Friday, July 25, 2008

Too Nervous to Think Straight

Al Qaeda is shifting their focus to Afghanistan. So as al Qaeda and other threats in Iraq are ground down, we will follow this enemy focus. But let's do this calmly without a ridiculous sense of panic that seems to be brewing.

We are limited in what we can do because the enemy is using Pakistan as a sanctuary. It isn't a perfect sanctuary since the Pakistani government periodically has a spasm of military activity to knock the jihadis back, but it is a place to run and survive if necessary.

Also, we are limited by the fragile supply lines running through Pakistan in what we can do in Pakistan or even in Afghanistan.

And if you are worried about the cost of war, supplying a single soldier in Afghanistan is much more expensive than in Iraq. And we are stuck with a lot of NATO tourists who won't fight but suck up supplies.

Nor do we have the same objectives in Afghanistan as in Iraq. As long as we can strengthen the Afghan security forces to keep al Qaeda from establishing a safe haven and keep the Taliban from capturing the government, we can afford to have lesser standards of success. Once we knocked off the Taliban government and scattered al Qaeda in 2001, Afghanistan became a lesser problem not requiring an intense military effort. I still think this is true whether we fight in Iraq or not. I worry that we are going to send more troops to Afghanistan not because they are needed to achieve our objectives but because they are becoming more available as we win in Iraq.

And even if you have grander goals, unless we can deal with the Pakistan situation without making our problems worse, we can't actually do much more inside Afghanistan even with more troops.

As our focus begins to shift to Afghanistan from Iraq, we need to calmly assess the situation and our goals before just going off half-cocked. Just what are the extra troops supposed to do. Please try to avoid hysteria:

I just want to make one additional point on this. I think we all are -- I think we're all getting a little bit -- overwriting, perhaps, some of this stuff, which is that the sky is falling Afghanistan. I don't think that the secretary believes that is the case. I think he believes that there are -- it is a mixed picture in Afghanistan; that we are seeing some areas clearly where there has been an increase of violence -- most notably in RC East, where we have seen, because of a lack of pressure on the Pakistan side of the border, an increase in the flow of foreign fighters from Pakistan into Afghanistan, and that is causing real problems for our troops there.

Just because we soon can send three brigades to Afghanistan doesn't mean we should.