Commentary Roundup

I’ve been saving a couple opinion pieces that didn’t fit into my Week in Review post, but are definitely worth a read. All are proposed strategies for American engagement in Afghanistan.

  • Joshua Foust lays out a vision for “securing the people” of Afghanistan. Foust argues against General McChrystal strategy of focusing on the country’s “population centers”, like Kandahar and Lashkar Gah. Instead, Foust suggests that we move away from reliance on massive Forward Operating Bases, which he calls a “magnet for trouble” in favor of smaller “community outposts”. Only by getting soldiers out among the Afghan population, building relationships and demonstrating their commitment to the country, does Foust believe the United States can reap the benefits of counterinsurgency that we’ve heard about for so long.
  • Spencer Ackerman thinks through an American strategy that addresses the new post-election reality. His very tentative suggestions: 1. Make a strong commitment to the Pakistani (which is where our real interests lie), but make our commitments to Karzai’s government (over whom we have real leverage) conditional on progress. 2. Treat Pakistan’s connections to the Taliban as an asset. 3. Buy off Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Jalaluddin Haqqani, or whatever other insurgents can be bought off. I’m not so sure about 2 and 3…
  • Ahmed Rashid thinks we need to recommit to creating the “minimal Afghan state” that existed in the 1970s. Here’s the crux of his argument: “The Obama administration can come out of this quagmire if it aims low, targets the bad guys, builds a regional consensus, keeps the American public on its side and gives the Afghans what they really want — just the chance to have a better life.” These are all things Rashid believes we could have done with relative ease back in 2002 or 2003, but have been made much more difficult by years of neglect. In the end, though, his argument comes down to the position that we have no alternative to committing to the Afghan state–he says we need “credible Afghan partners”, for example, but gives no indication of where some are to be found. And all this rebuilding has to be done at “breakneck speed”, since Rashid is well aware that Western voters are running out of patience with the mission in Afghanistan.

2 responses to “Commentary Roundup

  1. Spencer Ackerman’s article talks of reaching out to the Taliban. So what, exactly, is our problem with the Taliban. Where do the interests collide. I assume that they are a strict religious community and see Afghanistan as becoming degenerate. Ok so far. The problem is that they want the civil law to be the same as the religious law- They want the state to punish the sinner, not God, as we do in the west. This is what needs to be untangled. The Taliban can preach and even shout – but no more cutting of hands or stoning to death, unless that particular part of religious law has been adopted as part of the civil law. If that is what the people want, we shouldn’t plan on stopping them. For that, one does need an honest government and fair elections. So for the time being, it seems out of reach for the Taliban to be given access to the body politic.
    This is the western concept of separation of church and state – goodness has to be freely chosen, it spite of its disadvantages.

  2. Rashid says: “Without a partner, the United States becomes nothing but an occupying force that Afghans will resist and …”
    [reference needed]

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