Sunday, October 12, 2008

Afghanistan a Potential Quagmire

Afghanistan has quietly crept into the news with little reaction. There are two major concerns that should be explored.

First, in the last presidential debate October 7, 2008, Obama, made vigorous statements about pulling out of Iraq but then made commitments to increase our presence in Afghanistan. I find it surprising that the media has apparently not picked-up on this dichotomy.

I suspect that Obama's statement to increase our presence in Afghanistan was made so he could look tough without appearing to contradict what he has been saying about Iraq. Assuming that he wins the election, I would suspect that he would conveniently "reassess" the situation and conclude that we shouldn't be there. I don't know if Obama is really saying what he means.

Second, Articles on Afghanistan have recently appeared in the Washington Post and the New York Times. What these articles and others point to is an increased American presence and a change in focus for our involvement in Afghanistan. So far we have been very fortunate in Afghanistan by focusing on fighting terrorists we have avoided the issue of being conquerors. Both the British and the then USSR failed in Afghanistan because they attempted to conquer the country. By broadening our efforts in Afghanistan to include a war against drugs we will change the perception of the people of Afghanistan as to why we are there. The US will no longer be viewed as "person A" resolving a dispute with "person B" but as a conqueror who will attempt to change the Afgan way of life, even if we may not agree with it. When that happens a large portion of the Afgan people will react unfavorably to the US presence.

Concluding thoughts, both Iraq and Afghanistan raise a strategic concern that the US may not properly have considered. A war against terrorists cannot be won by holding territory. Incidents of terrorism can pop-up anywhere and at anytime. Though not attributed to terrorism Somali Pirate have seized ships off Somalia and we haven't done much about it yet. Nation building in Iraq can help, but it will take time. In the meantime we need the ability to have a rapid response force dedicated to hunting down the terrorists, wherever they may be. The Israeli's seem to have a pretty good model for us to emulate.

Disclaimer: My commentary is based on reading the newspapers (second hand info) so they should not be considered authoritative in any manner.

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