A Cheaper and More Effective Military Strategy for Afghanistan → Washingtons Blog
A Cheaper and More Effective Military Strategy for Afghanistan - Washingtons Blog

Friday, December 4, 2009

A Cheaper and More Effective Military Strategy for Afghanistan

Supporters of an escalation of the Afghanistan war often ask that we give military options a chance. They also respond to criticism of the surge by asking "okay smart guy, what would YOU do to fight Al Qaeda in Afghanistan?"

Well, initially, the U.S. admits there are only a small handful of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. As ABC notes:

U.S. intelligence officials have concluded there are only about 100 al Qaeda fighters in the entire country.

With 100,000 troops in Afghanistan at an estimated yearly cost of $30 billion, it means that for every one al Qaeda fighter, the U.S. will commit 1,000 troops and $300 million a year.
There are probably more than 100 homicidal maniacs in any large American city. But we wouldn't send soldiers into the city to get those bad guys.

Indeed, a leading advisor to the U.S. military - the very hawkish Rand Corporation - released a study in 2008 called "How Terrorist Groups End: Lessons for Countering al Qa'ida". The report confirms what experts have been saying for years: the war on terror is actually weakening national security.

As a press release about the study states:
Terrorists should be perceived and described as criminals, not holy warriors, and our analysis suggests that there is no battlefield solution to terrorism.
There are additional reasons why prolonging the Afghan war may reduce our national security, such as weakening our economy.

But if you want a military solution anyway, Andrew J. Bacevich has an answer.

Bacevich is no dove. Graduating from West Point in 1969, he served in the United States Army during the Vietnam War. He then held posts in Germany, including the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, the United States, and the Persian Gulf up to his retirement from the service with the rank of Colonel in the early 1990s. Bacevich holds a Ph.D. in American Diplomatic History from Princeton University, and taught at West Point and Johns Hopkins University prior to joining the faculty at Boston University in 1998. Bacevich's is a military family. On May 13, 2007, Bacevich's son, was killed in action while serving in Iraq.

Last year, Bacevich wrote in an article in Newsweek:
Meanwhile, the chief effect of allied military operations there so far has been not to defeat the radical Islamists but to push them across the Pakistani border. As a result, efforts to stabilize Afghanistan are contributing to the destabilization of Pakistan, with potentially devastating implications. September's bombing of the Marriott hotel in Islamabad suggests that the extremists are growing emboldened. Today and for the foreseeable future, no country poses a greater potential threat to U.S. national security than does Pakistan. To risk the stability of that nuclear-armed state in the vain hope of salvaging Afghanistan would be a terrible mistake.

All this means that the proper U.S. priority for Afghanistan should be not to try harder but to change course. The war in Afghanistan (like the Iraq War) won't be won militarily. It can be settled—however imperfectly—only through politics.

The new U.S. president needs to realize that America's real political objective in Afghanistan is actually quite modest: to ensure that terrorist groups like Al Qaeda can't use it as a safe haven for launching attacks against the West. Accomplishing that won't require creating a modern, cohesive nation-state. U.S. officials tend to assume that power in Afghanistan ought to be exercised from Kabul. Yet the real influence in Afghanistan has traditionally rested with tribal leaders and warlords. Rather than challenge that tradition, Washington should work with it. Offered the right incentives, warlords can accomplish U.S. objectives more effectively and more cheaply than Western combat battalions. The basis of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan should therefore become decentralization and outsourcing, offering cash and other emoluments to local leaders who will collaborate with the United States in excluding terrorists from their territory.

This doesn't mean Washington should blindly trust that warlords will become America's loyal partners. U.S. intelligence agencies should continue to watch Afghanistan closely, and the Pentagon should crush any jihadist activities that local powers fail to stop themselves. As with the Israelis in Gaza, periodic airstrikes may well be required to pre-empt brewing plots before they mature.

Were U.S. resources unlimited and U.S. interests in Afghanistan more important, upping the ante with additional combat forces might make sense. But U.S. power — especially military power — is quite limited these days, and U.S. priorities lie elsewhere.

Rather than committing more troops, therefore, the new president should withdraw them while devising a more realistic — and more affordable — strategy for Afghanistan
In other words, America's war strategy is increasing instability in Pakistan. Pakistan has nuclear weapons. So the surge could very well decrease not only American national security but the security of the entire world.

I think that diplomatic rather than military means should be used to kill or contain the 100 bad guys in Afghanistan. But if we are going to remain engaged militarily, Bacevich's approach is a lot smarter than a surge of boots on the ground.


