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The Unpleasant Truth About 12 More Years In Afghanistan

Posted by The Agonist on May 3rd, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

Steve LeVine at Foreign Policy mag:

“It is too late to try to build ‘Afghanistan right,’” Anthony Cordesman concludes in an exceptionally clear piece for the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Cordesman ticks off the crippling weak spots that fatally undermine peace with honor in Afghanistan. Without saying so explicitly, he forecasts a best-case return to the pre-9/11 status quo — the Taliban in the center, vying for national power against canton-based local strongmen around the country, anchored by a refortified Northern Alliance.

Cordesman is right as far as he goes. Yet like numerous wise hands weighing in similarly in the wake of President Barack Obama’s weekend accord with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Cordesman is reluctant to draw a line under his stacked-up facts and provide the sum of the parts: There is no further constructive role for the U.S. military in Afghanistan. If American troops leave, Afghanistan is likely to devolve into civil war; if they stay, there will be the same outcome.

…Writing at the Financial Times, Ahmed Rashid laments a stubborn Vietnam-era mentality — “the hubris of the U.S. military, which at the back of its mind still believes there are battles, if not a war, to be won; Taliban to be killed; and at least some success to be gained. They are wrong.” Rashid says that the Taliban leadership must be negotiated with, that it fears civil war as much as its opponents.

Rashid is partly right, but veers off-track when he suggests that there is still something for the U.S. to do at the negotiating table. The Taliban may fear civil war, but only to the degree they are in charge in Kabul. If they are not, they will fight that civil war until they are.

It may be unpalatable to some, but this is exactly right and has been for several years.

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