certainly reject.

We would then make it clear that we would rely heavily on U.S. air power and special forces to target any Al Qaeda base in Afghanistan, as well as Afghan Taliban leaders who aided them. We would also target Afghan Taliban encroachments across the de facto partition lines and terrorist sanctuaries along the Pakistan border.

Though careful analysis is needed, this might mean a longtime residual U.S. military force in Afghanistan of about 40,000 to 50,000 troops. We would enlist Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras and supportive Pashtun in this endeavor, as well as our NATO allies, Russia, India, Iran, perhaps China, Central Asian nations and, one hopes, the U.N. Security Council.

We would continue accelerating our Afghan army training. We would devote nation-building efforts to the northern and western regions, where, unlike the Pashtun areas, people are not conflicted about accepting U.S. help and not systematically coerced by the Taliban.

There might even come a time when a stronger Afghan National Army could take control of the Pashtun areas.

Such fundamentally changed U.S. objectives and strategies regarding Afghanistan would dramatically reduce U.S. military causalities and thus minimize domestic political pressure for hasty withdrawal. It would substantially lower our budget-breaking military expenditures on Afghanistan — now nearly $7 billion per month.

This would also allow the U.S. Army and Marines to recover from years of fighting two ground wars; increase the likelihood that our coalition allies, with fewer casualties, might remain over the long term; encourage most of Afghanistan’s neighbors to support an acceptable stabilization of the country and reduce Islamabad’s ability to parlay the U.S. ground role in southern Afghanistan into tolerance for terrorism emanating from Pakistan.


The government that emerged in a recognized state of Pashtunistan would be a much easier target to strike if they did not exercise sovereignty over the Taliban.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 8, 2010 5:10 AM
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