Friday, January 14, 2011

Finding a Path Out of Afghanistan

By Ivan Eland, Consortium News, January 12, 2011 

Editor’s Note: The Afghan War grinds on, now well into its tenth year, with no coherent U.S. plan for either success or withdrawal, only the prospect of more death and destruction and the further destabilization of nuclear-armed Pakistan.
With difficult choices ahead – and Washington still trapped in tough-guy rhetoric – the future prospects for U.S. policy in the region are only dimmer, prompting the Independent Institute’s Ivan Eland to suggest that the time has come for some unpleasant deal-making:

If actions speak louder than words, the U.S. military has seemed to confirm the pessimistic findings of the National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs) on the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which the military had recently pooh-poohed.
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The military assessment emphasized a rosy picture of gains in the Helmand and Kandahar provinces in Afghanistan, whereas the NIEs, a product of all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, acknowledged some gains in those two provinces but focused on Pakistan’s unwillingness to shut down guerrilla sanctuaries across the border as a serious obstacle.

In December, the military commanders tried to discredit the NIE by saying it was an out-of-date effort by intelligence chair-borne divisions that had spent only limited, if any, time in Afghanistan.

The next week, however, senior American military commanders in Afghanistan — seemingly acknowledging the validity of the desk jockeys’ main point — were advocating a risky expansion of Special Operations ground raids across the Afghanistan/Pakistan border to attack those Taliban sanctuaries, also reflecting a growing frustration with Pakistan’s lack of effort there.

Furthermore, as the military emphasized gains in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar, it downplayed the spread of the insurgency and instability into northern Afghanistan.

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