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A note on Obama and Afghanistan

A highly placed official with responsibility for Afghanistan writes to comment on Paul Mirengoff’s post on Obama and Afghanistan. He writes:

[Obama's] policy prescription there is equally as troubling as the one he proposes for Iraq (retreat!). If I may, I wanted to add one quibbling corollary to your post — Afghanistan occupies an enormous amount of my time…these days: I think Afghanistan IS as bad now as Iraq was pre-surge. None of this is classified, of course.

For the reasons you cite the answer is not more US troops. The circumstance are different and, to use Obama’s word, nuance is important. (as an aside, isn’t Obama’s prescription for Afghanistan — a surge — at least an implicit admission that he believes the surge in Iraq is effective? If not, where did he get the idea?)

Unlike Iraq, control of the cities is not the problem in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is HUGE. Bigger than Iraq. We just don’t have the troops to do in Afghanistan what we did in Iraq, even if we weren’t in Iraq. Rather it’s the lawlessness in the hinterlands that is the problem. Regular Army doesn’t get you much there. We need to bolster Afghan security forces and dismantle enemy networks, not control territory (i.e., it’s a special forces mission).

The root causes of the trouble in Afghanistan are twofold: (1) the slow (and frightening!) disintegration of Pakistan and (2) Iran’s alliance with the Taliban. Pakistan can’t control its border or northwest territories. This gives the Taliban and AQ a free area to operate and a porous border that they can cross to attack US troops. Just as troubling, Iran is training and equipping the Taliban with even more deadly tactics and weapons. Of note is that the Taliban has begun employing the same deadly EFPs that Sadr’s goons use against US troops in Iraq.

These may be wonky points but it’s safe to say that Obama’s policies would be disastrous for both problems. I think it’s under-appreciated just how fragile Pakistan is. Obama has said that he would invade Pakistan. That could be the tipping point that throws the country into chaos — a scary thought for a country with nukes and a habit of allying itself with terrorists.

And on Iran, even Obama’s golden tongue couldn’t convince the Iranian government to stop supporting the Taliban. Obama’s promise to hold unconditional talks with Tehran would just make their murder of US troops in Afghanistan (and in Iraq) another leverage point in their negotiations. The Taliban are enemies of the US, which makes them Tehran’s allies, despite their history and the sophomoric point that they are Sunni.

We could into infinite detail here on what we should do, but it’s safe to say that Obama has no earthly idea what he is talking about. Even a cursory briefing on Afghanistan would help him. This man is truly dangerous.

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