How To Win Afghanistan

The President is right. A “political solution” is the necessary way to win the war in Afghanistan (though he is wrong to say “end” and not “win”). The absurd “deal” being brokered by Pakistani security forces is not the right deal however. Pakistan is trying to turn Afghanistan back into a Pakistani proxy that can base terrorists operating against India “outside Pakistani control” so they can’t be blamed. Their deal for “reconciliation” between the Karzai government and the Taliban is a recipe for Pakistani dominance and perpetual meddling to serve as the stabilizing factor there.

The problem with the Obama approach to Afghanistan is a lack of imagination. He seems to think we have to deal with Pakistan as the future guarantor of security because we’ve dealt with them in the past. Of course, dealing with them in the past has been tremendously unsuccessful because they have a stake in the war continuing forever so they can keep getting American foreign military aid forever. Pakistan is not a good partner for us.

Pakistan is also not a good partner because they are a society based on the idea of Islamist nationalism, which is the ideology used to fuze the divergent identities of all the very different peoples of that huge land. Unfortunately, Islamist Nationalism is also the foundational belief held in common between the Taliban and Al Qaida.

Pakistan recently started pushing the idea of a “good Taliban” and a “bad Taliban” so we could cut a deal with the “good Taliban”. This is a bunch of baloney. The Director of CIA just basically called it a bunch of baloney yesterday and even Obama seems to realize it is merely window dressing for a Pakistani satrapy in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, our State Department has already started using the Pakistani language on this, which has alienated India.

The current end game being talked about now is one where Pakistan would serve to stabilize a divided Afghanistan balanced between various factions. Ironically, after years of effort and billions of dollars, this would be pretty much a return to what it looked like before 9/11. That is not a victory.

A victory means that the Taliban is crushed, Al Qaida is non functional, Afghanistan does not look like it did before 9/11 and in fact is stable and democratic, and America is stronger than before. That is my definition of a victory, and it is possible. Not only that, it’s reasonably easy now that all the hard work has been done by our military.

Here is a plan for victory based on a political deal.

India is a strategic rival of both Pakistan and China. They are extremely interested in Afghanistan and are the only one of four regional players that is actually a democracy.  (The other parties trying to influence or control Afghanistan are Iran, Pakistan, and China). They have already spent a tremendous amount of money rebuilding Afghanistan and sent troops in to protect their citizens working there as well. They want a pro-Indian Afghanistan and I suggest we give it to them in return for a few things.

1; We should ask India for about 100,000 troops to “backfill” behind our guys with the Afghanis. Indian troops are all volunteer and, while nowhere near as good as ours, are about a thousand times better than the Afghani military, they are also very experienced with peacekeeping operations and 100K is a rather small number for India.

2; We should ask India to back our play on Iran in return for supporting them in Afghanistan. India has been cultivating Iran for access to oil.

3; We should ask India to sign a memorandum of understanding that requires them to build Afghanistan into a democracy.

4; Once we sign the MOU with India, we send a senior official to Pakistan and explain to them very bluntly and in a straightforward manner that we have come to believe they are no longer our best partner in Afghanistan and we are therefore handing it over to India. We should say to them; “Right now we have an MOU with India. If Al Qaida is not destroyed in your Northern provinces in six months, we will sell India weapons. If they are not destroyed in a year, that MOU will become a formal alliance. In a year and a half, we may be talking to them about mutual defense agreements. On the other hand, if you destroy Al Qaida and the Taliban in your North quickly, we will not sell weapons to India, and we will remain ‘neutral’ between your countries on Kashmir.”

And just like that, you have instant motivation. India would stabilize and rebuild Afghanistan as a democracy. They have plenty of troops, a reasonable tolerance for casualties, a working democracy and a history with British government systems, which have historically proved to be the most successful in nation building. Pakistan will go after Al Qaida for exactly the same reason they turned 180 degrees in their policy after 9/11, because the one thing they fear most is an Indo-US alliance.

For many years, America has pretended to be neutral between India and Pakistan, but the problem with this is that the stance of permanent neutrality means that we can’t punish either state for bad behavior. If we come down hard on one, it is seen as not being neutral. That leaves us only with bribes. So far, we’ve showered Pakistan with bribes for years and they quickly figured out that as long as the war keeps going on, they keep getting F-16s (and other things), so they do their best to keep it going. Hey, Pakistan’s government isn’t stupid, right?

