Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Obama Into the Hindu Kush

Before Obama’s recent proclamations on the war in Afghanistan, there was little difference between GW Bush's national security and economic policies than those of the new president. Sure, there were major contrasts in style such as Obama's coherence vs. GW Bush’s gibberish and Obama's faculty lounge demeanor vs. GW Bush’s barnyard rompin’ stompin’. But once the dust settled, it all ended up with the same result. Obama's recent Afghan War stance struck the cord of change, but sometimes change does not always auger an improved situation.

The US War in Iraq is not over. It still devours 12 billion USD used per month. Additionally, with forces committed in the field there, the attrition rate on exposed military hardware is nearly a 100% per year. The 140,000 - 150,000 US troops still there act as a cork in a bottle. No one really knows what to expect when this cork gets pulled. Our troop commander General Ordinerno, believes he knows and argues tooth and nail for the troop level to remain high as long as possible. Thus far Obama has responded to him, YES BOSS.

So any change in the Afghan war strategy has to be made in the context of the ongoing military situation in Iraq; they are not mutually exclusive. As Obama unrolled his new approach to Afghanistan, almost all commentary avoided the connection to the un-ended war in Iraq. Welcome to Obama's dreamworld.

Obama has ordered 21,000 more US troops to Afghanistan; 17,000 are combat troops and 4,000 troops will be used to train Afghan security forces. They are in fact, all combat troops since the forward edge of the battlefield in Afghanistan is where you plant the soldiers’ feet. This is to be augmented by a large civilian corps of nation builders... You know... there to build roads, school houses, prisons, hospitals, and sports stadiums. This approach never worked in Vietnam or Iraq so success is problematic. These US troops are part of the integrated forces of NATO under US command. From a command/control standpoint, it is like herding cats. This recent addition of troops by the US makes the war even more American.

The cash crop in Afghanistan is King Poppy; i.e.: opium. There is almost no effort to eradicate it. Sales fuel the insurgency as well massive corruption. What passes as a central government really is a narco-state. The Pashtun tribe, that favors the Taliban, is located in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. Obama realistically has officially widened the war to include Pakistan, but whether he commits troops to a ground war in Pakistan is an open question.

His weapons of choice are drones with Hellfire missiles. These are indiscriminate killers – sometimes they kill the right people... sometimes the innocent – and this inadvertent killing is called collateral damage; it mostly spawns new enemies as the US desperately tries to slaughter the old ones. Karzai, the Afghan Chieftain, blames his failed popularity on this NATO practice of random killing by these weapons or its mistakes, like bombing local wedding parties.

In Obama's new plan there is a promise to pay Pakistan 1.5 billion USD a year for five years if the Paks meet US benchmarks. Looks to me like an invitation for more corruption. This stuff never works; just look at failed projects in Vietnam and Iraq. There is no exit plan for these latest expanded military operations. Taliban tribal chiefs on both sides of the border have recently united to oppose the new US efforts. Pakistan's main national security concern is against India; doubt US bribes will change this priority any more than it has done in the past.

In its befuddled wisdom, the US has sent their diplomat Ambassador Holbrooke to coordinate the US Afghan Pakistan relations. Holbrooke has Jewish American ethnic ties and, however talented, should be used in offices where he is not called on to negotiate with blood-in-your-eye Islamic leaders. This whole country team approach put together by Obama with nearly every cabinet post somehow involved has a girl scout outing twinge to it. The Hindu Kush is not Yellowstone National Park.

Obama’s approach to the Afghan war has always been linked to an expanded war there while he withdrew from Iraq. Despite his smoke and mirrors, he is still pointlessly up to his ears in Iraq and now foolishly has expanded the US ground war in Asia. Even with the heads of bin Laden and Omar on the end of a pike, the Jihadist fanaticism will continue. Big war is not the solution. Savage small unit special operations is the way to go – no nation building. That is, unless you are authorizing another stimulus package. (AKA, War profiteering)

As a matter of fact, response to Jihadist attacks on the US from Afghanistan should have started with the destruction of the poppy crop... then, the bridges... then, the Hydroelectric stations built by the Soviets. And finally, crater all airfields... NATO members would have a stroke, but so what ? We are not playing Tiddlywinks.

Obama had clear choices to make on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In both cases he made the wrong ones and has extended both wars which he cannot win. The Neocons are over-joyed at his foolishness. Colonel Robert E Bartos USA Ret

* Photo: Oil painting on canvas Afghan by Vasily V. Vereshchagin

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