What If We Fail in Afghanistan?

Discussion in 'Defence & Strategic Issues' started by bengalraider, Nov 17, 2009.

  1. bengalraider

    bengalraider DFI Technocrat Stars and Ambassadors

    Oct 10, 2009
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    What If We Fail in Afghanistan?​

    Posted by Steve Coll
    Last week, I found myself at yet another think tank-type meeting about Afghan policy choices. Toward the end, one of the participants, who had long experience in government, asked a deceptively simple question: What would happen if we failed?

    First, the question requires a definition of failure. As I’ve argued, in my view, a purpose of American policy in Afghanistan ought to be to prevent a second coercive Taliban revolution in that country, not only because it would bring misery to Afghans (and, not incidentally, Afghan women) but because it would jeopardize American interests, such as our security against Al Qaeda’s ambitions and our (understandable) desire to see nuclear-armed Pakistan free itself from the threat of revolutionary Islamist insurgents. So, then, a definition of failure would be a redux of Taliban revolution in Afghanistan—a revolution that took control of traditional Taliban strongholds such as Kandahar and Khost, and that perhaps succeeded in Kabul as well. Such an outcome is conceivable if the Obama Administration does not discover the will and intelligence to craft a successful political-military strategy to prevent the Afghan Taliban from achieving its announced goals, which essentially involve the restoration of the Afghan state they presided over during the nineteen-nineties, which was formally known as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

    What would be the consequences of a second Islamic Emirate? My scenarios here are intended analytically, as a first-draft straw-man forecast:

    The Nineties Afghan Civil War on Steroids: Even if the international community gave up on Afghanistan and withdrew, as it did from Somalia during the early nineties, it is inconceivable that the Taliban could triumph in the country completely and provide a regime (however perverse) of stability. About half of Afghanistan’s population is Pashtun, from which the Taliban draw their strength. Much of the country’s non-Pashtun population ardently opposes the Taliban. In the humiliating circumstances that would attend American failure, those in the West who now promote “counterterrorism,” “realist,” and “cost-effective” strategies in the region would probably endorse, in effect, a nineties redux—which would amount to a prescription for more Afghan civil war. A rump “legitimate” Afghan government dominated by ethnic Tajiks and Uzbeks would find arms and money from India, Iran, and perhaps Russia, Europe and the United States. This would likely produce a long-running civil war between northern, Tajik-dominated ethnic militias and the Pashtun-dominated Taliban. Tens of thousands of Afghans would likely perish in this conflict and from the pervasive poverty it would produce; many more Afghans would return as refugees to Pakistan, contributing to that country’s instability.

    Momentum for a Taliban Revolution in Pakistan: If the Quetta Shura (Mullah Omar’s outfit, the former Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, now in exile in Pakistan) regained power in Kandahar or Kabul, it would undoubtedly interpret its triumph as a ticket to further ambition in Pakistan. Al Qaeda’s leaders, if they survived American drone attacks, would encourage this narrative and support it as best they could. The Pakistani Taliban would likely be energized, armed and financed by the Afghan Taliban as they pursued their own revolutionary ambitions in Islamabad. In response, the international community would undoubtedly fall back in defense of the Pakistani constitutional state, such as it is. However, the West would find the Pakistan Army and its allies in Riyadh and perhaps even Beijing even more skeptical than they are now about the American-led agenda. In this scenario, as in the past, Pakistan’s generals would be tempted to negotiate an accommodation with the Taliban, Afghan and Pakistani alike, to the greatest possible extent, in defiance of Washington’s preferences. The net result might well be an increase in Islamist influence over the Pakistani nuclear arsenal, if not an outright loss of control.

    Read more: What If We Fail in Afghanistan?: Think Tank : The New Yorker
  3. bengalraider

    bengalraider DFI Technocrat Stars and Ambassadors

    Oct 10, 2009
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    part 2

    Increased Islamist Violence Against India, Increasing the Likelihood of Indo-Pakistani War: The Taliban and Al Qaeda are anti-American, yes. But they are equally determined to wage war against India’s secular, Hindu-dominated democracy. The Pakistani Taliban, whose momentum would be increased by Taliban success in Afghanistan, consist in part of Punjab-based, ardently anti-Indian Islamist groups, such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, which carried out the spectacular raid on Mumbai a year ago. The probable knock-on effect of a second Taliban revolution Afghanistan would be to increase the likelihood of irregular Islamist attacks from Pakistan against Indian targets—not only the traditional target set in Indian-held Kashmir, but in New Delhi, Mumbai, and other cities, as has occurred periodically during the last decade. In time, democratic Indian governments would be pressed by their electorates to respond with military force. This in turn would present, repetitively, the problem of managing the role of nuclear weapons in a prospective fourth Indo-Pakistani war.

