The Afghanistan blunder

[tweetmeme] As news and statistics flow in from the recent incursion into the Marjah district in Helmand, it seems obvious that U.S. hopes for success are doomed to failure.  While reports suggest that the marines have succeeded in driving out the Taliban, this minor operation doesn’t fit nicely into the broader understanding of U.S. efforts in Afghanistan.

So, for example, at the end of 2009 a U.S. intelligence report- known as The Flynn Briefing- was released signaling the Taliban’s increasing strength and long-term operational ability.  The report suggests three reasons for this:

  1. Increased access to bomb making material
  2. Increased funding through the opium trade and overseas donations from Muslim countries.
  3. Increasing ability to recruit foot soldiers based on the perception that they “retain the religious high-ground”, and factors such as poverty and tribal fiction.

The report went on to suggest that “Security incidents [are] projected to be higher in 2010”.  Furthermore, the report shows that such incidents are already up by 300 percent since 2007 and by 60 percent since 2008.  While such statistics are not the only factor worth paying attention to, it surely casts doubt on “success” in defeating the Taliban.

Captured insurgents suggested that 2009 was seen, by the Taliban, as the most successful year of the war; this was based on the expansion of violence and the fraudulent elections.  The Taliban continues to work with jihadi groups like Al Qaida even as such groups are seen more and more as “handicap”.

The most interesting part of the report, and the part that has recieved the least amount of attention as far as I can tell, are the Taliban’s motivations; these according to interrogations of captured insurgents.  They are as follows:

  1. The U.S. is seen as desiring a permanent presence in Afghanistan;
  2. Promised infrastructure projects are either incomplete or ineffective;
  3. The [Karzai] government is seen as corrupt and/or ineffective; and
  4. Crime and corruption are pervasive amongst security forces

Now, the first and second motivations are hard to counter; namely, because they are true.  Afghanistan cannot be understood in a vacuum.  It’s proximity to Russia, Iran, China, Pakistan, and India offer a staging ground for future U.S. operations.  Secondly, infrastructure projects have been sub-par.

The third and fourth motivations have been discussed on this blog before.  However, it seems that little has been done to legitimate the government in the eyes of the Afghan people.  If the U.S. and Karzai are truly interested in reconciliation with the Taliban, this problem- indeed, the chief problem posed to the U.S.- must be a central concern area of focus.  Furthermore, Security forces continue to operate without impunity for illegal actions.

The U.S. is in quite a predicament.  We are consistently seen as occupiers-which undermines COIN strategies; we are seen as fomenting and supporting corruption and crime; we are seen as indifferent to rising civilian causalities; and, our country continues to deficit spend to support a failing war strategy.  Time to get out?  I think so.

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