President Obama’s Dec. 1 speech about his decision on the Bananastans (Afghanistan and Pakistan) is unlikely to surprise anyone. The sanctioned leaks have been coming fast and furious the past few days, and it appears that Gen. Stanley McChrystal will get what he asked for. Maybe.
He’ll get his 40,000 extra troops, 34,000 to come from the U.S. and 6,000 or so to come from NATO nations. He’ll train Afghanistan security forces to a total strength of 400,000. Afghan President Hamid Karzai will eliminate corruption in his government.
At a million smackers per troop per year, the annual cost of the war bumps up by $34 billion, and that’s probably a conservative estimate. Many other expenses will be involved. Democratic leadership in Congress doesn’t much care for that aspect. Congressman David Obey, (D-WI.), wants to pay taxes to pay for any escalation of the war.
McChrystal will have a tough time getting Afghanistan’s police and military forces up to 400,000. The Afghan National Army’s rate of turnover--due to desertion, absenteeism and lack of reenlistment--is atrocious.
The White House called Hamid Karzai the “legitimate” leader of Afghanistan after he stole two elections. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called on Karzai to make a “new compact” with the people of Afghanistan. Get real, Hillary. Karzai is one of the biggest crooks in the second most corrupt country in the world. (Somalia is the most corrupt. Iraq is number four.)
McChrystal wants to do a “classic” counterinsurgency operation, based on the doctrine prescribed in Field Manual 3-24 that states unequivocally, in several places, that successful counterinsurgency operations require effective and legitimate governance. We’ll never get that from Karzai. He’s congenitally crooked; he’s a warlord whose cabinet is made up of fellow warlords and his brother Ahmed is a drug lord who’s on the CIA payroll. Drugs finance the Taliban and Hamid himself has old ties to the Taliban.
What on earth are we doing in that part of the world?
We estimate that at a maximum, 100 al-Qaeda operators are in Afghanistan and maybe 300 are skulking around Afghanistan. Former CIA officer Philip Giraldi relates that there may be fewer than ten of them left.
Obama says, "I feel very confident that when the American people hear a clear rationale for what we're doing there and how we intend to achieve our goals, that they will be supportive." If there’s a clear rationale for what we’re doing in Afghanistan why haven’t we heard it yet? If Candidate Obama kept telling us Afghanistan was the “war of necessity,” how come President Obama never told us why that is? Obama’s strategy team already went through one high-level strategy session in March and came with a paper pile of trash. We would disrupt terror networks, turn Afghanistan and Pakistan into real countries, and get the international community involved. Sure.
As we discuss an escalation, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is talking about how to get British troops out of the joint. He’s put up a series of demands of the Karzai government. But he says he would not set a timetable for withdrawal. Nothing ever happens without timelines in the military. If it weren’t for timelines, we’d still be waiting for Dwight Eisenhower to order the invasion of Normandy.
To make matters messier, there are indications that another civil war between the Pashtuns and a Tajik-led anti-Pashtun ethnic coalition that would look like the one that took place after the fall of the Soviet-supported regime in 1992. Sticking our soldiers in the middle of other countries’ civil wars seems to have become America’s new pastime.
We’re still running a funky facility in Afghanistan at Bagram Air Base called the “black jail” where prisoners are locked away with no due process and tortured.
We’re still assassinating “suspected” bad dudes from the air in Pakistan with unpiloted drones, and killing a lot of civilians as well.
Pakistan isn’t doing so well on the corruption scale itself. President Asif Ali Zardari and his allies face corruption and criminal charges, and Zardari has ceded his control over Pakistan’s nuclear weapons to the country’s prime minister, and is being called on to cede other powers as well. Pakistan’s military has traditionally been stronger than its civilian government, and Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad says that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cut a dope deal with Pakistan’s military and its Inter-Service Intelligence agency to negotiate with the Taliban for us. Ain’t that a heel upside the noggin?
Speaking of boots, the Washington Post reports that shortly after President Obama announces his latest Afghanistan plan, as many as 9,000 Marines will deploy to resume an offensive in Southern Afghanistan, the one that stalled out when McChrystal first took over. The current official explanation of why the original offensive went flat is that we didn’t have enough troops at the time. But the time, the story was that the Taliban fighters faded away in the presence of a superior force and struck elsewhere. How many shiny Ohio quarters would you care to bet that they’ll fade away this time too?