Counterterrorism at the expense of counterinsurgency will doom Afghanistan and Pakistan: US officials


US military and intelligence officials are concerned that a proposed alternative plan to ramp up cross-border attacks in Pakistan and rapidly build the Afghan security forces in lieu of a comprehensive counterinsurgency strategy may take hold and lead to a catastrophic failure in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

This alternative strategy, which was proposed by Vice President Joe Biden and reported in The New York Times, calls for reducing the US military mission in Afghanistan and ramping up airstrikes and covert raids against the al Qaeda in Pakistan's tribal areas.

"Rather than trying to protect the Afghan population from the Taliban, American forces would concentrate on strikes against Qaeda cells, primarily in Pakistan, using special forces, Predator missile attacks and other surgical tactics," The New York Times reported. "The Americans would accelerate training of Afghan forces and provide support as they took the lead against the Taliban. But the emphasis would shift to Pakistan."

But US military and intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal warned that a strict focus on a counterterrorism mission concentrating on al Qaeda's leaders in Pakistan would cede the ground in Afghanistan to both the Taliban and al Qaeda and would have only a limited impact on al Qaeda's leadership.

A ramped up program of cross-border strikes into Pakistan would also likely lead to the destabilization of Pakistan's government and a possible revolt within the Pakistani military and intelligence services. And, a strategy that focuses heavily on counterterrorism tactics such as unmanned strikes and night raids would only play into the propaganda message of al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Strong links between al Qaeda and the Taliban will provide safe havens

US officials have warned that focusing on al Qaeda while ignoring the Taliban in both Pakistan and Afghanistan underestimates the close relationships between the groups.

"The theory that al Qaeda will not seek shelter with the Afghan Taliban ignores the very lessons we have learned since the Sept. 11 attacks," a US military intelligence official who focuses on al Qaeda and the Taliban told The Long War Journal. "If anything, the relationship between the Taliban and al Qaeda has strengthened, not weakened, over the past few years."

The relationship between the Haqqani Network and al Qaeda is cited as the prime example of the increased linkage between the Taliban and al Qaeda. Siraj Haqqani, the military commander of the Haqqani Network, which operates in eastern Afghanistan and in Pakistan's tribal agency of North Waziristan, has close ties to both Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden. He has recruited both foreign and local fighters to serve as suicide bombers and has employed them against Afghan and Coalition forces.

Mullah Sangeen Zadran, a senior Haqqani Network military commander, recently said the relationship between al Qaeda and the Taliban is strong. Sangeen made the statement in an interview with As Sahab, al Qaeda's propaganda arm. According to Sangeen:

"All praise is for Allah, Al-Qaeda and Taliban all are Muslims and we are united by the brotherhood of Islam. We do not see any difference between Taliban and Al Qaeda, for we all belong to the religion of Islam. Sheikh Osama has pledged allegiance to Amir Al-Mumineen (Mullah Muhammad Omar) and has reassured his leadership again and again. There is no difference between us, for we are united by Islam and the Sharia governs us. Just as the infidels are one people, so are the Muslims, and they will never succeed in disuniting the Mujahideen, saying that there is Al- Qaeda and Taliban, and that Al-Qaeda are terrorists and extremists. They use many such words, but by the Grace of Allah, it will not affect our brotherly relationship. Now they are also trying to disunite the Taliban, saying that there are two wings, one extremist and another moderate. However, the truth is that we are all one and are united by Islam."

The close ties between the Haqqani Network and al Qaeda were highlighted in General Stanley McChrystal's assessment on Afghanistan, which was leaked to The Washington Post. According to McChrystal, the Haqqanis' territories in Khost, Paktika, and Paktia provinces are ripe for al Qaeda camps.

"Al Qaeda's links with HQN [Haqqani Network] have grown, suggesting that expanded HQN control could create a favorable environment for AQAM [al Qaeda and allied movements] to re-establish safe-havens in Afghanistan," according to the McChrystal assessment.

Withdrawing into bases to conduct raids and Predator/Reaper airstrikes in Pakistan would only allow al Qaeda to prosper in Afghanistan.

"If we pull back, the Afghan military will not be able to hold ground, and the Taliban, the Haqqanis, HIG [Gulbuddin Hekmartyr's Hizb-i-Islami faction], and smaller groups will take the ground in much of the South and East, and even in areas in the West and North," a senior US military intelligence official told The Long War Journal.

"Once we lose that ground, our access to local intel is hampered," the official said. "We have no doubt al Qaeda and the Taliban will reestablish dominance in short order. The very security of the bases used to conduct the strikes in Pakistan would be in jeopardy."

"There are already Taliban safe havens in many areas in Afghanistan, and al Qaeda trainers and advisers, and even some paramilitary units from Brigade 055 are in Afghanistan," the official continued, referring to one of the brigades of al Qaeda's paramilitary Shadow Army based along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

Pakistani pushback

A pullback of Coalition forces would also create an incentive for the Pakistani military and intelligence services to revitalize their support for the Taliban, officials say.

"The Pakistanis have long believed we will pull back, that our will to ride out the storm in Afghanistan is weak, and they've kept some Taliban groups in reserve for just that day," one official said.

"Pakistan will want to fill the political and security vacuum in Afghanistan with its historic allies: the Taliban," an official said.

"The concept of strategic depth has not been tossed aside by the Pakistanis; it has merely been shelved until we in the US and NATO lose our will," a military officer said, referring to Pakistan's strategy to back the Taliban as a reserve force against its traditional enemy, India, as well as a way to keep India from exercising influence in Afghanistan.

