Sunday, July 20, 2008

Ready to Lose the Only War We Have

I can only assume that the recent panic focused on Afghanistan is based on the ongoing success in Iraq. The domestic urge to panic is constant, so when you squeeze the balloon in Iraq it comes out in Afghanistan.

The overall level of violence in Afghanistan is down, as far as I can tell. Although civilian casualties are up as the enemy targets civilians instead of our troops. And with more of our troops in Afghanistan acting more aggressively along the border with Pakistan, it is natural that there will be more combat and more US casualties. Remember that the enemy is suffering heavily, too. Pakistan's failure to police their side of the border plus al Qaeda's decision to focus on Afghanistan after losing in Iraq make the border area more dangerous.

General Petraeus has noted signs of the al Qaeda shift:

He said there are signs that foreign fighters recruited by al-Qaida to do battle in Iraq are being diverted to the largely ungoverned areas in Pakistan from which the fighters can cross into Afghanistan. U.S. officials have pressed Pakistan for more than a year to halt the cross-border infiltration. It remains a major worry not only for the war in Afghanistan but also for Pakistan's stability.

And Ralph Peters comments on what I've been hammering at for a while now:

The partisan hacks who insisted that Iraq was a distraction from fighting al Qaeda have missed the situation's irony: Things are getting worse in Afghanistan and Pakistan not because our attention was elsewhere, but because al Qaeda has been driven from the Arab world, with nowhere else to go.

Al Qaeda isn't fighting to revive the Caliphate these days. It's fighting for its life.

Unwelcome even in Sudan or Syria, the Islamist fanatics have retreated to remote mountain villages and compounds on the Pakistani side of the Afghan border. That means Afghanistan's going to remain a difficult challenge for years to come - not a mission-impossible, but an aggravating one.

Pakistan is the problem now--not Afghanistan. Pakistan-based gunmen flow into Afghanistan where they kill and die, but the problem is not basically about Afghanistan. Which is the problem.

I once thought that the Pakistanis had finally figured out that they could not keep making deals with the jihadis. I thought that al Qaeda's defeat in Iraq and failure to gain traction anywhere else meant that we would witness a final jihad in Pakistan as the Pakistanis destroyed the jihadi sanctuary in the frontier areas:

If Pakistan may finally realize that they cannot make deals with jihadis, al Qaeda and their jihadi Taliban allies may be waging war on Pakistan because they have no choice.

If Pakistan will fight this war with no quarter, this could be the final jihad.

But sadly, the Pakistanis keep shrinking from this logical step and hope they can get the jihadis in Pakistan to leave the Pakistani cities alone and go and die in Afghanistan instead.

Not that we can't finally push Pakistan to waging a war without quarter against the jihadis. If we can engineer a Tribal Awakening movement in the frontier areas with a Lexington Campaign, we might defeat al Qaeda and the Taliban in the frontier areas:

If we can't get Islamabad to control the frontier area, it is time to bypass Islamabad and deal directly with the tribes who don't recognize the control of Islamabad in the first place. We cannot allow the fictions of sovereignty to keep us from defending ourselves from fanatics who straddle the gray boundary that lies between reality and international law.

Using limited military assets such as special forces and drones to back civilian armed assets such as the CIA or contract personnel (with either former or seconded special forces from Western countries, or perhaps even hiring security companies to provide the personnel) or even Arab special forces that would live and work inside the frontier areas, we may be able to turn the frontier tribes against the jihadis who target us.

This might have the effect of driving the jihadis into Pakistan's cities where the jihadis will naturally try to kill Pakistani civilians. Then, with the threat right in their faces, Pakistan's leaders may finally recognize that they have no choice but to fight the jihadis.

We have problems in the theater, but Afghanistan is not an imminent disaster. We need to work the problem and not get our panties in a twist.

Just remember, before our Left can turn on the Afghanistan War and attempt to lose this newly bad war, they have to portray it as unwinnable.

Please, don't tell me that you actually believed the anti-Iraq War side was really resolute in wanting to win in Afghanistan?