Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Ten Stalingrads

Lord knows I'm all in favor of setting an objective and strategy for the war in Afghanistan. But the objective shouldn't be to run away a little and hope nobody notices.

This "strategy" smacks of idiocy:

Obama's advisers, after weeks of in-depth meetings, are coalescing around a strategy aimed at protecting about 10 top population centers in Afghanistan, The New York Times said.

The strategy would fall short of a full counter-insurgency strategy against the Taliban and other elements but still seek to foster stability, the newspaper said, quoting unnamed senior officials.

Stressing the president had yet to make a decision, the Times said the debate was not about whether to send more troops but how many more would be needed to safeguard most vital parts of the country.

The report mentioned four brigades, of about 4,500 troops each, that might form part of the new strategy. Cities meriting protection would include Kabul, Kandahar, Mazar-i-Sharif, Kunduz, Herat and Jalalabad, the Times said.

We can't just sit in the cities. What do we do? How will we run even supply convoys through the countryside to the cities? Hah. We'll abandon the roads (which will be filled with IEDs, rendering them useless to civilians) to the borders and fly everything in to airports at those cities? Make every urban resident a ward of the international community reliant on hand outs because no trade is possible with the countryside or even other cities?

And if we abandon the people outside the cities, we doom them to making peace with the terrorists who will reach the edges of the cities to rocket the cities and airbases in a continuing reminder to all that they dominate the cities. Our enemies will have virtually all of Afghanistan as their safe haven.

What will we do then? Declare the countryside a free-fire zone to bombard at will to kill rapidly regenerated Taliban gunmen? That will make friends, huh? Now it's starting to sound like the Soviet strategy. But we'll try it with only one or two battalions per city.

And kiss our caveated allies goodbye since I hardly think they'll want to take up garrison duties in one of those enclaves where they'll be expected to hold the perimeter against constant skirmishing.

Plus, for those dismayed at the time it takes us to build the Afghan security forces, we'll make it far more difficult than it already is to build Afghan security forces because we'll be accepting the status of a besieged force on the defensive. It will look like just an interim step to running away completely.

Look, much of the debate over what to do in Afghanistan seems to center around the idea that we face formidable enemies who are so tough to defeat that we'd best look for ways to avoid trying to defeat them. This is ridiculous. Our enemies are trying to scare us:

What the Taliban, and especially the drug gangs, want to do is use the foreign troops casualties to persuade the foreign governments to remove those troops. The main reason for all this is to enable the drug gangs to keep manufacturing (via growing and processing poppy plants) heroin. This has made many Afghans (mainly Pushtuns) unimaginably wealthy (not hard to do in the poorest nation in Eurasia). While the Taliban have illusions about ruling Afghanistan again, the majority of Afghans (especially the 60 percent who are not Pushtun) want none of that, and have the guns and determination to get their way. But with the foreign troops gone, the drug gangs can buy the cooperation of most warlords, politicians and tribal leaders in the country.

While the drug gangs are rich, they are not a military match for the foreign troops. So they are basically running a propaganda game on the foreign governments providing those troops. The deaths of those foreign troops are made to look like the harbinger of some military apocalypse. So while the Taliban and drug gangs are losing militarily, they are winning the mind games.

The enemy tries to scare us. And luckily for our enemies, too many of our leaders are pre-scared. They want to run from Afghanistan. That's their real objective. And they'll settle for running just a little ways right now as long as they know they can continue the great skedaddle after the 2010 Congressional elections.