Destabilization in Pakistan

An increase in Predator and Reaper strikes in Pakistan's border areas will also have a negative impact on relations with Pakistan, and might potentially destabilize the Pakistani government.

"Powerful, anti-American elements within the Pakistani military and intelligence establishment may revolt against an increase in US strikes inside Pakistan," a senior intelligence official said. "There is much distaste for the strikes as is, and increasing the frequency of strikes while putting US troops on the ground inside Pakistan would be a red line for some."

"The Pakistani military might be able to look the other way from the unmanned strikes, as they currently do, but drastically increasing the strikes along with the addition of US Special Operations Forces regularly entering the country would not be accepted for long," the official continued. "Just look at the uproar last September's raid in South Waziristan caused. The Pakistanis closed the Khyber Pass in protest."

The Pakistani government has played a double game when it comes to US airstrikes in the tribal areas, which highlights the political sensitivities over the issue. The government officially condemns the strikes while privately approving them, and has tasked the military to provide intelligence on terror groups in the tribal areas. At least one US Predator base has been identified in Pakistan's southwestern province of Baluchistan. But to this day, US intelligence officials believe powerful elements within Pakistan's Inter Service Intelligence agency are tipping off al Qaeda and the Taliban on strikes when they are able to.

US officials are also certain that a stepped up US ground campaign in Pakistan's tribal areas will force al Qaeda and allied groups to disperse to other areas in Pakistan, including in Baluchistan, Punjab, the Northwest Frontier Province, and Kashmir, all with the aid of elements within the military and intelligence services.

"This would be their revenge," one official said. "And what next? Would we launch airstrikes in the heart of the Punjab, or against Muridke?" the official continued, referring to the vast Lashkar-e-Taiba complex near Lahore. Al Qaeda and the Lashkar-e-Taiba are closely allied in Pakistan.

Over-reliance on cross border strikes aids Taliban propaganda

An over-reliance on airstrikes and covert raids would also play into the Taliban and al Qaeda's propaganda message, officials say.

"Look at how airstrikes in Afghanistan are used against us; we'd only feed that machine," a military intelligence official said.

"Not only does al Qaeda and the Taliban use the attacks to falsely claim we intentionally target civilians, they say the US is too afraid to match them on the ground," the official continued, noting that a pullback would only help fortify this propaganda message.



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READER COMMENTS: "Counterterrorism at the expense of counterinsurgency will doom Afghanistan and Pakistan: US officials "

Posted by Spooky at September 23, 2009 11:15 PM ET:

Well then, if people don't want this plan to come into action the people in charge will have to, and I say this for the millionth time now I know but bear with me, change the blueprint of the Afghan government. Karzai is quickly becoming a dictator, and there is no doubt in my mind that if the opposing candidate had the chance, he would be too.

Afghanistan needs to be restructured into a confederacy of what are currently the provinces, but should actually be autonomous emirates/governorates/what have you. Or get Zahir Shah's son on the vacant throne. Anything but the current government structure could do, so long as it actually fits with the cultural and geographic realities of the country.

Posted by TimSln at September 23, 2009 11:20 PM ET:

It is quite simple and obvious, but it won't be easy. Considering the current situation in Afghanistan/Pakistan, counterterrorism efforts alone are not enough. An effective COIN also needs to be in place period.

The biggest wrench in this whole endeavor is the corrupt Karzai government. If the Afghan people don't trust their own government, it will be a major uphill fight, but still doable.

Posted by paul at September 24, 2009 12:42 AM ET:

Would this counterinsurgency strategy also take place in Pakistan? If not, then after we've stabilized Afghanistan, will we not still face the same destabilizing fears/difficulties in Pakistan that we now face? And if we are not willing to take the risks now, why would it be any different later?

Posted by Spooky at September 24, 2009 7:38 AM ET:

Well, the only way for Pakistan to be settled would be if the US/NATO/India were to do it itself. And that would require nothing less than a full scale invasion and occupation of Pakistan a la Iraq.

That just isn't going to happen. Not against a nuke-equipped million man army, no matter how inept.

Posted by T Ruth at September 24, 2009 7:46 AM ET:

Spooky:
" Afghanistan needs to be restructured into a confederacy of what are currently the provinces, but should actually be autonomous emirates/governorates/what have you. Or get Zahir Shah's son on the vacant throne. Anything but the current government structure could do, so long as it actually fits with the cultural and geographic realities of the country. "
-------------------------------------------------
MAKES A LOAD OF SENSE!

Apparently the afghan constitution allows for a loya jirga to be called, under current circumstances, to sort out this untenable mess.
______________________________________

And Paul, i happen to agree with you for we can't brush the Pak dirt under a nice Persian carpet, or even a tribal rug.

Posted by Solomon2 at September 24, 2009 7:58 AM ET:

I am reminded of Winston Churchill's arguments as to why D-Day had to be delayed until the Allies could invade in overwhelming force, and why they should not engage in strategic retreats, even small ones (Colmar pocket, I think) that could endanger civilians: because those who cheered and helped the Allies during the advance would be the ones targeted when they retreated, hence the friendly population would be eliminated and only those hostile or resentful remain. That argument gave even Stalin pause.

Counter-terror ops are fine, but nothing wins the day like liberating the population AND its territory. If you retreat from territory, you must move the population too, as the Pakistanis know very well.

