Tuesday, July 27, 2010

On Afghanistan

I have always been of two minds concerning Western Intervention in Afghanistan. Part of me sees the whole exercise as futile and cries out for withdrawal while on the other hand my inner conscious balks at any form of capitulation in the struggle against what can only be described as a barbarism. To better look at the issue it is necessary to state the givens. This is the reality:

a. Afghanistan is a backwater of a nation with a limited industrial basis, a high level of illiteracy and a largely agricultural based economy.
b. Although it sits on great mineral wealth (some say in the trillions of dollars) its resources are largely untapped.
c. Opium production is a key ingredient of the GNP.
d. The population is fragmented, tribalized and driven by clan loyalties. Ethnic differences (Pushtans, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Persians) are pervasive across the country.
e. Corruption is a way of life.
f. Islam is very much molded into the collective psyche of the population.
g. Consistent war and conflict since the 70's have defined the nation.
h. Due to high birth rates the average age of the population is very young.
i. Its difficult to find trustworthy allies as the historical tendency is for the people is to put aside their difference and take arms against foreigners (the British Empire and the Soviets can attest to this).
j. The terrain favours guerrilla warfare tactics.
k. NATO's so-called ally in this region, Pakistan, appears to be playing both sides of the fence.
l. Hamid Karzai the West's s0-called front man in Kabul is the political equivalent of a snake in the grass.
m. Iran has been gaining momentum in the region as of late

If NATO withdraws unconditionally within the next year this is the most likely scenario

a. Karzai's government in Kabul falls to the Taliban after holding out for several months. Karzai flees Afghanistan and is given asylum in the West. (The Taliban are better motivated and more organized than the Afghan regulars).
b. Warlord controlled region's resist Taliban intrusion.
c. Country returns to its 2002 makeup although the Taliban are less likely to be as dominant as they prior to 2002.
d. Taliban reopens its links with radical Islamists who will see the withdrawal of NATO as a great victory for their cause.
e. The Suppression of Women and the collapse of human rights begins anew.

What does the West gain from such a move?

1. Western military lives will be saved. On the other hand Afghani population deaths will most likely increase as the Taliban will attempt to purge all opposition.
2. A cost saving for the various NATO governments that can then use the savings to pay down their respective debts (yeah right!!!).
3. Money can then be redirected into fighting the more threatening stealth jihad on western shores.

What does the West lose with such a move?

1. Credibility in the War against Radical Islam.
2. Military personnel who have died (or have been wounded) will appear to have done so in vain.
3. With the Western threat removed in Afghanistan Islamists can funnel more of their own finances towards attacking to the US and its allies directly.
4.The NATO initiative of attacking as a way of defending will be lost.
5. Taliban reprisals against the population that opposed them (especially women) will weigh against the Western conscious.

What should the West do?

1. The US needs to be tougher on Pakistan. Weapon supplies to the Taliban must be eliminated.
Obama and co. have to convince Pakistan to come clean with their double talk.
2. The Taliban must be isolated. A divide and conquer strategy could be employed here.
3. The targeting of Taliban leaders for assassination should be given greater consideration.
4. Possibly pay poppy producers not to produce (alliteration aside...) the crop that seems to be directly feeding the Taliban's War Effort.
5. Back a better candidate than Karzai for the Afghani leadership.
6. Bring the more moderate Taliban elements into a government coalition.
7. Step up the process of making the Afghani army more self sufficient.
8. Withdraw in 2014 - Hopefully by then the key regional areas of Afghanistan will be strengthened with anti-Jihadist elements. Afghanistan is not a post World War II Japan (that can be rebuilt in a Western image) one may have to settle with the best of a number of poor options. In short it is an exercise in damage control - and should be treated as such.
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