As the nation celebrates its 234th anniversary this Independence Day, still at war in Afghanistan after nearly nine years, and awaits eagerly Michael Steele's upcoming magisterial ten-volume history of Afghanistan (soon to be a major motion picture), author Ann Marlowe explains why the brothers Karzai, spectacularly corrupt to the core, must follow their protector, Stanley McChrystal, out the door, if we are to have any chance to turn around a failing war effort. AM explains the mess we are in and the way out:
First, counterinsurgency has never worked unless a good percentage of the population supports the government -- and that's no longer so in Afghanistan. We botched a chance to gain a reliable Afghan partner, presidential challenger Dr. Abdullah, when we let Karzai steal the election last August. But the Karzais have to go, now.
Probably the best way is to prosecute AWK for his many crimes and hope that his brother will flee. (A US anti-corruption team is said to be closing in on another Karzai brother, businessman Mahmoud, even now.) The Karzai cartel is hollowing out the Afghan state for its personal gain. If some of his brothers are jailed, it's likely Hamid will flee.
Second, Afghanistan is winnable only if the Afghan National Police and Army can take responsibility for security. Progress has been glacial.
Just one of Afghanistan's 360 police districts can operate without US help, and just 14 more are rated at the top grade for those requiring oversight -- the same as in 2009. Far too many officers quit -- 16,000 last year. And in the last year, there has been no rise in the number of Afghan army battalions rated at the highest functional level.
Penny-pinching is certainly not the problem: The $11.6 billion appropriated for training the Afghan police and army isn't far off Israel's 2008 defense budget of $12 billion.
One factor eroding the Afghan police is poor local governance, something that our troops on the ground struggle with daily. Some of this can be corrected by replacing the crooks at the top of the Afghan state.
The answer isn't more troops or money, it's the moral courage to show the Afghan people that another way is possible, and that we believe in it. McChrystal seemed determined to show the Afghans that we believed only in the power of their mafias.
McChrystal's replacement, his boss and mentor Gen. David Petraeus, must make it clear to Pakistan that our allies have to act like allies. McChrystal was an enabler of the two-faced Pakistanis, who both clamor for more American aid, yet funnel support to the Afghan insurgency.
A Washington Post front-pager details how Karzai aides are derailing corruption investigations to protect favored elites.
The LA Times fingers special envoy Richard Holbrooke as a candidate for departure, but notes his record as a survivor. Holbrooke is not known for modesty, as thus is not a sympathetic figure. But to his credit, the LAT notes, he nailed Karzai for massive vote fraud in the first round of last year's Afghan pseudo-election. Karzai, naturally,"went ballistic"--as only the truly guilty can do; Team Obama backed down, and Karzai was allowed to steal the second round.
Bill Kristol recommends sacking the civilian side & getting former US Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, out of retirement to take charge. In a later post praising O's selection of Petraeus, Kristol notes disagreement within Team Obama's inner circle. Kristol sees O aiming for victory:
Can we be confident that Obama is really going for victory? I think so. Consider his speech Wednesday, when he announced the replacement of McChrystal with Petraeus. After referring to our “vital mission” in Afghanistan, to doing “whatever is necessary to succeed in Afghanistan, and in our broader effort to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda,” he urged us “to remember what this is all about. Our nation is at war. We face a very tough fight in Afghanistan. But Americans don’t flinch in the face of difficult truths or difficult tasks. We persist and we persevere.”Obama didn’t say we persist and we persevere—but only until July 2011. Indeed, Obama never mentioned that date, and he never mentioned withdrawal.
Fair enough. Kristol predicts that the civilian side guys will soon be gone. He then compares Obama's words with a recent statement from WH Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel naming July 2011 as the date withdrawal would begin. Ktistol considers July 2011 O.B.E. But Mark Steyn sees an unengaged President drifting aimlessly. In a similar vein, WSJ pundit Bret Stephens sees an ambivalent President undermining the Afghan effort.
Peggy Noonan sees the changeover as a "signal moment" for us to focus on the war and how to win it. She paints a bleak domestic political landscape:
The left doesn't like this war and will only grow more opposed to it. The center sees that it has gone on longer than Vietnam, and "we've seen that movie before." We're in an economic crisis; can we afford this war? The right is probably going to start to peel off, not Washington policy intellectuals but people on the ground in America. There are many reasons for this. Their sons and nephews have come back from repeat tours full of doubts as to the possibility of victory, "whatever that is," as we all now say. There is the brute political fact that the war is now President Obama's. The blindly partisan will be only too happy to let him stew in it.
PN notes that what drives Obama to stay in Afghanistan is fear that a Taliban Afghan regime will destabilize shaky Pakistan, and possibly give control over Pakistan's nuclear arsenal to Islamists.
Fox News reports that one of Petraeus's first moves will be to revamp the rules of engagement (RoE), which McChrystal made so restrictive that troops were getting killed, sapping morale of the survivors. One grieving couple said that their son's Afghan War death was partly due to restrictive RoE. The mother said: "They're laughing at us, the Taliban are laughing at us." She added that we need as commander -in-chief "a warrior, not a flower child." Historian Arthur Herman reminds us that Harry Truman was the former, and hence we prevailed in Korea, through a steadfastness we will need to have a chance in Afghanistan. An Australian veteran offers sage advice for Petraeus, beginning with changing RoE; he notes that Afghan tribesmen do not respect those who hold their fire while under attack. Fred & Kimberley Kagan (he was co-creator of the surge strategy in Iraq) see the war as winnable, if adjustments are made incrementally. UK Defense Minister Liam Fox calls for a strong US-UK partnership in Afghanistan to defeat terrorism.