Posted by ArneFufkin at September 24, 2009 8:57 AM ET:

Slow Joe Biden has it absolutely wrong? Wow, that's a first. /sarcasm

Posted by sam brown at September 24, 2009 10:00 AM ET:

Dear folks,

What are you talking about? Counter-terrorism in Pakistan and counter-insurgency in Afghanistan have to go hand-in-hand. Surely, they are not mutually exclusive of each other. Let us not forget the elementary fact that the roots of the insurgency in Afghanistan lie in the terrorist infrastructure so assiduously nurtured and watered by its creators in Pakistan. Unless and until one strikes at its roots, the insurgency in Afghanistan will continue to flourish. It is as simple as that!

Posted by David M at September 24, 2009 10:02 AM ET:

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 09/24/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

Posted by chatiii at September 24, 2009 12:54 PM ET:

if pakistan didnt have nukes, then they would have been invaded a LONG time ago via heavy, disasterous air bombardment and ground invasion from india backed up by U.S special forces.....this is just a simple fact. Why do you think iran wants to aquire nuclear technology so bad??? Its because nuclear power is a deterrent that words cannot even describe! Pakistan can strike every part of india, afghanistan and a few other countries with a nuclear tipped ballistic missles killing millons. Thats the main and probably the only reason why america hasnt initiated harsher attacks or even a ground invasion on pakistan soil. Bottom line is.....this war cant be won. Its just too complicated and there too many barriers involved.

Posted by Spooky at September 24, 2009 4:53 PM ET:

India wouldn't need the U.S. to help it take Pakistan. They're pretty good on their own...

Posted by ehunter at September 24, 2009 7:30 PM ET:

Listen carefully to Joe Biden, think long and hard about his words..and then do exactly, precisely the opposite. Because in that direction lies reality, the thing that Biden reflexively avoids at all cost.

Posted by F.Constable at September 25, 2009 3:41 AM ET:

Hey Spooky,

Since, you're advocating a full-scale military invasion, I guess that million man nuke-capable army does come in handy now doesn't it?

Sincerely

F.Constable

Posted by david w at September 25, 2009 9:42 AM ET:

Bill,

First, anyone who says "It is as simple as that!" in regards to AFG. or any of the other cultures/nations in the region (sorry Sam) needs to rethink his or her statement. Rule #1 It is always more complex than you think. Second, if we were to practice COIN in Afg. it might work, or it might not - the latter more probable - The problem is that we say we do COIN when in fact the vast majority of American Soldiers never talk to a native Afghan unless it is in the "Haji" shop on the FOB. COIN demands that the soldiers live among the people (How else do you win the hearts and minds or know what is going on in the villages?) The article warns of "withdrawing into the bases," something that has already happened without the interference of congress! We have spent millions of dollars building roads that are bombed, buildings that are neglected or destroyed, and wells most of which are built in the villages that hate us most. One Afghan Policeman asked, "What must my village do to get a school or a well, blow up an American vehicle?"

A better solution in Afg. is to go to a district that you wish to pacify, put two squads of soldiers or marines in each village with the authority to call in air strikes, train locals, pursue intelligence leads and generally fight the enemy. Give each soldier $50. each week to spend within the village, this would give the village a vested interest in the safety of the soldiers and help foster a capatilistic environment capatilizing on our two greatest strengths - the American soldier and free market enterprise. The village could then build their own wells, radio stations, schools, or anything else they desired. The Taliban would be forced to leave these improvements alone.
My apologies for a short answer to a longwar.


This will take much longer than twenty years.

Posted by T Ruth at September 25, 2009 10:39 AM ET:

chatiii:
" if pakistan didnt have nukes, then they would have been invaded a LONG time ago via heavy, disasterous air bombardment and ground invasion from india backed up by U.S special forces..."
---------------------------------------------
I would have thought that the US has enough info to have paks nukes targetted and take them out before they can really get anywhere. I may well be wrong. It would be interesting to hear from an expert reader what the technical possibilities are, in theory. This issue has great persistent significance in the already complex dynamics of the afpak region.
______________________________________
Spooky:
"India wouldn't need the U.S. to help it take Pakistan. They're pretty good on their own..."
-------------------------------------------
That could be, but even if it were so, i reckon India would need US help to hold it and develop it through to exit. India may well also need US support vis-a-vis China. Somehow i find it difficult to imagine that India would want to take a major initiative as this, regardless of the nuclear deterrence, of her own.
__________________________________
F Constable:
Before you jump into this, I've been following this thread and i haven't seen Spooky as "advocating a full-scale military invasion".

Posted by Neo at September 25, 2009 10:39 AM ET:

Chatiii,

India may well have attacked Pakistan during the Kargil crises, if not for the fact that Pakistan is nuclear armed and the United States lobbied hard against an attack. There is absolutely no chance that the United States would have either supported or helped India against a long term ally even though we were no longer on good terms with Pakistan at the time. In any case, I significantly doubt that India would have embarked on a full scale attack, instead opting to give the Pakistani army a pounding and try to discredit the Pakistani establishment.

Since the Islamists were held in high regard by a large section of the Pakistani population any attempt at the time to bring down the Pakistani government probably would have only succeeded in putting the Islamists in direct control of the Pakistani government.

I would much rather be in the current stalemate, where the Islamists feel they have to indiscriminately bomb and terrorize the Pakistani population to make their demands known. This has shown the Islamist for the ruthless zealots they are, and has greatly eroded support among the Pakistani population. Unfortunately, there is still no consensus in Pakistan to defeat the radical Islamists and doing so would also be very difficult even if the resolve was there.

