Last night, President Obama presented his plan for Afghanistan to America. The president plans on sending an additional 30,000 troops, and to begin withdrawal by July, 2011.
Since the new wave of surges in Afghanistan, I have been critical of the war’s continuation, based on the following:
- Afghanistan does not hold the strategic value some would have us believe. Al-Qaeda–unlike more advanced terror orgs. like Hamas and Hezbollah–does not need official state sanction or geographic boundaries in which to operate. It more resembles the Mob than a post-modern army.
- After almost nine years of war in Afghanistan, the fight has become one of inertia rather than need. We are there because we were there before–year after year.
- Our troops are not allowed to take the fight to the enemy. While Liberal debunkers of war love the idea of winning hearts and minds, they forget that counterinsurgency is only one facet of the jewel; kill those who refuse to surrender, endear yourself to those who will help. Simple, except to the intellectual, who only finds solace in labyrinthine theories.
- Our military needs a rest. While this in and of itself is not enough a reason to quit the fight, the lack of strategic value of Afghanistan couple with a massive increase in soldier suicides, is. The suicide rate in the Army has doubled since 2004, and now doubles that of the civilian population. Some of this can be attributed to the “cascade effect”; media attention and talking too much about it can cause some to consider suicide as an option. But I see trickle-down stress in the military. Like a husband home from a stressful job, the entire Army family feels the strain when an NCO with PTSD comes home from the fight.
- The military’s manpower may be needed elsewhere. Iran presents a much more dangerous foe at this time than Afghanistan.
Some think that Obama should do whatever the commanders on the ground say he should do. I disagree. Afterall, General Douglas McCarther wanted to nuke China during the Korean War. The president is the Commander in Chief, it his his right–nay, his duty–to consider a war’s options using his own brain. It’s up to the generals to present him with the options and what the likely outcome of each will be, then to carry out the president’s orders.
Some also say that Obama is trying to appease all sides with his plan: Give troops to appease the Right, give a pull-out date to appease the Left. Perhaps. But this time, in his appeasement, he may have gotten the big picture right. It must be said that an immediate pull out of all our assets would probably send the wrong message to the entire world. It would appear that we are running away from a fight. Some say that we should not give a withdrawal date, as it telegraphs our intentions to the enemy. In most circumstances I would agree. But the Taliban is not a real army. It’s ability to unify and take advantage of tactical situations is limited. To them, a hand-held radio is a magical relic. So a timetable works to our advantage in this case; it says to the world: “We’re leaving on our own terms, just like we said 18 months ago, not because we lost the war.”
A timetable also motivates the Afghan government. Nothing gets the juices flowing like knowing the sugar-daddy Americans are about to go, the money faucets are about to be shut off, and the Taliban will be knocking on your back door if you don’t do what needs to be done. Survival is the best drill sergeant.
The only concern I have, is what the mission of the additional 30,000 troops will be. They should be used boldly and decisively and the operational tempo should be relentless. Then–when their duties are finished– let them come home to stay.