Monday, August 06, 2018

How Afghanistan Could End

This author has a better view of the Afghan security forces than others (who are less optimistic about the mission), and thinks we've largely achieved our objectives; but believes that stalemate is the natural state given capabilities and interests of each side. He brings up an end state that I've advocated since at least the beginning of the Obama administration before the president ordered two surges.

This makes sense to me:

The [Afghanistan] insurgency continues to have some support outside hard core Taliban strongholds because the central government simply cannot deliver expected basic governmental services outside main urban areas due to poor transportation and communications networks. Iraq’s government can manage a highly centralized system because it has a relatively mature transportation and communications infrastructure; but even Iraq is challenged in insurgency situations. The key to long term success in Afghanistan is providing good governance at the provincial and local levels, and this can only be accomplished by decentralization.

This fits well with my hopes for the surge:

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 while contractors can fill roles in maintenance, I would not privatize the war effort in an effort to get American troops out of Afghanistan.

While the people of Afghanistan may eventually adapt to the small pressures of the nation-state system that recognizes a government in Kabul as the formal national government, thus far the large pressures of being the place other empires didn't expand into will make "Afghanistan" a geographic rather than political term.

It took a long time (and a bloody civil war) for Americans to think of the United States rather than these united States. I don't think we should rush the process when our main goal is to prevent terrorists from using the territory as a sanctuary to strike America.