Unfortunately, the Obama administration appears to be weakening it's position on the war effort. This will surely send a message to the Pakistani leadership that the current administration is no longer serious about defeating the Islamists. If the American strategy in Afghan becomes one of hunkering down and conducting rear-guard antiterrorism operations, the rest of the Pashtun populous will be lost. They will feel they have no choice other than either actively join the Taliban in their efforts, or submit to the inevitable rule of the Taliban. Unless Afghan and NATO forces do not have the numbers to control or contest much of the countryside they ensure that the Taliban will do so in their place. Loss of control of the entire south will inevitably lead to a fracturing of the already weak Afghani government into ethnic factions.

This directly affects Pakistan. So far the last two years the civilian government in Pakistan has faired much better than could be initially expected. The civilian government didn't appear to have much of a chance of surviving past it's first year. It has really been only over the last year that Pakistani's have come to recognize the Taliban as a threat to their existence.

The current state of stalemate against the militants in Pakistan is actually a dramatic improvement on the former situation which had the Pakistani government losing its hold on Pakistan's entire North-West frontier. The current situation is temporary though. Unless we remain steady we risk undermining recent gains. Once it is clear that American support is waning, the Pakistani political establishment will see the handwriting on the wall and try in earnest to come to some sort of terms with the Islamist militants. If the Pakistani government is forced into a position to accommodate the Islamists, this situation will not settle well with either India or the United States. The United States will not financially support Pakistan if it goes too far in accommodating the Islamists. This would inevitably lead to withdrawal of financial support propping up the Pakistani government.

The sad part is the Taliban lives or dies by its support within the Pakistani & Afghani populations, and support within the Pakistani security apparatus. On the Pakistani side a great deal of that support has evaporated as relentless Taliban attacks have soured public opinion. Little time has been given though, to see how that loss of support plays out. We have seen that without public support in Swat the Taliban has had a great deal of trouble supporting gorilla activities in the countryside. The government of Pakistan is reluctant to push troops further into Waziristan but does appear to be shoring up its positions along the Taliban's periphery.

How the Taliban maintains its grip on the Pakistani-Afghani boarder now has a lot to do with political decisions in Washington and Islamabad. Both nations appear to be reluctant to push hard on the Taliban, even though we now have the military possibility of doing so.

Posted by Bungo at September 25, 2009 11:50 AM ET:

The Obama administration would love nothing more than to "pull the plug" on Afghanistan before victory can be achieved just like Teddy Kennedy and his ilk "pulled the plug" on Viet Nam just as we were about to achieve a Korea-like agreement there. The North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong were decimated and spent by 1972.

Though the Dems would say that the war in Afghanistan is going poorly and that our KIA numbers are rising (as IF they could actually go down !?!) I think victory is very achievable. The Tali-Quidas are boxed in and are feeling intense pressure from two fronts. A concerted pincer movement by the Allies and Pakistan could end this conflict within a year. The Allies HAVE to put more boots on the ground to "Clear and Hold" (60,000 troops is a JOKE) and to take more offensive actions when possible. The Pakistanis are coming on board even if it appears slow and overly-cautious. They need more prodding but I think that the general population is overwhelmingly anti Tali-Quida and want this BS ended.
Sure, there are difficulties , i.e. the Afgan government, Pak determination and increased terror attacks by Tali-Quida but these are not insurmountable. The enemy knows they're on the ropes. That's why they're ramping up their propaganda and terror strikes. That's all they have left. For them it's a do or die situation. Now is the time for the kill stroke.

Posted by Michael S. Levinson at September 25, 2009 12:25 PM ET:

The key to winning Afghanistan and Pakistan, to dissolving al Qaeda and Taliban, is opium, father of all opiates. That dirt-cheap heroin readily bought on the streets of Manhattan began a sleepy Pashtun poppy, milked in Afghanistan, oceans away.

That 17% pure heroin bag; available on select street corners everywhere, started out poppy grown in Afghanistan. 93% of the world's opium is grown and refined into heroin right on their farms! Bill Gates must marvel at their market share. Monopoly! Irreplaceable, worldwide; a blessing for all sides, especially us.

The heroin is smuggled throughout Europe, tons going by plane and ship to South America where, repackaged, its origin is disguised so no one gets wise; from there, routed to Mexican cartels, and from Mexico, into USA. For the cartels this wholesale heroin is billions of dollars in retail business.

In my view the key to stuffing Taliban and al Qaeda, eradicating their corruption of Afghanistan, is to choke the opium supply, which would wipe out the trade; and choke their criminal customers from across the sea.

The Taliban's and al Qaeda's end nets millions of dollars, peanuts, falafel on the table for Taliban's "freedom fighters" over the border, in Pakistan; and money for the families of al Qaeda's suicide bombers throughout the region. Without the opium heroin trade, al Qaeda and Taliban would be crushed. The western hemisphere drug cartels would be facing recession.

In Iraq, whoever is running the roads, wins. In Afghanistan, the opium dollar is fueling the whole war! Theirs is a poor country with a rich culture. Whoever controls the opium harvest will have battled for that right. The hardy farmers get only enough to live decently and plant their fresh poppy.

The Taliban "freedom fighters" would leave for home in a heartbeat, were they not getting fed. The newly chosen Taliban "leader" has a payroll he must meet. Obama is our Commander-in-Chief, the civilian boss in charge of our ribbon shirts, but his military bureaucrats are misleading the war.