The NY Times reports that VP Joe Biden's hand has been strengthened by troubles in the Afghan War. Biden is prime among proponents of a July 2011 firm exit date. That date has been waved by Taliban all over the country, as proof the Americans lack staying power. The Veep is living proof that issue knowledge, which he has, is no guarantor of sound policy formulation; Biden wanted to exit Iraq in 2006 after splitting the country. Charles Krauthammer fingers another "July 2001 or bust!" culprit: the President:
The surge succeeded in Iraq because the locals witnessed a massive deployment of U.S. troops to provide them security, which encouraged them to give us intelligence, which helped us track down the bad guys and kill them. This, as might be expected, led to further feelings of security by the locals, more intelligence provided us, more success in driving out the bad guys, and henceforth a virtuous cycle as security and trust and local intelligence fed each other.
But that depended on a larger understanding by the Iraqis that the American president was implacable -- famously stubborn, refusing to set any exit date, and determined to see the surge through. What President Bush's critics considered mulishness, the Iraqis saw as steadfastness.
What the Afghans hear from the current American president is a surge with an expiration date. An Afghan facing the life-or-death choice of which side to support can be forgiven for thinking that what Obama says is what Obama intends. That may be wrong, but if so, why doesn't Obama dispel that false impression? He doesn't even have to repudiate the July 2011 date, he simply but explicitly has to say: July 2011 is the target date, but only if conditions on the ground permit.
Those suffering from Bush Derangement Syndrome will never concede that GWB did anything right, but the rest of us can recognize reality. Reality may prove to be, as George Will fears, that we will lose in Afghanistan. Henry Kissinger writes that we need a strategy, not an alibi:
Yet America needs a strategy, not an alibi. We have a basic national interest to prevent jihadist Islam from gaining additional momentum, which it will surely do if it can claim to have defeated the United States and its allies after overcoming the Soviet Union. A precipitate withdrawal would weaken governments in many countries with significant Islamic minorities. It would be seen in India as an abdication of the U.S. role in stabilizing the Middle East and South Asia and spur radical drift in Pakistan. It would, almost everywhere, raise questions about America's ability to define or execute its proclaimed goals. A militant Iran building its nuclear capacity would assess its new opportunities as the United States withdraws from both Iraq and Afghanistan and is unable to break the diplomatic stalemate over Iran's nuclear program. But an obtrusive presence would, in time, isolate us in Afghanistan as well as internationally.
Afghan strategy needs to be modified in four ways. The military effort should be conducted substantially on a provincial basis rather than in pursuit of a Western-style central government. The time scale for a political effort exceeds by a wide margin that available for military operations. We need a regional diplomatic framework for the next stage of Afghan strategy, whatever the military outcome. Artificial deadlines should be abandoned.
A regional diplomacy is desirable because our interests coincide substantially with those of many of the regional powers. All of them, from a strategic perspective, are more threatened than is the United States by an Afghanistan hospitable to terrorism. China in Sinkiang, Russia in its southern regions, India with respect to its Muslim minority of 160 million, Pakistan as to its political structure, and the smaller states in the region would face a major threat from an Afghanistan encouraging, or even tolerating, centers of terrorism. Regional diplomacy becomes all the more necessary to forestall a neocolonial struggle if reports about the prevalence of natural resources in Afghanistan prove accurate.
Afghanistan becomes an international issue whenever an outside power seeks to achieve unilateral dominance. Inevitably, this draws in other parties to establish a countervailing influence, driving events beyond rational calculation. A regional diplomacy should seek to establish a framework to insulate Afghanistan from the storms raging around it rather than allow the country to serve as their epicenter. It would also try to build Afghanistan into a regional development plan, perhaps encouraged by the Afghan economy's reported growth rate of 15 percent last year.
HK notes that the political clock for American military involvement cannot run through a final political resolution, and that only regional diplomacy can provide a framework for limited military action. Mideast maven Fouad Ajami sees America's lack of staying power imperiling the Petraeus mission. Soldier-author Ralph Peters sees a test for Petraeus: whether he can abandon a failing counter-insurgency strategy for a more realistic strategy. We need, RP writes, to stop nation-building in Afghanistan's unpromising soil, kill more enemy, and fix the blame for collateral civilian casualties on the Taliban for secreting themselves amidst civilians.
From America's national security left, A. C. Bacevich sees "four-star arrogance" in our Afghan War; his thoughts about strain on our military are apt, but America does not, as he puts it, have a policy of "endless war." A Hudson Institute Afghan War event last week hosted Ann Marlowe + one co-author of the Army's counterinsurgency manual. Nuggets: (1) RoE must vary with time & place, based upon local conditions; (2) Afghanistan's complex cultural tapestry is less hospitable to American values than, for example, El Salvador's--with vastly different economic & social caculi; (3) while some acceptable outcome might still be achievable, the clock is running out quickly.
We would be home in a heartbeat, if we felt we could retreat with safety for us & our allies. Alas, we cannot.
Bottom Line. Unless we get the locals on our side, and our civilian-side act together, our magnificent military will be betrayed, as tragically it was in Vietnam. General Petraeus is the man on the proverbial white horse for the military, and now must break the Karzai partnership forged by McChrystal--a celebrated soldier but no manager--and find himself a Ryan Crocker clone to replicate the military - civilian partnership that salvaged Iraq. It is a tall order for even the formidable general--partly because in his current commander-in-chief & VP he lacks the support for "winning whatever it takes" that he got from Bush - Cheney.
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