5 years ago
I’m sorry to steal Paul’s Mirengoff’s thunder (i.e., post title), but it’s too good to pass up.
Fareed Zakaria contends that a troop surge is not necessary in Afghanistan because we’re succeeding there. Our central objective, he notes, is to deny al Qaeda the means to reconstitute, to train, and to plan major terrorist attacks. In this, says Zakaria, we have been successful for the past eight years.
Zakaria’s position is a plausible one and we have flirted with it on Power Line. But was Zakaria this sanguine about Afghanistan when Barack Obama and other opportunistic leftists were attacking President Bush for allowing the situation there to become “dire” while the U.S. focused on Iraq? Or does Zakaria’s assessment depend on which party occupies the White House?
In either case, Zakaria’s analysis, though plausible, is not terribly persuasive. He assumes the situation in Afghanistan is sufficiently static that the status quo will be maintained if the U.S. simply maintains present troops level. But war tends not to work that way. The U.S. may elect to stand still in Afghanistan but it’s unlikely that the other players will. For example, tribes and their leaders surely are trying to determine whether the U.S. is committed to defeating the Taliban and protecting local populations. If they conclude we are not, they are likely to gravitate towards the Taliban, to the detriment of the U.S.
Al Qaeda is also watching from across the border in Pakistan. If Zakaria is correct that the Pakistanis are stepping up their efforts against al Qaeda, then we can expect that elements of that terrorist outfit will gravitate back to Afghanistan if the U.S. is unwilling to surge and the situation contines to deteriorate. Worse, a weakened U.S. position in Afghanistan might well produce gains for al Qaeda in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. For, as the Washington Post concluded after interviewing Pakistan’s foreign minister, the Pakistanis are unlikely to persevere against al Qaeda if they see the U.S. falter.
Fareed Zakaria is little more than a court jester, a clown in a funny costume performing funny antics. It has always been this way. Paul’s brief analysis is the only thing that is plausible – that is, that this is all politically motivated. The Captain’s Journal hates it when war is politicized at home when real leadership is needed and the lives of our warriors is at stake. Paul is wrong. It is wholly implausible that what Zakaria says is correct.
Having been said so many times before it probably doesn’t bear repeating, but it will be anyway by quoting Bruce Riedel.
One more thing: the view that you can win the war against al-Qaeda by just bombing al-Qaeda targets in Pakistan–you don’t think that can work, do you?
That’s part of the fairy tale?
That’s part of the fairy tale. We are doing a brilliant tactical job in degrading al-Qaeda today in Pakistan. It depends upon an intricate network of intelligence sources. At any time that network could start to dry up. At any time al-Qaeda could change operational procedures which would make it harder. Al-Qaeda operates in a syndicate of terror in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It swims among these groups: the Afghan Taliban, the Pak Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and others. And for eight years now, it has been able to successfully operate there by swimming in this environment. The notion that you can somehow selectively resolve the al-Qaeda problem while ignoring the larger jihadist sea in which [al-Qaeda] swims has failed in the past and will fail in the future. That’s what President Pervez Musharraf tried to do in Pakistan and it failed utterly. That, in many ways, is what [former President George W.] Bush and [former Vice President Dick] Cheney tried to do and it failed utterly. It’s a fairy tale, and it’s a prescription for disaster.
Speaking of swimming in the environment of the Pashtun region, commenter rrk3 observes:
I love the way the adminstration is now saying we can seperate the Taliban from al-Qaeda when the evidence to the contrary is right in front of everyone to see. The Taliban are actually laughing at at impudence because they know exactly how to exploit our tactical and now strategic policies.
It does look like that Pakistanis are going into South Wazeristan. We need to prepare for an influx of fighters from the FATA and hopefully meet some of the coming across the border.
Kinetic operations are a precourser to a successful COIN strategy not the other way around. It is better to have fewer insurgents to protect the people from. The only way to do this is to meet the insurgents in the field.
rrk3 and Bruce Riedel know what The Captain’s Journal knows. There is no border, and AQ swims freely amongst the Taliban everywhere, stolid claims to the contrary.`