We don't need to build an Afghanistan army. The Afghanis know how to fight. Abraham Lincoln established a sea embargo to win the Civil War. Without supplies by ship from Europe, the Confederate Army was doomed.


Our troops get killed on border patrols between Pakistan and Afghanistan to protect our way of life across the ocean. Yet a stone's throw away, Mother Nature's opiate is illegally grown? How can our military be so dumb as to allow this plunder creating millions of terrorist jihad dollars?

The Afghan opium is key. We own the opium and the country is ours. Free. Opium control means renegade Taliban, al Qaeda terrorists, and warlords are on the road again. Skedaddled or killed.

Our guys must begin digging foxholes in every opium field, making deals with the Afghani farmers we are purchasing their whole crop, for top dollar, in raw opium form. The farmers don't have to brew the black sap into a dangerous snowy heroin powder, so they are poppy plentiful, an ounce for the house, compliments of us.

Raw opium isn't dangerous. You won't kill yourself smoking raw opium the way you can overdose from a heroin syringe. We want the whole crop raw.

The war momentum will immediately shift! Instead of Taliban's "freedom fighters" picking us off as we patrol the dangerous Afghanistan border, we will occupy the poppy fields and wait for Taliban to show up for our feast. The key to their quality of life, to shipping their kids off to the Ivy League is based on who gets to cash Afghanistan's opium crop.


At the same time, on the diplomatic front we must push to reunite Pakistan with India. This will initiate an eviction of Taliban by the Pakistani people.

For Pakistan, rejoining India means freedom, food, jobs, education, and a better life. Only their military bureaucrats are against this idea, not the Paki people. Sad, these policies, purchasing Afghanistan's opium, reuniting Pakistan with India may be too progressive for Obama, but maybe not. But wagging this Pak-India dog will inspire the Pakis to evict the Taliban!

Many Taliban will change colors of their turbans and meld into the crowd.

In Afghanistan, we need to get busy, prepare the fields, create comfortable foxholes on every poppy acre, booby trap the brush surrounding, with a safe swath to the farmhouse, and make it clear, by CIA, shelling out Cash In Advance, we are purchasing their whole raw opium crop but paying top refined heroin price, so the farmers are with us!


Taliban, Al Qaeda and warlords will have to descend from their caves and come across the poppy fields instead of picking us off with roadside attacks. Retired military will be against this poppy war, but hard pressed to defend their reasons why.

We are purchasing the poppy crop, negotiating fair and square how much sap each plant has. The plants, ripening by day, are the draw for Taliban, al Qaeda and warlords to attack, the only way they can survive, by offing our troops dug in the poppy fields. When they step on the yellow brick road to battle we can cancel them from above.

The extra virgin first milking is scheduled to begin tomorrow. Our enemies know that. The farmers are paid. At 4:00 a.m. we begin snipping every plant two inches above ground with a brush cutter, just like that. At dawn, we chop up every poppy and spread the soil to fertilize next year's crop.

So good-bye Taliban grunt, and don't step on any land mines going home.

A couple million addicts in Europe will be going cold turkey! The Mexican and Columbian drug cartels will be out of heroin, and lose billions of dollars in sales. Regardless bureaucrats will be viciously united against this plan. The status quo is how the rigid government's bureaucrats want to go.

But with a cash infusion at the farm level, Afghanistan will begin to flourish. The Afghani people will start rebuilding their own country, without corruption, roads and schools decided by tribal leaders in the farm districts, with a helping hand from us. We must also purchase their whole marijuana crop and bring each harvest to America for medicinal purposes. Afghani marijuana is the most potent, best for relief of chemotherapy's side effects.

The opium pays al Qaeda's world salary. But who controls the opium wins the terrorist war. Poppy strategy will accomplish that! Those opposed want things the way they are. Follow the money. In the event we ignore the terrorist's cash cow, and leave, al Qaeda, opium rich, will have the funds to execute their murderous plans. Once was enough! We cannot allow that.

http://michaelslevinson.com

Posted by Buff52 at September 25, 2009 12:52 PM ET:

Any kind of "federalism" and/or "confederation" type political system that reflects the geographic and ethnic realities of Afghanistan is the way to go. A European style "unitary state" set up is not as effective.

When the Ottoman Turks ruled Iraq as recently as World War I they recognized the efficacy of decentralization and federation by dividing practical government of Iraq into the three center of Mosul, Bagdad, and Basra---thus reflecting the ethnic, religious, and economic reality of Iraq.

Our own United States shows the wisdom of a federal style of government.

Posted by Spooky at September 25, 2009 1:15 PM ET:

F. Constable-

I NEVER advocated a full-scale invasion of Pakistan. Anyone who considers that policy is seriously insane. That doesn't mean I don't think Pakistan should be taken care of in less drastic ways.

T Ruth-

India might get help for handling Pakistan, just because of the burden, but not from the United States. They'd probably ask Iran instead, since those two are on good terms. And even if not that, they won't ask the US anyway, just out of historical and nationalistic considerations. And against China, they would get the Japanese and the Russians over the Americans.

America and India may have alot in common and have never truely been in an antagonistic relationship, but as allies, there is very little to no history, and they still remember when Nixon tried to intervene on Pakistan's behalf back in 1971 with the USS Enterprise battle group.

