Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Alternate Timeline

There are those who say that the basic mistake in Iraq is that we didn't get out after toppling Saddam and just leave the Shias and Kurds to deal with the Sunni Arab Baathists and their jihadi allies. Perhaps Iraq would have looked like Yemen.

In Yemen, Shia rebels who would love Iranian support now, have marched on the capital:

Shiite insurgents tightened their grip on Yemen’s capital Wednesday, seizing control of a missile base and keeping the president as a virtual hostage in a showdown threatening a key American ally in the fight against al-Qaeda.

Days of fast-moving advances by the Houthi rebel faction — believed to be backed by Iran — has left the Western-backed government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi backed into a corner with rapidly diminishing options.

Just hours after storming the presidential palace on Tuesday, the Houthi leader gave what amounted to an ultimatum: Hadi can either move ahead with reforms that include giving rebels more power or risk intensified attacks that could topple his government.

So limiting ourselves to letting locals sort out their own governance as we should have done in Iraq after the destruction of the Saddam regime, doesn't always work out even if we provide air support (and other support, too).

But we're off the coast:

Two U.S. Navy warships moved into new positions in the Red Sea late Monday to be ready to evacuate Americans from the US embassy in Yemen if an order comes to do so, CNN has learned.

So far, there has been no decision to evacuate the embassy. The USS Iwo Jima and the USS Fort McHenry were moved "because they will be in the best position if asked," by the State Department to evacuate the embassy, a U.S. official with direct knowledge of the planning tells CNN.

Say, we're leaving Afghanistan on their own, too, right?

Afghanistan is facing a lot of problems with the departure of most Western troops by the end of 2014. This is becoming more obvious now because over the last few months most of the foreign troops and contractors that helped keep complex equipment going for the Afghan military have left and the Afghan troops are on their own. Things are breaking down and there is no one available to fix them. This is often minor stuff, at least by Western standards, but insurmountable in Afghanistan. Thus the Afghan police and army are not missing the Western combat troops as much as they are the Western tech support. Right now all combat operations against the Taliban are being handled by Afghan police and soldiers. But most of the support functions long handled by the Western forces are not being taken care because nearly all those foreign logistical, medical, communications and intelligence troops and civilian contractors have gone. This hurts the Afghans particularly hard because they have not got enough Afghans with technical skills to replace all those techs. Medical support is particularly missed, as is the once abundant and timely air support (using smart bombs). This loss is already hurting the morale of Afghan security forces, many of them veterans who have gotten used to the availability of Western levels of medical care for those wounded in combat and smart bombs to get them out of hopeless situations. The missing Western air support will result in more Afghan casualties. One or two smart bombs is often decisive when fighting the Taliban, warlords or bandits. The air surveillance capabilities of the Westerners was also a great help in defeating the enemy and limiting friendly casualties. All the other Western support services had a similar impact and nearly of it is now gone.

No worries. The drone war will suffice to keep the jihadis at bay.

Recall that our president once boasted of Yemen, where we provide armed drone support for the government against jihadis, as a template for our intervention against ISIL.

Yeah, we might be leaving enough troops in Afghanistan to fuel a really good massacre but not enough to win.

And by the way, Afghanistan is landlocked.

UPDATE: More from Strategypage on Yemen. This is a continuation of the Arab Spring, but I tend not to pay too much attention to Yemen since it is--as Strategypage notes--a mess.

So I don't blame the Obama administration for this semi-continuous region of crises. Even if we actually had smart diplomacy, it would likely be beyond even a competent Secretary of State.

So just sort out the mess as best we can and see how we can continue to kill jihadis.