Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Afghanistan: Why a ‘Limited-Win’ is Sustainable

An article in this months International Policy Digest looks at the positive and negative effects of out planned withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014. One particular excerpt of note illustrates the way the internal conflict [as that is really what we're fighting in AFG] will likely be framed once we depart in large numbers:
The withdrawal of Western forces and absence of a common enemy could exacerbate fractures between rival insurgent organizations. Moreover, a reduced Western presence in Afghanistan will prompt the war to morph in focus from a West vs. Muslim conflict to a Muslim vs. Muslim conflict. This transformation could have serious consequences for Taliban fundraising activities in the broader Muslim world.
And a cogent summary:

While the picture painted by most of the western media in Afghanistan is pessimistic, the way forward in Afghanistan, even under a strategy of a limited-win, will neither be easy nor assured of success. There remains a significant possibility that the West is simply too war weary to maintain even modest commitments of troops and funds past 2014. Moreover, even if the strategy of a limited-win is fully realized, the West is still left propping up a corrupt and ineffectual government for an indefinite period of time. Nonetheless, abandoning Afghanistan entirely will have serious adverse consequences for the stability of the region and the security of the West, which is why a strategy of a limited-win may prove the better of several bad alternatives.
The medium-term future is surely likely to remain one of limited financial and military resources, as the the number and nature of trouble spots around the world proliferates. Afghanistan cannot remain on life support indefinitely; after a decade of commitment from the West, the country must learn to stand on its own two feet.


  1. It will be China's and Russia's problem, and they can have it. They both want to keep the jihadis from spilling out and they also want to exploit their resources, so they will have to foot the bill to secure their projects.

    We should accelerate the schedule and get the hell out of there asap. I've been there. There's nothing to salvage and no good will ever come of anything we do there.

  2. I can’t see that the article added anything of value. No one ever said that Afghanistan would be a paradise on Earth: the principle goal was to add a veneer of stability to enable us to nail the bad guys (our bad guys, as in the treat to national security). Added benefits were to create a bookend of problems for Iran, with a democratic Iraq on the other side (note the obligatory ‘throw money at it’ cheap-shot about “under-resourcing due to the Iraq war”, as if the region would be so much better if only we still had Saddam Hussein in power); & a balance for an increasingly fractured nuclear Pakistan (fractured with a number of bad guys, including ours). Injecting democratic possibilities into the region creates a chance to help them pull themselves out of the Middle Ages, if only we can maintain enough outside guidance and control (which would include a strong coordination with India, which the Bush administration pumped up off-screen).

    This isn’t 2001: the Taliban & other players can’t be taken out with the same tactics we used then – times have changed. And the North was always anti-Taliban – that wasn’t an invention of ours, it was an opportunity. The Muslin-on-Muslim option isn’t the only one – there is a very real possibility that Karzai could fall, & whatever regime that takes his place can play the ‘king of the mountain’ game of throwing out the West & its ‘puppets’.

    We’ve already said that we will provide some yet-to-be-defined ‘support’ to the Karzai government for ten years after 2014, which the authors fail to mention. The country has never been self-sufficient, for several good reasons – why do the authors think that we can make it so? But it remains important because of its geo-political location. Is the Afghan Army in better shape? Sure, but the authors have no basis to predict the outcome, other than a obvious re-hash of the present predicament.

  3. The article is certainly a rehash of one point of view...it's just a view that the general public isn't often treated to. The MSM feeds the masses a steady diet of how we must defeat the Taliban, as if they posed some existential threat to US national security. Their fed a steady diet of "pursuing victory" versus "surrender"....predictably couched along lines of party politics.

    Bush did indeed engage India to a limited degree, which they were only too happy position themselves on the western border of Pakistan in whatever limited border security and economic aspect they were afforded...but a true regional solution was never pursued, at least as far as the public is aware.


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