Posted by Neo at September 25, 2009 1:46 PM ET:

"The Obama administration would love nothing more than to "pull the plug" on Afghanistan before victory can be achieved just like "

I don't think that is the mindset of either Obama or his core supporters on the center-left and academic-left. Obama is a thinking man, and I'll credit him as having a good mind. Obama's chief dilemma is he can't see a clear way through to victory and neither can his advisors. In fact, no one has that kind of crystal ball. Wars and the political circumstances around them are confoundingly complex, and too often deviously arbitrary in their outcome. Experts can tell you what can be done over the next few months and increasingly vague scenarios projected out over longer time scales. They can rarely predict beyond that, let alone project an "end game".

Failing to see a clear way through matters of national importance, there is a tendency to look for a way out. If this provides no real solution to the problem, than at least there is moral and ideological satisfaction of having followed a non-violent path and at least try to avoid creating even more problems in the process. The ultimate outcome may be unpalatable and disastrous but was surely the inevitable result of social forces you probably had no business toying with in the first place. Inevitably you run and take whatever losses follow.

It's not an end game but rather an "Out Game".

Posted by chatiii at September 25, 2009 7:29 PM ET:

T Ruth -

"I would have thought that the US has enough info to have paks nukes targetted and take them out before they can really get anywhere"

The isreali military officials said the exact same thing about hezbollahs missles caches and how they would take them out before the initial invasion of southern Lebanon in 2006  Hezbollah fired 4000 missles during the very short war  so we can fully agree that the isrealis were mistaken.

If it took America years to locate and kill Baitullah Mehsud, then what gives you the impression that they can locate every single one of the 60+ nukes Pakistan has in its arsenal and destroy them?
I do agree with you that American intelligence probably does have the locations of maybe a dozen or so nukes, but the rest would definitely be well hidden in cave complexes or 200ft underground, I can assure you that.

Posted by chatiii at September 25, 2009 8:21 PM ET:

Neo -

I understand many of the points your making but I personally believe this war is a waste of effort, time and money because there's no possible way to win. Think about it logically, the Taliban have money flowing from Arab countries (probably those oil tycoons!), they have a MASSIVE recruitment pool from the arab and southasian countries. Alqaeda have branches present in nearly every country in the middle-east. Al Shabaab have openly declared allegiance to Binladen and most of Somalia is in their control. Members of the Pakistani military and ISI are supporting/protecting the afghan Taliban by giving the leaders safe haven in quetta making them untouchable (seen as tho Pakistan would reject to drone strikes in places other than Waziristan, and they would also reject to US special ops within their borders)

The afghan government is one of the most corrupt in the world. Karzai's brother is a big time drug dealer, shuttling thousands of kilos of heroin into Pakistan which end up finding its way to western countries ..the Taliban provides protection for the goods which in turn gets them a nice pay cheque. The every day afghan police officer steals from local residents and beats them if they object to what he's doing which forces the residents to support the Taliban. The Afghan elections are covered in corruption by karzai which could result in protests similar to the ones in Iran.

The collapse of the world economy, and the $14 trillion debt the U.S is in. the U.S military being stretched to its limits with the surge in iraq and the extra troops in Afghanistan.

America severely damaging its reputation in the world with the abu guraib situation, gitmo, missile strikes in Pakistan that also kill civilians which ends up creating a anti-american sentiment. their unconditional support for isreals invasion of gaza and Lebanon and the 600+ bases they have around the world, many of them being in muslim countries (which frankly, pisses a lot of these alqaeda off)   .

This list of problems and barriers just goes on and on.


The KEY to "winning" the war is not by militarily defeating the Taliban or every militant group in the world, but by creating a neutral understanding between two parties which could result in peace to many places in the world  BUT WE ALL KNOW THIS WILL NEVER HAPPEN. Too many things have happened and I don't think America will agree to the demands of the Taliban/alqaeda, and same goes with Taliban/alqaeda agreeing to the demands of the America

And lets not forget Irans drive for nuclear power  my prediction is, as soon as U.S troops are scaled down in Iraq (2011-2012), America will give the go ahead to attack Iranian nuclear sites which will result in further destabilisation in the middle-east that will have horrible ripple effects around the world

Posted by bard207 at September 26, 2009 5:46 AM ET:

chatiii

if pakistan didnt have nukes, then they would have been invaded a LONG time ago via heavy, disasterous air bombardment and ground invasion from india backed up by U.S special forces.....this is just a simple fact.


Pakistan didn't have nuclear weapons during the 1965 War with India or during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971. Pakistan didn't demonstrate a nuclear capability until May 1998, so your claim of an invasion from India appears faulty from my Point of View considering that Pakistan has existed since August 1947. Out of its 60 plus years of existence (1947 - 2009), Pakistan has had a demonstrated nuclear capability for less than 20% of that interval (1998 - 2009).

Pakistan and weapons of mass destruction

Pakistan Nuclear Weapons

Partition of India

Have there been moments that India might have want
to invade Pakistan since May 1998? Perhaps, but Pakistan needs to review and reflect upon the events -- actions that led to rising tensions with India during the past 11 plus years.

From what I have read and observed, India is not acting as the aggressor against Pakistan and is satisfied with the status quo. It appears that Pakistan provokes India through various methods -- means and then uses the nuclear capability to hide behind when India threatens retaliation. That type of behavior reflects quite poorly upon Pakistan.


Posted by Zeissa at September 26, 2009 10:23 AM ET:

America's support for Israel is hardly conditional at all, nor is it its fault that the world does not understand Gitmo. Abu Ghraib happens... generally though its listening to the prisoners of Amie prisons beg to transferred back.
What civilian casualties from missile strikes?

----

Is it insane to advocate a full-scale invasion of Pakistan?
No.

It requires the ability to create a different world.

