Thursday, September 25, 2014

Really, Yes We Can

For God's sake, don't despair over Afghanistan. We have a mission within our reach and a lesson from Iraq about the folly of leaving allies on their own too soon.

President Obama ordered two separate major escalations of troop strength to fight in Afghanistan. Despite so many voicing eagerness to get out as fast as possible, the situation in Afghanistan on the ground really isn't very bad at all:

In the last year the number of foreign troops in Afghanistan has gone from 145,000 to 33,000. Afghan security forces have had to pick up the slack. This has meant that in the last six months some 9,000 Afghans died in terrorism related violence. Some 61 percent of the dead were Taliban and another 11 percent were civilians. The rest were police and soldiers. Fewer than fifty foreigners have died. Most of the violence is concentrated in two areas; the south (Helmand and Kandahar, where most of the heroin comes from) and the east (Paktia and Kunar provinces and parts of two nearby provinces). The Islamic terrorists in both the east and south try to maintain control over some areas in the four most violent provinces but their success tends to be temporary. Nevertheless the Afghan security forces are not enthusiastic about perpetual war with these guys. Yet in most of Afghanistan (20 of the 24 provinces) the Taliban is either absent or on the run. This tends to get forgotten by the foreign media, for whom peace and prosperity are not news. But it is inside Afghanistan.

Both these hotspots are sustained by Islamic terrorist sanctuaries across the border in Pakistan.

The Taliban are an intense, enduring, but narrow problem inside Afghanistan, bolstered by sanctuaries in Pakistan (and increasingly, in Iran).

Note that over the last six months, Afghanistan has suffered 1,500 casualties per month. About 900 were the enemy. Government security forces suffered less than half of the enemy rate. In Syria with a similar population, by contrast, casualties are nearly triple. And the casualty percentage of civilian deaths is about 4 times the Afghanistan rate.

Victory in Afghanistan can be sustained with some American help. I don't define Afghanistan victory as democracy in Afghanistan--it is too peripheral in the Moslem world to matter much in this regard. I define victory as denying jihadis a sanctuary. But my objectives for Afghanistan have never been high, remember.

UPDATE: Are we accepting these A-29 planes for Afghanistan's air force? Or are we planning contract pilots? Because I thought our president's plan was to skedaddle after 2016:

Brazilian aviation firm Embraer said Thursday that it had delivered the first of 20 light-attack aircraft to the US Air Force, for use in Afghanistan after the NATO troop withdrawal.

As an inexpensive ground support plane, it is great for a country like Afghanistan that can't afford high performance planes and doesn't face enemies with sophisticated air defenses.

But why are we accepting them? Who flies and maintains them?

But have no doubt, Afghanistan desperately needs air power given our departure. We see the effects of this lack of capability already:

Hundreds of Taliban fighters have stormed a strategic district in an Afghan province southwest of the capital and are on the verge of capturing it after killing dozens of people and beheading some in days of fighting, officials said on Friday. ...

No longer pinned down by U.S. air cover, Taliban fighters are attacking Afghan military posts in large numbers with the aim of taking and holding ground.

As we return to Iraq to re-win that war after we blew our achievements there, could we please refuse to lose Afghanistan right now?