Archive for the ‘International’ Category

The War Of Willpower

In International, Opinion on October 21, 2009 at 9:57 pm

The war in Afghanistan has brought up strong emotions over the past eight years and people are wondering if it is ever going to end, as more troops die and national morale slowly slips away. The situation there is not pretty. There are not enough soldiers to provide stability to the villages and mountainous regions outside of Kabul, the capitol. Kabul, more importantly, seems to be an even bigger problem than the insurgency throughout the country. The central government is weak and has very little control and influence outside of Kabul and some other large cities. The mountainous and rural regions are controlled by tribal leaders and farmers, who, if aren’t in fear of being killed by the Taliban, are supporting the Taliban in their campaign to defeat American and international forces.

Not only is the Afghan government weak but it is also highly corrupt. Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, has failed, if not avoided, to take on the corruption that is rampant on almost all levels of government, and reports of his running mates in this past election being greatly entrenched with some of the more notorious actions can only support these claims. For instance, Muhammed Karim Khalili, the former vice president, was once the leader of a militia that was known for using brutality and often torture. President Karzai’s current running mate, Muhammed Quasim Fahim, has several links with the nation’s poppy trafficking. The poppy, one of the nation’s largest cash crops, is also used in the international heroin trade. Some reports suggest that the Afghan government only controls around thirty percent of the population, which leaves the other seventy percent to the influence of the Taliban.

The rugged terrain of the nation also plays a great role in limiting the ability of one central government to maintain security for the entire nation. The Taliban is not only a problem on one side of the Durand Line, but also a big problem in Pakistan as well. Despite the Pakistani military success in forcing the Taliban from the Swat Valley in May, it has yet to really deal with the Taliban in an effective way that helps American and international forces destroy them in Afghan side of the Hindu Kush mountain range. This is important because the Taliban still organizes and trains within Pakistani borders. Pakistan has traditionally been an ally to the United States, but many Pakistanis are sympathetic to the Taliban and this relationship goes back to the days of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

These happen to be some of the problems that need answering to and politicians in Washington are debating what courses of action to take regarding almost all aspects of the regional situation. General Stanley McChrystal, President Obama’s appointee to fight the war in Afghanistan has requested up to as many as 40,000 more soldiers to be deployed within the next few months, to the dismay of many of the President’s advisors and cabinet. Resistance to the general’s recommendations has come from many significant figures in the White House, such as Joe Biden, who requested a counterinsurgency plan only with the use of airstrikes and the use of unmanned drones. Nancy Pelosi has also publicly denounced the idea of the increase of troops to the region, along with many other democrats.

I believe that many people who oppose the increase in troops are just giving up on the war. I don’t think they understand the importance of this war and what its impact could be if we don’t win here. People seem to have a short memory because I believe they are forgetting the 9/11 attacks and who was responsible for them. Just leaving the region and giving in without properly stabilizing the Afghan political structure will have immense effects on the United States. This war has many fronts, and to only address one goal of the war, like Vice President Biden has done, will result in failure just as pulling out would ensure. The Taliban is becoming ever more present in the political realm of Pakistan and if it does manage to seize control of the Pakistani government and military resources that will mean over 100 nuclear weapons will be under the control of some very dangerous people. We as a nation cannot allow that to happen. Not only that; Al Qaeda, the main opponent in the region, will have unlimited stomping grounds to devise future attacks against our country and many others in the name of their jihad against the western world. It may take five, ten, fifteen, maybe even twenty years, but if we don’t succeed in this war they will come to hurt us, as sure as the sun rises every morning.

Many people are losing their stomach for the war and are suggesting withdrawing from the region in general, but this is not an option. Hope is not lost yet and many advisors to the situation in the region do not believe so either. A mix of advisors for General Petraeus and McChrystal, along with the generals themselves, have generalized a plan that would secure the people away from the Taliban, strengthen the government of Afghanistan, build and strengthen Afghan security forces, and help the Pakistani government deal with the Taliban and Al Qaeda within their borders. All of these solutions include a large influx of troops. Some say up to 600,000 soldiers will be needed to secure Afghanistan, and to many, that seems like more than necessary. It really isn’t, however. The big problems soldiers are having in Afghanistan is securing the people away from the Taliban, but since we don’t have enough soldiers deployed, it’s like a circus. Once we clear a town from the Taliban, they move to the next town, causing us to follow, but also allowing them to come back to the town we just cleared. With more troops, it will give our soldiers to branch out to other areas and clear the Taliban nationally instead of regionally. If we have this stability in the country, we can then focus on ridding the national government of its corruption so it will be more accountable to its people. Simultaneously, Pakistan will then begin to focus on clearing the Taliban and Al Qaeda from its own country, giving these groups very few places to hide.

It’s not necessarily a matter of whether we can win the war in Afghanistan or not, it’s more about whether we’re ready to commit the necessary resources.

by Ian Lynch