The unlikely event of a powerful group of people somehow gaining control of the American Congress, Senate and Presidency and the trust and values of the American people and successfully increasing government powers would be the first element required. With the most powerful nation on Earth fully harnessed wars could be launched against its enemies, territories captured and its power and influence expanded with an iron fist akin to the expansionistic yet representative Roman Republic.

Its allies would have to chose to either remain so or turn neutral. It is my educated guess that surprisingly mainly would stay and that very few would turn openly antagonistic.

In a world like this it is possible to root out the modern-day equivalent of the Nazis in exchange for millions of lives.

And all that the cost would be is the end of the great surge of humantarianism since the end of WWI, of which excesses have long since dissolved the spine of most of Europe and part of America.

Posted by Zeissa at September 26, 2009 10:28 AM ET:

The other way of course to invade Pakistan is to just let it collapse while going for the nukes and then sending soldiers in. The same could be done for NK.

But that only alters the attitudes governing the world in small ways.

Posted by Spooky at September 26, 2009 11:56 PM ET:

Give me an actual invasion plan with full details rather than "America is powerful, so it can do whatever is necessary." Because thats just smokescreen.

Pakistan is no slouch. Its epic failures we keep seeing aren't because they can't do the job (any worse than America itself circa Vietnam), but because they don't see the benefit for themselves in the long run. If we were to invade them however, they would make us pay a hefty price for our victory, even if it is assured.

The American People, regardless of ideology, won't take that nonsense bargain.

Posted by Solomon2 at September 27, 2009 3:56 AM ET:

"America is powerful, so it can do whatever is necessary."

That seems to be the Afghan attitude - at least of the Afghan soldiers who have been partnered with U.S. forces in the latest offensive, who describe their assignment as, "vacation".

For some reason, we Americans have a problem dealing with democratic governments when they go bad. We forget our own history: when the original Articles of Confederation proved inadequate, a Constitutional assembly, working outside the contemporary federal structure, created another system, our current Constitution, to supersede the old one. The then-leader of the U.S. (who remembers his name?) gave up his power quietly to the new system. (For some reason, everyone thinks of G.W. as the first U.S. president.)

Why not set up another, parallel system in Afghanistan? Sure, Karzai and his gang would rant for a while, but a truly popular representative democracy automatically gains its own legitimacy. The Afghan soldiers will go over to the new regime in an instant - especially once the Karzai regime runs out of money.

Posted by Zeissa at September 27, 2009 1:10 PM ET:

America had plenty of benefits in winning in Vietnam, but ran away when it won because of the media (Tet Offensive).

I'm not a war planner, but here goes (with full backing in the country):

Reduce RoE to sane levels.
Retain vital bases around the world in foreign partners, yet reduce numbers where requested and encourage allies to become responsible for their own security thus replacing US soldiers.
Replace the wastefully beurocratic and unequal tax system with a 35% flat tax.
Save NASA from the scrapheap to provide more high-tech jobs, while offering more stipends.
Expand the US military by initially two million servicemen, thus reducing unemployment. Buy more weapons from American industry to create a number of medium and high-paying jobs. Raise the retirement age, this will create more unemployment but will raise productivity.
Improve high-tech healthcare and provide a low universal baseline.

I am aware that this will be an extremely effective solution in the short mid and semi-long term, but that eventually in the very long term the military will suck up resources (as well as develop technology) rather than prop up and invigorate the economy.
The Space Program and a reinvigorated medical program would drive high-tech improvement of the economy (the Apollo program for one was responsible for much of the internet tech we have these days as well as fuel cells and many other things).

A private military presence could safeguard an enchanced supply line into Afghanistan and another 50k troops on top of the expected reinforcement will stomp out the insurgency... note that this is overkill as with significantly reduced RoE it can be done in a few years with current numbers! (Kill them when you see them and are initially 99% then 98% then 97 then 95% sure as they will become more cautious).

This is where I would occupy and integrate Cuba and eventually Venezuela... but how and when to pacify Pakistan? Probably the earlier the better, but fate would have to take that one in its hands... stop sending them aid, maybe a little covert sabotage of their economy:

Let them collapse while removing as many nukes as effectively and secretly as possible. With no Afghani backup this will be the casus belli for a large peacekeeping force to render security and aid to the situation once India is forced to intervene.

I forgot to mention investment in the missile shield, but Pakistani nukes can only reach India, not America. This is done for America, but this would be in India's interests in the long run as well (the Hindu Kush after all means 'Hindu Slaughter'. 600 million Hindus have died in the last 1,000 years from countless genocidal neighboring Muslim regimes) not to mention the world.

The Indians will need help and will receive plenty of positive and negative encouragement to accept it. If they do want help the new government in Pakistan should be easy to take down with a bombing campaign and a wide pincer maneuver involving a million mostly Indian and American troops. Casualties will be in the low tens of thousands on the battlefield, there will also be several thousand to tens of thousands of collateral from the bombing campaign depending on how many hostages the radicals can take and also how radicalized the population has become. India may lose hundreds of thousands or millions depending on the Government of Pakistan's possible nuclear retaliation (if they do retaliate, peacekeeping Pakistan will be much less of a problem due to tens of millions of dead).

There you have it. A pragmatic foreign policy that will increase American might and do much good for the whole world, even the Pakistanis if they don't retaliate with nuclear weapons, and the survivors if they do. America will lose some allies, but it will wake up the better part to what the world is really like.