Oddly, after 9/11, we never looked back on our “neutral” stance with India and Pakistan to see if it was still the right strategy given that we were now going into Afghanistan. How we managed to get into a major land war in Asia without re-assessing our South Asian strategy or changing it at all I can’t figure out, but we did. That is the reason Afghanistan isn’t working. The military can do miracles, but if the administration has not figured out their over-all strategy in South Asia, we don’t know where we are going and we can have no victory. Think of the military as the engine; we have a beautiful nitro-enhanced, blower-equipped, 800HP monster that can take us anywhere we want to go. Problem is, we are trying to operate without a steering wheel (no grand strategy), so we find ourselves burning rubber in circles.

As to how serious India is about rebuilding Afghanistan, here are a few points.

• India pledged $1.3 billion in aid in Afghanistan since 2001. More than a third of which has been distributed. This includes roads, infrastructure, education and humanitarian aid, as well as help rebuilding the Afghani parliament building. 1.3 billion isn’t a lot for us, but for India, that’s a huge commitment in foreign aid.

• Indian troops are currently in Afghanistan to protect Indian workers. Killing of Indian employee by Taliban in 2005 led to dispatch of 200 Indo-Tibetan border police “commandos”.

• India has military units stationed in Tajikistan and an agreement with Tajikistan concerning movement of troops.

• India has begun to bring Afghani government officials to India for training and education in specialized areas.

All that means they really are committed to the place and they are perfectly willing to be there long term. The critics of any cooperation with India of course, will cry that this will irk China, who is our very best friend in all the World. Unfortunately for them, American strategy in Asia has always been to keep one powerful player from gaining enough strength to dominate it and project power outward, or close Asia off to us. This is precisely what China is busily doing. India is one of the very few states in the World that can counter balance China, so we need to make sure they increase in power as China does. As a rule of thumb, if it irks China, it’s probably the right thing to do.

Proposed steps;

• Cut deal with India; we will formally back you strategically, you will stabilize Afghanistan.

• Use Indian peacekeepers to “backfill” with Afghani military behind NATO troops. As Indian troops take over peacekeeping and American military systematically destroys enemy bases, we should be able to draw down our forces until India is primarily maintaining stability.

• Ask India to back American policy on Iran in return for the strategic boost.

• Pressure Kabul to allow Indian troops in and to formalize their relationship to India via treaty.

• Create a land link between India and Afghanistan if possible (this may be possible based on small modifications to the line of control in Kashmir). Too much diplomatic effort should not be wasted on a hopeless attempt to permanently settle the Kashmir issue however, American interests in Afghanistan cannot be held hostage by a slow diplomatic process over a several decades old conflict.

• Keep American “strategic preference” for India informal. Use memorandums of understanding. Inform Pakistan that unless they destroy Pakistani Al Qaida, this will formalize and arms sales to India will increase.

• Take steps to ensure Indian leadership in Afghanistan after American withdrawal. Make a clause of the MOU with India that they will continue to build democratic institutions.

• Facilitate and support efforts to send Afghani bureaucrats to India for training and education.

• Work on intelligence sharing deal with India to secure intelligence concerning terror targets and warnings in the region as they strengthen networks in Afghanistan.

• Immediately authorize arms sales equal to anything sold to Pakistan up till now to India, with the possibility for more sales and military cooperation in the future.

• State that China is not the reason we are selling arms to India. We are selling them only to help them in their mission to stabilize Afghanistan. (Nevertheless, it is in American interests for a strong India to counterbalance Chinese power).

There, it’s been posted. It’s up there, and our policy makers can find it if they want to. From now on, they have no excuse for losing what our boys in uniform have sacrificed so much to win. If Washington finds a way to turn our endless string of victories in Afghanistan into a Vietnam type FUBAR, they can’t say it was because “nobody had a plan”. Here is a plan, do something with it.


~ by Jubal Biggs on June 29, 2010.

4 Responses to “How To Win Afghanistan”

  1. […] the article here: How To Win Afghanistan « The Biggs Report Share and […]

  2. Nice Posts

    • totally rubbish post .no link with reality

      • What an astounding argument! I am overwhelmed! Why, what was I thinking? How could I have not thought of all the brilliant points you mentioned, like #### and ####. Of course! I am humbled before your brilliance.

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