Monday, September 18, 2006

Afghanistan revisited

Four Canadian soldiers, part of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry operating in Afghanistan, were killed by a suicide bomber on a bicycle. A number of civilians were also killed. (CTV.CA) Damien Penny has commentary. A UN envoy called the incident "a crime against humanity." But Canadian officials are now defending against criticism of the Afghan deployment. (Cnews)


Commentary

As Michael Yon has pointed out, the per capita losses to the force deployed in Afghanistan are the same as Iraq. Moreover, Afghanistan has certain characteristics which may make it potentially a harder mission. First, Afghanistan is divided into tribal factions not all of whom are satisfied with Karzai's government. Second, the country's reliance on the opium crop, which the Taliban (belying its "religious" nature) supports and which the government is trying to discourage. Third, its proximity to the sanctuaries of Pakistan and Iran, not to mention its border with former Soviet Central Asia. Lastly, there is the history and geography of Afghanistan, all of which are hostile to the establishment of peace and order.

This time most liberals can't be accused of muddying the waters. Compared to Iraq, Afghanistan has been treated by Democratic critics and the Press as the "Good War". Yet, despite real gains, Afghanistan illustrates how neither "multilateralism", "the legitimacy of the UN", nor the substantive absence of hostile press coverage can completely alter the fact that the West is still learning to fight this war effectively.  Of course, despite Afghanistan's political advantages, its difficulties are now attracting liberal attention, which has started, albeit in low key, the campaign in Canada, to "cut and run". Yet if the West can "cut and run" in Afghanistan, which by multilateral assent is a justified campaign, then where will it be determined to stand? As the remarks over Papal remarks illustrates, it is probably not willing to stand anywhere, for as long as sacrifices or determination are required. The bottom line is that there is no substitute for the development of new and better ways to combine force, diplomacy, intelligence and culture in one effective campaign.

Parenthetically, the recent experiences in Afghanistan should put event in Iraq in some perspective. In Afghanistan, we are watching multilateral NATO in action against a much weaker force than is to be found in Iraq. My prediction is that in a few months, many people will realize the commanders in Iraq weren't as stupid as the press made them out to be.

10 Comments:

Blogger Annoy Mouse said...

“This time most liberals can't be accused of muddying the waters. Compared to Iraq, Afghanistan has been treated by Democratic critics and the Press as the "Good War".”

Democrats have insisted that the war in Iraq has been a distraction and diluted efforts in Afghanistan, which may be true at one level. It is at least comforting that the accusing finger of the UN points to our enemy. As you have noted, Afghanistan has unique characteristics, not the least of which is its vast geographical “no mans land” where the Taliban live in the craggy reaches of an Islamic “Eagles Nest”.

They say; “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer”, but when the enemy is indistinguishable from the civilian populous that you are trying to “aid” and can get to you with a bicycle born improvised explosive device (BBIED)?), it says much for the strategy of keeping your enemy at an arms reach, preferably by means of a bombing coordinate.

Keeping the peace with these animals is unreasonably dangerous.

The Canadian Governor General makes some telling comments:
“Withdrawing from Afghanistan, she said, ‘would be refusing to help a people in danger, of being unaware of their own glaring reality.’
Jean said given the recent spike in violence, it was important to show solidarity with the Afghan people.
"At this time, now, when it's difficult, we're seeing the human cost of our commitment," she said. “

Could have come from a US official with regards to Iraq.

9/18/2006 03:44:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

A Marine writing in the Washington Post some days ago commented that the phrase "more troops" is not as important as the "kind of troops" saying that "more" of the "wrong kind" is worse than less. It reminds me of a restaurant conversation I overheard once. "The food is bad and such small portions too." Quality and quantity are not always the same.

But seriously, we are probably an order of magnitude better now than we were three four or five years ago. Back then, who did we have to work with us in the Muslim world? A bunch of Presidents, to be sure, but no grassroots interloctures. No language capability, no experience. We didn't even know what we didn't have. So in the main, I think that engaging the enemy by itself is a win. It is far, far better than standing off and pretending your being effective.

But that said, both the enemy's weaknesses and our own are now becoming evident. I remember how people were genuinely worried about the President throwing the opening pitch at a baseball game after September 11, or that we were on the verge of yet more attacks. They have weaknesses too, not in the least from their own schisms. What's necessary now is to focus on winning this by addressing our own weaknesses, finding new military, political and cultural methods and exploiting the enemy's vulnerabilities.

9/18/2006 04:27:00 PM  
Blogger Ilia Capitolina said...

Wretchard writes: They have weaknesses too, not in the least from their own schisms.


