Af/Pak: War of Need or Necessity?

Op-Ed Contributor – In Afghanistan, the Choice Is Ours – NYTimes.com

“Moreover, there are alternatives to current American policy. One would reduce our troops’ ground-combat operations and emphasize drone attacks on terrorists, the training of Afghan police officers and soldiers, development aid and diplomacy to fracture the Taliban.”

It think this is the eventual strategy Obama wishes to aim for. We need to get to the point where our counterinsurgency efforts, and military offensives in provinces like the Helmand are successful and effective to the point that the Taliban cannot mount offensives to the extent that they can reestablish control over those areas. We’re essentially buying time now for the Afghan government to establish control of these areas and stabilize itself and develop a security force capable of achieving this task. This will obviously take some time, but ideally we want to reach a situation that only requires minimal commitment of American forces, and utilizes a strategy not entirely unlike that of our role in Pakistan, where drone strikes and military aid to the strong Pakistani army has led recently to more successful efforts to eliminate Taliban targets.

“A more radical alternative would withdraw all United States military forces from Afghanistan and center on regional and global counterterrorism efforts and homeland security initiatives to protect ourselves from threats that might emanate from Afghanistan. Under this option, our policy toward Afghanistan would resemble the approach toward Somalia and other countries where governments are unable or unwilling to take on terrorists and the United States eschews military intervention”

There’s no reason we can’t undertake this strategy in tandem with reducing our military footprint and operations in Afghanistan. Such a policy would not immediately resemble that of the U.S. attitude toward Somalia – though that is not to say that the situation in Afghanistan is far off from resembling that of Somalia.

“Afghanistan is thus a war of choice — Mr. Obama’s war of choice. In this way, Afghanistan is analogous to Vietnam, Bosnia, Kosovo and today’s Iraq. Wars of choice are not inherently good or bad. It depends on whether military involvement would probably accomplish more than it would cost and whether employing force is more promising than the alternatives.”

“The risk of ending our military effort in Afghanistan is that Kabul could be overrun and the government might fall. The risk of the current approach (or even one that involves dispatching another 10,000 or 20,000 American soldiers, as the president appears likely to do) is that it might produce the same result in the end, but at a higher human, military and economic cost.”

This is true. Britain is undoubtedly starting to realize this, with British public support for the war declining at a dramatic rate.

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