Saturday, June 02, 2018

Choke Hold

The Pakistanis noted--and it is a threat because we are of course very aware--that they could cut our supply lines to Afghanistan. Will we finally seek an alternative?

The regional strategy to fight in Afghanistan is correct. A good deal of the problem is that enemies have sanctuary in Pakistan. Our frenemy Pakistan reminds us that there are limits to how hard we can push Pakistan:

A Pakistani official says his country may block supply lines into Afghanistan if relations with the United States do not improve.

An American general said that thus far we have had no actual problems:

Let me talk about the supply lines. They've done nothing to shut down the supply lines -- the ground line of communication from the south, or the air line of communication that comes in over western Pakistan.

So I can't -- I'm not in a position to talk about what they may or may not have said at the diplomatic level, but I can tell you, at the military level, that those lines remain open and that stuff is continuing to flow across them.

Remember that unlike the first surges in 2009, today the Afghan forces are stronger and can be supported rather than replaced. The idea that we didn't end the war with 100,000 then and so can't win with not even 15% of that now just doesn't follow on that numbers issue.

Which is a good difference when you consider the Pakistani threat. Right now the major alternative to using Pakistani lines of supply is using supply lines that go through Russia or are vulnerable to Russian pressure.

I was worried in 2008 before the surges when it looked like we'd expand the force to 60,000 US troops:

It's a mobius war, I've explained. I won't sleep well at night with perhaps 60,000 Americans fighting in Afghanistan at the end of that supply line and no real alternative to the Pakistan route. I don't actually worry that these Taliban attacks can cut our supply line. These are inconveniences.

But if Pakistan no longer wants to defend the route, we are screwed. If we lose that route, we'd best be looking at how to get our people--and our NATO friends--out of that pocket.

And before even that I was worried, and wrote that if we had a friendly Iran the supply problem and the limits on pressuring Pakistan would be dramatically improved.

We avoided the worst during our 2009 surges and the years that followed. We did not face a Stalingrad in the mountains. But we also could not put maximum pressure on Pakistan while we made our big effort. I don't want to tempt fate again. I want to keep our troop strength in Afghanistan low. And I'm worried enough about the troop level we have.

Will the end of the seriously horrible Iran nuclear deal and American pressure on Iran to end its aggressive foreign policy and truly renounce nukes lead Iran's government--or Iranians, more likely--to finally make it possible for Iran to be a more secure supply line to Afghanistan and end the choke hold Pakistan has on our long war in Afghanistan?

That would be nice.