The Jihadis use oil to acquiesce similar schisms in our camp. They been playing East against West, North against South, Right against Left, and they do it very well.

9/18/2006 05:09:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

It is difficult to compare Afghanistan and Iraq because our needs were so different.

In Iraq we need a reasonably secure and resonably democratic country that can keep the oil pumping and undermine the reign of tyranny and terror that traditionally has existed in the region.

In Afghanistan we need Kabul not to be occupied by someone who is our sworn enemy - and that is about it, folks.

So the Pashtun are P.O.ed that they are not getting in on the graft from the foreign aid? Too effing bad! Maybe we can have Olivia Newton John sing them a new version of an old song:
"Please mister please, don't play B-52...."

9/18/2006 06:20:00 PM  
Blogger Cutler said...

"But seriously, we are probably an order of magnitude better now than we were three four or five years ago. Back then, who did we have to work with us in the Muslim world? A bunch of Presidents, to be sure, but no grassroots interloctures. No language capability, no experience. We didn't even know what we didn't have. So in the main, I think that engaging the enemy by itself is a win. It is far, far better than standing off and pretending your being effective.

We are seriously better, but most of that knowledge has come through realizing that the situation is seriously worse than we ever imagined, and probably immune to our current prescription.

9/18/2006 07:01:00 PM  
Blogger Cutler said...

"Back then, who did we have to work with us in the Muslim world?"

Who do we have (not asking rhetorically)?

If anything I think we've learned we don't have anyone to work with us in the Muslim world, unless they are dependent on our protection, and I have no doubt the Iraqis will screw us over even if we do succeed somehow in creating a democracy in Iraq. Why wouldn't they? Everyone else in the region does. The autocrats rely on anti-Americanism and anti-Israelism as a safety valve because it is true popular and the lowest common denominator among their populations.

9/18/2006 07:06:00 PM  
Blogger drducati said...

The Afghans have never been pacified for long. I recently heard someone refer to Afghanistan as a "vast hunting preserve where the game is constantly renewed".

9/18/2006 10:18:00 PM  
Blogger Kaptaan said...

Pakistan's recent release of hundreds/ thousands of Taliban and their sympathizers will only result in more casualties and intensification of the battle in Afghanistan. Make no mistake, the enemy is playing for keeps. If we fail in Afghanistan we will fail everywhere else. The Islamic Fundos will use it as a propoganda and recruitment tool to convert more and more weak minded Europeans, Africans, Asians, and N./ S. Americans to their cause. There will be more Taliban states created in the world and anyone desiring a free country will find fewer options.

Already in Europe in many places you have a level of muslim intimidation against people of other religions. Right now it's happening in certain cities and parts of cities, in future, it will span across the whole of various countries. The big picture has to be viewed here. In 20-50 years or even 100 years, how bad will it be?

Those muslims who think that their co-religionists will spare them 'The Treatment,' would do well to look at Pakistan and see the state of affairs that awaits them, especially if they are Qaddianis, Ahmedis, Nizari Ismaili Shia, twelver Shia, non-Salafist/ non-Wahhabi Sunni. You too will face the wrath of the Fundos and they in fact hate most of you more than they do the so-called Infidels. If it comes to pass that people in large numbers convert to Islam - which Islam do you think they will be converting to? Your "peaceful" version of Islam or something more potent? Ismailis/ Shia/ Ahmedis wake up!! this is your war as well.

9/19/2006 07:01:00 AM  
Blogger doolz said...

Harper won't cut and run, he may only have a minority gov't, but it's secure enough for now, with the Liberals disgraced and leaderless.

Considering the kerfuffle last year when Dithers appointed her, I'm surprised and pleased that Michelle Jean argued the case for the mission in such simple, yet forceful terms. Maybe he did something right for once?

9/19/2006 12:54:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

We all talk about how to win this war, but the American popular impetus is fading ... inevitably drifting back to a more insular world and economy, say the Western Hemisphere.

Based on his experience in Korea, my Dad fervently believed "don't fight land wars in Asia." Does it get any simpler than that?

Sometimes on this blog you see the idea of "taking over the oil fields" as we're back in WWII, when we most surely took over oilfields, airfields, contintents and oceans. But right now, we're far from that, and we're building a robot air force to deal with this from afar.

America feels the ancient urge to retreat behind the seas, and send the US Navy again, and now the Air Force to enforce commerce.

There's nothing new under the sun.

That's the downside to this. It's unlikely America ends up losing, but everyone else is going to take some damage, per the 3 Conj's.

We're not going to keep this up. We really did learn that "land wars in Asia" thing from Nam. Never again.

9/19/2006 05:38:00 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home


Powered by Blogger