Friday, April 30, 2010

Perhaps We Shouldn't Try to Make Karzai Loved

The Pentagon has good news and bad news about our efforts in Afghanistan:

The Pentagon Wednesday issued a downbeat assessment of the situation in Afghanistan , saying that only one in four Afghans in strategically important areas currently back President Hamid Karzai's government even as the Taliban expand their insurgency and install shadow local governments.

The report to Congress outlined some areas of progress, including a leveling off of violence during the last three months, improved counter-insurgency cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistani and the finding that 84 percent of Afghans feel that security is good or fair.

Yes, combat is up. But with more US troops being used more aggressively, that is to be expected. The bad news about Karzai wouldn't matter if we weren't trying to create a central government for a region that has never known that and doesn't appear to want it. Then, it would all be pretty good news.

We have better options than trying to make Karzai and the Kabul government popular:

The end result in Afghanistan, if all goes well, will be a nominal national government that controls the capital region and reigns but does not rule local tribes and which actually helps the locals a bit rather than sucking resources from the locals, who in turn do not make trouble for the central government or allow their areas to be used by jihadis to plan attacks on the West. We press for reasonable economic opportunities, with bribes all around (I mean, foreign aid), to keep a fragile peace.

And we stick around this time, unlike after the Soviets left Afghanistan when we ignored the place, for a generation or two to see if we can move Afghanistan into the 19th century (hey, let's not get ahead of ourselves).

Hopefully our military surge recedes by the end of 2011 and we can get down to a single combat brigade plus air power that function as a fire brigade and a hammer for the central government should a local difficulty exceed Afghan military capabilities.

And I'll repeat my worries about having so many troops at the end of such a long supply line. I am willing to give the Pentagon the benefit of the doubt when they say they need more troops to win more quickly, but I still don't think we had to have the fall 2009 surge decision on top of the spring 2009 surge in order to win.