What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Wrong thoughts as a random factor

How on Earth did this op-ed get through in the NYT and the IHT? Correct me if I'm not aware of something, but even "Zabiyullah Mujahed," the Taliban's spokesman character never made the claim that they overran that U.S.-Afghan base in Nuristan, in July: it was left behind only after the major insurgent attack that it did withstand. But Bartle Breese Bull does say it was overrun in his apparently rather carelessly written piece, "The wrong force for the 'right war' ."
3B also thinks that the best way to stop terrorists from doing bad things is if someone has a landing strip in, say, Uzbekistan. Then one can fly in there special forces who can then go to Afghanistan to take out the terrorist leaders, even if the Taliban and al-Qaida happen to take Afghanistan, which, really, would be just a minor glitch in the war on terror. I mean, if, say, 10,000 militants are trained in camps every year there while celebrating a massive defeat of the West in the evenings, after tiring days of hard work, it's just fine, really. If it gets a little out of hand, a little carpet-bombing could surely help. It would be just pre-emption, right? Or, wait, no, it's not a Taliban-ruled country we're talking about! 3B says there would be a "complacent" government in Kabul. Truely loved by everyone, with all the bombing going on around it, and insurgents in control in much of the countryside. Surely even 3B doesn't think the ANA would be in control then - maybe 3B hasn't noticed that they are not yet deemed capable of doing things on their own at this point? Or has he better judgement over this than military experts do?
3B also thinks that in Afghanistan, Taliban-ruled or not, enough accurate intelligence could be collected for timely, surgical strikes against terrorist leaders, even with a very light footprint there.
Like, these "surgical strikes" blasting mud huts would kill at maximum a family or two on average occasions, and rather often no terrorist leader would make the appointment when his liquidation is attempted.
The reason 3B is suggesting things like this is 1) he lives far from Afghanistan, so his neighbours will not be bombed in surgical strikes; 2) he says that since we would need 400,000 soldiers in Afghanistan to play it entirely safely according to the relevant but none-too-refined, generalising estimate of COIN experts, we shouldn't send there any more soldiers to add to a currently ridiculously undermanned military mission.
Personally, I think that anyone who keeps parroting the word "surge" to describe deploying soldiers with tasks to be accomplished (as opposed to just flooding some area with extra human mass), is disqualified from being given the chance of feigning authoritative argumentation in an op-ed. It's not exactly surgical accuracy in using concepts.
Yes, state-building in Afghanistan is a costly effort and it is extremely complicated because of Pakistan, 3B is right about that (and, by the way, did you know the Earth is not flat?). Which is why wasting so much on Iraq was a bit troubling, just like troubling it was that so many people were thinking that counterterrorism in Afghanistan would be enough instead of state-building, which WAS actually the concept at the beginning, post-2001. That was the initial concept, and now people like 3B are outlining the exact same concept as one that ought to be realised... This is partly the Rory Stewart contagion taking hold, I'm afraid.
But hey, no wonder 3B hasn't noticed this. According to the IHT, he "is writing a history of Iraq" nowadays. Indeed, not only U.S. soldiers and jihadists are redeploying to the Afghan theatre nowadays. People like 3B are doing so, too. These opinion-leaders come with diverse views, so they are something like a random factor.
Update: I see that Josh Foust has already given the treatment to this article that it deserved. Sorry for duplicating the effort. At least I got my blood pressure nearer to normal. I like fnord's comment to the post there at Registan, regarding the Iraq war: "the cost is Afghan." Well said.


Haole Wahine said...

We have long begged that Afghanistan not be allowed to stay the forgotten war, but it is amazing to watch all the Talking/Writing Heads suddenly using their expertise on Iraq to validate "solving" the "Afghan" problem.

Has any of them even looked at Afghan topography? Afghan history for the last oh let's see several centuries?

Even a cursory read shows how easy it is for the AQ (not TB) camps to run in the Mountains of Eastern/South Eastern Afghanistan. This area has never even given lip service to whatever central government there was in Kabul. Which was okay, as long as they did not harbor terrorists.

So the idea of winning "hearts and minds" of the villages and each individual Elder in Afghanistan is even more important than in Iraq. The villages are really independant.

Provide Security for the Hearts and Minds campaigns to be successful. This work has been going on in Afghanistan, even in the shadow of Iraq. The villages are learning, as the people of Iraq have done, that Americans help and improve their lives. The Taliban and al Qaedia, just take and kill them. While Iraq has been in the news, NATO has been slowly edging our way out into the mountains, getting ever closer to the Pakistan Border.

Joshua Foust said...

Duplicating effort? Dude, this guy NEEDS to be criticized, as often and as brutally as possible. I can only hope he gives Iraq much more care and attention. Normally the Brits are better than this.