Proposals for Afghanistan Ignore Crucial Facts
American policymakers hold a false alternative about U.S. policy in Afghanistan. Whereas military leaders are calling for 40,000 more troops, others, such as Vice President Biden, are calling for maintaining existing troop levels but shifting troops more toward training Afghan security forces and conducting Special Forces raids against al-Qaeda. But according to Ivan Eland, director of the Independent Institute's Center on Peace & Liberty, a few facts on the ground point in favor of a third alternative.
Before naming that alternative, Eland names those facts. First, al Qaeda can take refuge in any unstable country with a large population of Muslims. Second, U.S. nation-building efforts in Afghanistan have led to the Taliban's resurgence. Third, Iraq's recent stability is likely to wane when the United States stops buying the support of Sunni insurgent groups. Fourth, unpopular wars are not sustainable in a republic. Fifth, history is filled with conflicts in which lesser foes drove out a great power.
These facts support an approach entirely different from the two ideas currently under consideration, according to Eland. "The motto for counterinsurgency war should be either commit enough forces to win early or get out," Eland writes in his latest op-ed. "After eight long years of a lackadaisical effort, another 40,000 committed this late won't even lift the Obama administration out of the halfhearted category. The U.S. should cut its losses, withdraw from Afghanistan, and concentrate on pressuring al-Qaeda in Pakistan with a smaller military footprint--so as not to stir up more anti-U.S. Islamists than we are neutralizing."
"Five Facts about Afghanistan," by Ivan Eland (10/14/09)