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Friday, December 4, 2009

My brother weigh's in on the President's Speech about Afgahnestan

As previously reported the President’s speech at West Point appears to point towards a preemptive withdrawal—beat the Taliban back and then withdraw beginning in 2011. However, there are numerous indications that this may have only been a sop to his leftist political base. (Whatever the intent, Chris Mathews’ remark about West Point being the camp of the enemy may have done a significant amount of political damage to the President’s goal of gaining bipartisan support for this effort—the entire nation respects what West Point stands for.) The goals of the strategy seem ambitious. There seems to be a diplomatic /public diplomacy component to the strategy that was not mentioned in the speech.

Karl Rove and Newt Gingrich (those are probably two supporters that the President didn’t need.) in supporting the president’s strategy pointed out that the key ingredient to success is perseverance. Will the administration have the perseverance to see the conflict through to a successful conclusion? Secretary Gates, while testifying to Congress on Wednesday said:

Our current plan is that we will begin the transition in local areas in July of 2010, but we will evaluate in December of 2010 whether we believe we will be able to meet that objective. If circumstances dictate in December, the President always has the freedom to adjust his decision.

In defining success Secretary of Defense Gates announced 7 goals to the strategy:
1. Reversing Taliban momentum
2. Denying the militant access to key population and production centers and lines of communications
3. Disrupting militant activities elsewhere
4. Preventing Al Qaeda from reestablishing itself
5. Degrading the Taliban to levels manageable by Afghan forces
6. Increasing the size and capability of Afghan police and security forces
7. Selectively building the capacity of the Afghan government

These seem to be reasonable goals, but goals that can be accomplished in 12 -18 months. In this regard the strategy seems to outweigh the resources. We have always advised that ends (goals), ways, and means (resources) must be in balance for a strategy to work.

It will probably require perseverance past 18 months, unless the threat of the upcoming effort creates political leverage with the Taliban for the Afghans to reach an acceptable political accommodation.
The strategy appears to have a diplomatic/public diplomacy aspect that became visible yesterday with announcements by both Afghan President Karzai and General McChrystal seeking discussions with the Taliban to terminate the conflict. Most likely this public posturing is the beginning of the attempts to divide the Taliban and to appeal to the peace seeking component within the Taliban that we discussed earlier.
With respect to the goal of building the capacity of the Afghan government, the White House Press Secretary began the pressure on the Afghan government when he said on Wednesday: “If President Karzai is unable or unwilling to make changes in corruption or governance then we will identify people at subcabinet level, at a district level that can implement the types of services and basic governance without corruption that Afghans need.”

This suggests what we have been advocating for some time—a regional / tribe oriented aspect to the strategy, not a campaign to make a non-corrupt central government where there has never been one.
Improved governance and security so that basic services can be provided to tribes, towns and regions are the key to success in gaining public support or at least turn them against the Taliban. This means that if at the province or tribal level the allied and Afghan force can hold the towns and the lines of communications the Taliban can be denied public support. Key to this will also be the provision of employment.

It would appear that the initial thrust of the new forces will be against the Pashtuns in the south. This will be the toughest area / tribe and if there is success there the rest of the country may follow much more easily.

Speaking of the Pashtuns we cannot forget the Pakistani aspect to the whole problem. This will be the subject of the next article.

The President’s strategy has aspects that will most likely require perseverance for more than 18 months and one can only hope that domestic politics do not undercut the resolve necessary to persevere.
Bruce, B.G. Clarke Col Rtd

Posted By Cindy Carnahan At 10:29 AM • Comments (0) Trackbacks (0)
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