Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Thoughts on Afghanistan: The End of the War

The second most frequently asked question I am confronted with concerns my thoughts on the chance of victory in Afghanistan (the most frequent question being was I shot at).  Sadly this question is much more complex than the the Iraq victory question was and it is hard for me to say just how positive the final outcome will be.  So I will keep my answer fairly short.

The British knew how to turn their two offensive wars against the Afghans into geopolitical victories and so did the Soviets after being militarily stalemated against the Afghans in the 1980s: pick a side, withdraw, fund the side from a distance, and watch our side decimate all its opponents.  This strategy worked well for the British and it was working well for the Communists in Afghanistan... until the funds ran out with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

In a perfect world the United States and the other Coalition Partners could just withdraw from Afghanistan while funding the Kabul-based government known as GIROA.  GIROA would bribe many of the Taliban and other insurgents and use the remainder of the funds to crush the rejectionists.  Most Afghans would see this more as a upper level Afghan civil war and much of the anger of the average insurgent would be soothed over by the lack of foreign troops in Afghanistan.

I say "in a perfect world" because this world unfortunately as what Afghans have described to me as the root of all evil: Pakistan.  Pakistan desire to have a puppet state linking it to Central Asia, a proving ground for its proxies for war against India, and its absolute paranoid belief that anything less than an Islamist Afghanistan will automatically make Afghanistan an ally of India will cause Pakistan to fund the insurgency.  Unless Pakistan collapses or the United States cuts off foreign aid to Pakistan (which forms much of Pakistan's budget) I do not see Pakistan stopping its funding of the Taliban and related groups.

If the problem of Pakistan can magically disappear then groups and/or factions like the Taliban, Haqqani network, and Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin will enter in complex agreements of becoming loyal to GIROA while being able to have significant sway in territory they control.  Afghans will then probably be less of the highly centralized state it has been under the monarchy/Communists/republicans and more of the regionalist state tied by a central government which is was like before the British wars.

If the Pakistan problem cannot be solved then expect a long war ending in the favor of Pakistan and the Taliban.  Maybe not a complete victory like it was becoming before 9/11 but certainly one that ends in their favor.


Anonymous said...

Well I think maybe you have this backwards. Pakistan is not just the problem for Afghanistan, Afghanistan for the past thirty years has been a headache for Pakistan. If the United States and the Soviet Union hadn't decided to invade and destroy any semblance to a modern state, and arm armies of mujahideen Pakistan wouldn't have had to deal with six million Afghan refugees and an unstable neighbor along the north west border.
The flood of arms that American meant for the mujahideen along with the heroine culture that America's beloved mujahideen used to fund their war against the Soviets nearly destabilized, scratch that has destabilized our urban areas which formally were quite safe. So you know.

pfly said...

Aggh, the Indian-Pakistan animosity is so frustrating. I know they have some bad history and continued conflicts, but don't they have so much in common as well? How much longer before they stop pointing their swords at each other? Or will things sour rather than slowly improve? Sigh...