  1. After great Deliberation and personal Agony (traveled in the dead of night to meet the draped casket of a fallen soldier), Pres. Obama called for the Escalation of the "struggle" but he also Coupled it with an end date to this Struggle by military might and because of that (end date), I have Hope that the Long Nightmare of the twin wars, ignited by the twin towers will soon be over.

    I saw in Pres. Obama a heart that bleeds for this decision for anyone whose heart center is open and active feels the pain of this task, yet, speaking with a Heavy Heart, I also heard in that speech the unspoken wish or Intent that he was going to also bring Bin Laden to justice ( the great Prize and Symbol)! I also heard the great Urgency he feels to bind up all loose nuclear threats and to prevent them from getting into those hands within Afghanistan and Pakistan which might annihilate the world as we know it. He has not made this this "call to arms" for Oil or for profit based upon a lie but a heartfelt desire to keep safe the people in the world, in the binding up of these nuclear threats to the world by this faction which he knows is still out there plotting to do harm! That in this way we are Standing up for Peace and that somehow we must go into Hell for a Heavenly cause.

    I heard him also say to the Military Industrial Complex Machine that there will be an end date, and that it will not be open-ended, but that the battle for peace might call for other strategic ways to get to this goal -- that giving the benefit of the doubt to his generals -- he will try their way, but only for a time.

    As, he spoke about true security from a world without nuclear weapons (his real true goal), he also spoke about the need to unite with the world to accomplish this task because in truth, terror and nuclear weapons is a world problem! And finally, he called us to the time after 9/11, when we were all united but got deviated from the course, but to return to that Unity of purpose, one more time.... and that if he is lucky, he will bring home the Prize, Bin Ladin, break the back of this threat, and then for the weary and battle scarred-soldiers they can look onward and say, well done -- yet, there's no place like home, there's no place like home!

    Let us trust " that there is a goodness in all of life that cannot even be eliminated by thoughts that temporarily cause you to believe that negativity is the underlying reality of human life on earth... " (1) Let us call on that goodness to illuminate our way forward towards that peace and goodwill and seal the door where evil dwells.

    Deepak Chopra words on Pres. Obama's: Call to Arms:

    And for those of us who know how to use positive thought or the light, we Must, use our thought forms and/or light of love to radiate peace and love into the world, Daily! This will do much to uplift the atmosphere in the world and seal the door where evil dwells. I believe that if peaceful loving people all around the world use their God-given light and energy then soon the Twin Wars initiated by the fall of the Twin Towers will soon come to an end, but we must work, not in a vengeful way but with love and light. Love heals and unites, fear separates and divides, therefore, let us work with love. " We often instruct that unity be preserved. Such an Indication is not merely a simple moral teaching—disunity is the most abhorrent dissonance. Nothing strikes space as sharply as dissonance. When people are filled with malicious discord, damaging disruptions in space result immediately. Such people not only harm themselves they also create a spatial karma involving others like them. It is dreadful to battle with such newly-generated chaos."

    "People who bring discord are truly creators of chaos and the consequences of their malicious abuse are grievous. We must work for unity, not by hymns and harps, but by labor and struggle." (2)

    (1) Ron Scolastico. Doorway to the Soul
    (2) Supermundane I, Agni Yoga

  2. In other words, America's war strategy is increasing instability in Pakistan. Pakistan has nuclear weapons. So the surge could very well decrease not only American national security but the security of the entire world.

    you write this as if it were a BAD thing !!!

    we think feature more than bug.

    we humans no longer deserve to inhabit the planet. we need to go byebye.

  3. What is the real objective in Afghanistan? All that I've been hearing is this: America must capture Osama bin Laden and rid the country of Afghanistan of Al Qaeda and Taliban forces. Problem being, we can't do that. I understand the president's desire to end this war on Terrorism, and who can blame him; we all want this war to end. It has killed many of our loved ones, and it has hurt us economically and in the way of National Security. In my opinion, if we capture Osama bin Laden, then what? There's probably at least five to ten men ready to take over his position as a key leader in these terrorists groups. We need to take a step back from this thing and look at the big picture. What will we gain from this if we do win this war? Our economy is at an all time low, and so many soldiers have died, or are wounded from battling in this war. All this war has done for us is damage us, and hurt others. We as a country, as one body, as one nation, need to figure out a way to end this once and for all. But for now, our hopes and prayers be with the men and women who are out there fighting for us to keep us safe, and to protect us from any foreign threat. The only thing we can do at home is to pray that we win this war and end it for good.


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