    Increased Al Qaeda Ambitions Against Britain and the United States: Deliberately, I would list this problem as fourth in severity in my initial straw-man forecast. Al Qaeda’s current capability to carry out disruptive attacks on American soil is very low. Still, it is absurd to think, as some in the Obama Adminsitration apparently have argued, that Al Qaeda would not be strengthened by a Taliban revolution in Afghanistan. Of course it would. Whether this strengthening would directly or quickly threaten the security of American civilians is another question. London might well be more vulnerable than New York during the ensuing five or ten years after an Afghan Taliban revolution. The Afghan Taliban are essentially inseparable from the Pakistani Taliban. Because of the size and character of the Pakistani diaspora in Britain, currently, there are about six hundred thousand annual visits by civilians between the two countries, a flow of individuals that is almost impossible to police effectively. Therefore, as recent terrorist-criminal cases in Britain document, bad guys periodically get through the border. By comparison, the post-9/11 American border is much harder for Pakistani- or Afghanistan-originated terrorists to penetrate. Still, in a civil war-ridden, Taliban-influenced Afghan state Al Qaeda’s playbook against the United States would expand. As 9/11 and the current creativity of the regionally focussed Taliban amply demonstrate, their potential should not be complacently underestimated. If they did get through and score another lucky goal, it is easy to imagine the prospective consequences for American politics and for the

    Read more: What If We Fail in Afghanistan?: Think Tank : The New Yorker
  4. Singh

    Singh Phat Cat Administrator

    Feb 23, 2009
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    Besides the above

    1. Demotion of US as a hyperpower. Asia-EU will try to fill in the void. Collapse of dollar, massive military budget cuts. Nato's demise ?

    2. Shot in the arm to those who think Islam vs West war is taking place and this is Islams first victory. Unprecedented rise of Extremist Islamic fervour amongst the muslim world. Growing divide b/w Muslims and Westerners.

    3. Pakistani Army, Military Intel being flooded with Islamists, increased nuclear proliferation and diversion of jihadis all over the world.

    LETHALFORCE Moderator Moderator

    Feb 16, 2009
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    NATO is close to failing in Afghanistan after 8 years of war by the first world superpower alliance against a third world nation nowhere close to victory or any tangible gains. The recent concept of good and bad taliban is a clue that defeat is a real possibility for USA and NATO; to cover up the defeat by leaving the nation in the hands of the good taliban after claiming to defeat the bad taliban, In reality NATO never captured any ground except for isolated pockets of afghanistan.This will embolden Af-Pak for their victories against two superpowers.
  6. ppgj

    ppgj Senior Member Senior Member

    Aug 13, 2009
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    BBC NEWS | Americas | US troops: Obama's Afghan options
    Page last updated at 17:09 GMT, Thursday, 12 November 2009

    US troops: Obama's Afghan options

    As the Obama administration considers whether to send more troops to Afghanistan, Michael Codner, director of military sciences at the Royal United Services Institute, weighs up the US president's four options.

    Option 1: 40,000

    Deploying another 40,000 troops is the option pushed for by the top US military commander in Afghanistan, Gen Stanley McChrystal.

    He is in charge of both the Nato International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) and of national US forces in Afghanistan (under the label Operation Enduring Freedom).

    Gen McChrystal supported this request in a leaked assessment. In this, he explained the need for a new strategy for Nato, which included winning a "short-term" and a "long-term" fight.

    The short-term fight entails regaining the initiative from the Taliban.

    Winning or losing

    The outcome of the short fight will be decisive - a key word in military doctrine because it defines a particular type of operation which can actually be won or lost.

    Kiowa helicopters take off from Kandahar, Afghanistan
    The US public is growing weary of Afghanistan after eight years of war

    And he says the short fight must be won in 12 months.

    So the 40,000 he has asked for is very much a surge against the Taliban specifically and the troops need to be put into theatre soon.

    The long fight will be an operation of a different kind in which winning or losing is not the issue.

    Rather US and coalition forces will at some unpredictable stage in the future be able to leave Afghanistan as a nation able to manage its own security through development of security forces (the Afghan armed forces and police).

