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Cursing the Darkness

Posted by Derrick Crowe on October 14th, 2009

Note: Derrick Crowe is the Afghanistan blog fellow for Brave New Foundation / The Seminal. Learn how the war in Afghanistan undermines U.S. security: watch Rethink Afghanistan (Part Six), & visit http://rethinkafghanistan.com/blog.

At least Michael Scheuer’s snarling, morally bankrupt piece (oddly promoted as the front-page story on Foreign Policy Magazine’s website) correctly diagnoses the problem in Afghanistan: the anti-government elements have put the U.S. and allied forces in a position where “winning” (defined as “defeating” the Taliban) would require actions so brutal and expensive that they are beyond the pale for our political leadership. But rather than salute the allied forces for their principles, Scheuer assails them, telling them to “Get Nasty or Go Home.”

First, Scheuer begins from a correct description of the phase shift we’ve seen in the past few years in the content of the insurgency:

Until roughly late 2006, the war against the U.S.-NATO coalition was largely fought by the Taliban, other Islamists groups like that led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and al Qaeda. Since then, however, the Islamists have been joined by Afghans who simply do not want Muslim Afghanistan occupied by all sorts of infidels from all sorts of Christian and polytheist countries. In short, an Islamist insurgency has evolved into an Islamist-nationalist freedom struggle not unlike that which beat the Red Army.

Supporting Scheuer’s analysis is the rapid insurgent numbers growth from 7,000 to 25,000 between 2006 and today. According to a recent Boston Globe report,

WASHINGTON – Nearly all of the insurgents battling US and NATO troops in Afghanistan are not religiously motivated Taliban and Al Qaeda warriors, but a new generation of tribal fighters vying for control of territory, mineral wealth, and smuggling routes, according to summaries of new US intelligence reports.

“Ninety percent is a tribal, localized insurgency,’’ said one US intelligence official in Washington who helped draft the assessments. “Ten percent are hardcore ideologues fighting for the Taliban.’’

From here, however, things go off the rails. You can almost feel the spit landing on your face:

Team Obama faces quite a dilemma. McChrystal’s plan to stave off defeat by asking for substantial immediate reinforcements — a request that is still far short of what is needed to “win” in Afghanistan — is a sure sign that long-term intense fighting and high casualties lie ahead. The United States’ latest Nobel Prize winner now has a choice: He must act quickly on the advice of McChrystal and the U.S. intelligence community to save a marooned U.S. Army, or dither behind the harebrained split-al-Qaeda-from-the-Taliban strategizing and let more overmatched U.S. soldiers and Marines die amid the ego-building praise of effete Americans, pacifist NGOs, and the Nobelistas.

Then, oddly, he tells us that drawing down forces in Afghanistan is the only way to mellow the insurgency.

As long as U.S. forces are in Afghanistan, this reality will remain the same. The only way to create a less threatening Taliban is for the Obama administration to admit defeat and turn over Afghanistan to Mullah Omar, knowing that he will allow bin Laden and al Qaeda to stay in place and that U.S. defeat will have an enormous galvanizing impact on the Islamist movement around the world.

Okay wait…if we withdraw our troops from Afghanistan, it will take the steam out of the Taliban insurgency. The Taliban are rich and al-Qaida is begging for cash, meaning the Taliban don’t need al-Qaeda funding. and it’s not at all clear that the Afghan Taliban will find it in their self-interest nor to their taste to host al-Qaeda again. From a recent issue of AFCEA Intelligence’s NightWatch analysis [h/t Gareth Porter]:

The point worth noting is that the [October 7] Taliban posting reinforces the statement on Sunday by US National Security Advisor Jones that there are fewer than 100 al Qaida in Afghanistan.  Al Qaida is not welcome in Afghanistan by either side of the fight. The statement posted on the website is accurate, based on the past eight years.  The Taliban resurgence is a home grown development that did not appeal to, rely on or seek Arab or al Qaida help, according to information in the public domain.

After their ouster from Kandahar in 2001, the Taliban openly derided the Arabs of al Qaida and blamed them for the Taliban’s misfortunes. They vowed never to allow the foreigners — especially the haughty, insensitive Arabs — back into Afghanistan, consistent with the history of Pashtun xenophobia. They have been true to that vow ever since, as General Jones confirmed, indirectly.

The premise that Afghanistan would become an al Qaida safe haven under any future government is alarmist and bespeaks a lack of understanding of the Pashtuns on this issue and a superficial knowledge of recent Afghan history.

In December 2001, Omar was ridiculed in public by his own commanders for inviting the “Arabs” and other foreigners, which led to their flight to Pakistan.

But here’s the rub, tough guy: pouring hundreds of thousands of Western troops into Afghanistan will also have an enormous galvanizing impact on the Islamist movement around the world. The difference is that the former has absolutely no chance of bankrupting the U.S. and ending Obama’s hopes for his agenda, while the latter certainly could.

So let’s see:

  • Option 1: Propaganda win for jihadist terrorists, risk of terror attacks and all the costs they entail;
  • Option 2: Propaganda win for jihadist terrorists, risk of terror attacks and all the costs they entail, certain U.S. military casualties, and massive economic damage.

Gee, this is a tough call.

But wait, there’s more!

Because the U.S.-NATO occupation powers the Afghan insurgency and international Muslim support for it, we must either destroy it root and branch or leave. This issue merits debate, but that must wait until McChrystal gets the troops needed to delay defeat. Afterward, only the all-out use of large, conventional U.S. military forces can be expected to have a shot at winning in Afghanistan. Since 1996, the United States has definitively proven that clandestine operations, covert action, Special Forces actions, and aerial drone attacks cannot defeat al Qaeda. It has likewise proven beyond doubt that nation-building in Afghanistan is a fool’s errand.

That said, military victory would require 400,000 to 500,000 additional troops, the wide use of land mines (even if Princess Diana spins in her grave), and the killing of the enemy and its civilian supporters in the numbers needed to make them admit the game is not worth the candle. This clearly is not a viable option. We do not have enough troops, and U.S. political leaders, many U.S. generals, and the anti-American academy and media do not think “military victory” is an appropriate or moral goal; their mantra is: “Better dead Americans at home and abroad than criticism from Europe, the media, and the academy.”

Wait, what? The coalition is a bunch of spineless wimps if they don’t throw in 500,000 more troops? With land-mines? Nonchalant killing of civilians? Let me translate:

You bunch of wimps don’t have the balls to destroy Afghanistan, so f*** you, you anti-American bookworm p*****s! Leave! When you get hit with a terror attack, I’ll be happy to tell you ‘I told you so!’

What is this garbage doing on the front page of Foreign Policy Magazine?

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  1. [...] Cursing the Darkness. By Derrick Crowe 2009 October 14 by kanan48 Via: Rethink Afghanistan. [...]

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