Don't agree about what the world is like? I do not think such an active and benign foreign policy (with some covert actions) that would be more efficient than the current spooniness is what would happen if Saudi Arabia and Iran had been the first nuclear nations and America was a minor nuclear and the only non-muslim nuclear power.

The occupation of Iraq runs along the same lines, though much milder.


The truth is that there are tools that have been long since been thrown out of the window because of the spirit of our time.

I do not say this is the ideal path, though I would choose something close to it. But it is a path.

Posted by Zeissa at September 27, 2009 1:15 PM ET:

Also, as Solomon2 says, I find it interesting how many would find the above mentioned immoral while accepting the Afghan's governments selfish evils.
However I suppose decisively dealing with and decisively rebuilding hostile enemy countries such as Germany and Japan in the past (now weak allies) is not for a world afraid of several dozen of the most horrible weapons of mankind. Or even just the Iraqi or Pakistani army. (sarcasm)

Rather we should do our best to support a government and people that honestly believe in executing apostates and gays. (sarcasm)

I do actually find it acceptable to have Saudi Arabia as a largely loyal ally (though she didn't mind the extremism inside until it hurt her), but Afghanistan cares not for us, yet people these days pander to her.

It is time for western civilization to realize that it is the most humane and be willing to fight against aggressor states such as Pakistan and reach out an arm to them once they are defeated.

Posted by Spooky at September 27, 2009 4:55 PM ET:

Solomon2, I like your idea, though rather than replace it with another democracy, replace it either with a loose confederation, or the Durrani Throne of Afghanistan, as both fit the Afghan culture.

Zeissa, that all sounds nice, but thats about as likely to happen as Somalia becoming a fruitful state. Other nations and peoples have other priorities, and would be more than happy to just see Pakistan rot itself away. Also, the commitment of just these two wars is already trying America's patience. In about a year or two, we'll overtake Vietnam in terms of time stayed, and once that happens, the people's voice will become louder for ending the conflict. A war in Pakistan, even if India came to help, would take longer than the Iraq war. And then an end-game needs to be put in place with the aftermath, and commitment needed to see it through to the end. It doesn't exist.

We had the chance to succeed a few years ago. It was forsaken for another war. And when one tries to have their cake and eat it too in diplomacy, things go wrong.

Posted by sam brown at September 27, 2009 8:40 PM ET:

I fully agree - not that it helps, perhaps - with Spooky when he says that we had the chance to succeed a few years ago but it was forsaken for another war.

Further, when one says "it is as simple as that," one does so with the full realisation that the realities on the ground are always infinitely more complex than "hearts-and-minds" (sorry, David!) theories spun by analysts in their armchairs. But, equally, clarity of thought is important. Unless and until a way is found to bring unremitting pressure to bear on Pakistan to make it an inhospitable place for AQAM, of which the Taliban is an integral part, the war in Afghanistan cannot be won. Do I dare say "Period?"

Posted by treetop at September 28, 2009 2:39 AM ET:

Three plausible scenarios of Pak US. war.

1) its a coventional war and india is neutral.
no important country in the world is going to support this war,Afghanistan is landlocked all supply routes to it will be blocked.dont bet on any support from Russia or central asian countries for the supplies.no country in the middle east will allow US the use of its territory against pakistan.all the american and nato troops in afghanistanwill be encircled and they will have to surrender in less than 4 weeks....to attack pakistan US.will need at least 1/2 million troops and all of them would have to come through the sea it will be logistics nightmare without a base in the region. Vietnan and korean wars would look like a kids play.

2) india decides to join the US in war against Pakistan...US would need to launch pre-emptive nuclear strike before the start of the war any delay would mean both india and pakistan will wipe each other out bc pakistan knows it can not sustain the conventional war for a long period.

3)it leads to world war 3 , dont think that pakistan will be alone fighting this war.

get off the high horse pakistan with all its nonsense,corruption and other weaknesses is a power to reckon with......ur terrorists are our freedom fighters and i salute them....no one can be more valiant than a suicide bomber.....US is a nation of hypocrites and they are not wanted in this region ,Afghanistan is Pakistans backyard and pak will do whatever is needed to be done to protect its interest ther.

Posted by Zeissa at September 28, 2009 5:36 AM ET:

Thanks for the discussion, because I am done with it.

Just for the record though, I am an Asian, not an American. My perspective is largely 2'nd Person allowing for my sympathy for the world at large.

Posted by T Ruth at September 28, 2009 1:54 PM ET:

treetop:
thanks for joining in and chucking down those ever-so-juicy apples--it was beginning to get a little boring here.

"2) india decides to join the US in war against Pakistan...US would need to launch pre-emptive nuclear strike before the start of the war"
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Rocket Science!
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"3)it leads to world war 3 , dont think that pakistan will be alone fighting this war."
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You/Pakistan are not alone, even now. You have AQAM with you and they will take you down, one way or another, hook, line and sinker.
_____________________________________
"get off the high horse pakistan with all its nonsense,corruption and other weaknesses is a power to reckon with"
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We are so electrified with your power. Too much delusion is not good for a realistic perspective. Pakistan NEVER won anything in its life. Nor will it, in whatever life remains for it, in its present form.
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".ur terrorists are our freedom fighters and i salute them....no one can be more valiant than a suicide bomber"
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Of course you salute them. They are after all your project, the projection of your image (as you say "with all its nonsense,corruption and other weaknesses .")
Such a valiant country!
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"Afghanistan is Pakistans backyard "
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Not a good idea to drop too much bs in your "backyard", treetop. Your only hope is to clean up your act.