    Britain's Malay campaign

    To win the long fight, Gen McChrystal calls for a change of operational culture focusing on the Afghan people rather than territory, force protection and other tactical war-fighting considerations.

    A surge of 40,000 is a significant figure.

    If the numbers of other coalition forces remains, constant the total number of intervention forces in Afghanistan will approach the level, in terms of troops-to-territory ratio, of one of the few previous decisively successful counter-insurgency operations: the British in Malaya against the Chinese insurgency of the 1950s.

    US soldiers in action in Kunar Province, eastern Afghanistan on 20 October 2009
    Will Nato take some of the strain by pitching in with extra troops?

    Now one of the only enduring insights from the history of counter-insurgency is that each campaign is unique.

    There are no enduring principles. And crude figures mean little.

    The actual capabilities they represent, unity of command (one of the requirements Gen McChrystal mentions), the competence of local forces, integration of non-military instruments and political outcomes are all so important.

    But it is not an irrelevant benchmark.

    It bears mention that an equivalent troops-to-population ratio to the Malay campaign would be about 15% higher.

    And the troop levels that contributed to stability in Bosnia and Kosovo were vastly greater.

    For the UK, the question would be what proportion of these forces would be committed to Helmand to relieve British overstretch.

    The UK typically has been reluctant to bargain over its responsibilities with the US and is inclined to follow the mantra "tell us what to do and by God, we'll do it" - noble, but an aspiration too far.

    Option 2: 30,000

    The 30-35,000 soldiers option said to be favoured by Defence Secretary Robert Gates and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Adm Mike Mullen, needs to be seen in context.

    The rumour is that Mr Gates and Adm Mullen do not disagree with Gen McChrystal's 40,000 plan, but that they expect Nato to come up with the additional 10,000.

    So, the new strategy is still valid but Europe must cough up.

    Iraq 'distraction'

    The problem is that the war is seen by most coalition partners as one initiated for good reasons by the US in its direct national interest, with the removal of the Taliban government, and that the US bears responsibility for seeing it through, notwithstanding the distraction of Iraq.

    US sodliers in Paktika Province, Afghanistan
    The Bush administration wanted a US-led, not Nato-led, campaign in 2001

    After the 9/11 attacks, Nato members for the first time in history invoked Article V and offered their support to the US in a matter of collective self-defence.

    But the Bush administration rejected proposals for a Nato-led operation against the Taliban in 2001 in favour of a US-led campaign in support of Afghanistan's anti-Taliban Northern Alliance.

    One could say that the present Nato operation was one of 'helping out' the US, rather than a Treaty obligation.

    The troop levels of individual European nations are a matter of how they see themselves in relation:

    • on the one hand in their own strategic bargain with the US for security in the global and European contexts

    • and for some countries, their moral obligation as wealthy nations to the Afghan people

    These are not motivators for increasing troops levels, particularly in the present economic crisis. The US cannot offer 30,000 as some sort of a bid to Nato to push numbers up.

    Option 3: 30,000

    To settle for 20,000 extra troops would mean President Obama has dismissed Gen McChrystal's demand for a surge in favour of specific roles and missions, perhaps specifically in the form of specialist forces targeting terrorism, or in separate roles in developing Afghan security capability.

    There would need to be yet another new strategy and this must come from the US, not from Nato.

    Option 4: 10-15,000

    The fourth option is rumoured to be 10-15,000 extra troops.

    This relatively small number could of course be an attempt to bounce President Hamid Karzai in to sorting out his own government and eliminating corruption.

    'All you're getting'

    It might open the door to further troop increases, but would send the message: "This is all you are getting unless there is some real change in the culture and organisation of the government."

    US soldier in Kunar Province, eastern Afghanistan
    Will any extra troops come under Nato or under US command?

    The actual roles and missions of this number is anyone's guess.

    Of course strategic options are not just a matter of troop numbers.

    The other factors are roles and missions; the actual timelines for deployment and whether they are surged or deployed incrementally; how they are dispersed geographically; and finally their command and control.

    Will they be part of Isaf or under US national command in Enduring Freedom?

    The four options may not be a ladder of numbers but a combination of numbers and some or all of these other factors.
  7. hit&run

    hit&run Elite Member Elite Member

    May 29, 2009
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    Just want to add one more point 4. world war III before collapse of dollar
    or when above three will be impending.

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