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19 Reasons To Win In Afghanistan

Posted By Conn Carroll On October 2, 2009 @ 12:55 pm In Security | Comments Disabled

This email is making the rounds on .mil addresses:

There have been many arguments in the past four weeks to withdraw. We have compiled a short review of other social network debates to summarize the basic arguments for staying in the Afghanistan. The 19th reason has been added at the bottom.

1. Afghanistan and Pakistan – This Region is Ground Zero for Anti-U.S.
Radical Islamic Violence. As the host nations for the primary terrorist organization that successfully conducted multiple attacks against the U.S. personnel and facilities, this region, by definition, is important to U.S. national security interests. Between Pakistan and Afghanistan, the preponderance of radical Islamic combatants, their recruitment base, and Al Qaeda central headquarters are current adversaries. Allowing the Taliban and Al Qaeda to return to power in Afghanistan, without their proper acceptance of a clear political defeat, can only:

1) embolden other U.S. adversaries, 2) increase radical Islamic recruitment, 3) undermine those Afghan civilians who supported the U.S., and 4) set back the notion of moderate Muslim governance for decades to come. This is not just a conflict to terminate Bin Laden but to ultimately diminish the future recruiting base of radical Islam. With realistic projections for a significant [1] youth [2] bulge [3] Afghanistan and Pakistan [4], the potential for future violence is high for the near future.

2. U.S. Credibility is at stake.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the United Nations support the U.S.-led war effort in Afghanistan. Over 500 coalition soldiers from countries other than the U.S. have died in Afghanistan. Abandoning Afghanistan could lead to significant weakening of NATO cohesion/structure and undermine potential future requests for security assistance. The Fallout from a Afghanistan withdrawal can potentially be far worse than remaining. Following the Fall of Vietnam, U.S. experienced setbacks in Cambodia, Philippines, Fall of Iran, Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Egypt-Israeli conflict, Angola, Lebanon, Libya, El Salvador, Colombia, and Nicaragua due to the loss of U.S. credibility.

3. U.S. Presence in Afghanistan has served as a proximity deterrent for Al Qaeda.
From a severely weakened position, Al Qaeda has been forced to accept the condition of awaiting more opportune circumstances before relaunching its campaign against the U.S. Having U.S. soldiers on the border of Waziristan, is a realistic deterrent from initiating offense operations that are so close to cross-border retaliation. Crossing the border into Pakistan is only one nuclear incident away. If, on the other hand, U.S. soldiers are ordered to abandoned Afghanistan, Al Qaeda will then have the freedom of action to recommence operations.

4. Counterterrorist campaigns cannot be waged from a distance.
Critics of the U.S. force presence claim that there are alternatives to holding Al Qaeda at bay such as intensive intelligence, Predator drones, cruise missiles, Special Operations raids, and monetary payments to Warlords to deny safe havens. However, most specialists on counterinsurgency and counterterrorism claim terrorists cannot be confronted at a distance.

5. Abandoning Afghanistan will move the War’s Frontline from Overseas to the Homeland.
U.S. military forces in Afghanistan are essentially hardened targets that can easily kill far more Taliban than can be similarly inflicted on U.S. troops. Moving the frontlines from overseas to CONUS will expose the soft underbelly of the U.S. civilian population to potentially horrific casualties. While one American casualty is too many; the scope and scale of potential casualties would remain far less in relative comparison by continuing the fight overseas.

6. Cost-Benefit Analysis favors Forward Presence.
Alan Greenspan recently claimed that the long term repercussions of the 9/11 attack contributed to the making of the 2008 global economic crisis, large federal government deficit spending, and the current recession.
Greenspan indicated that to stimulate the economy immediately after the
9/11 attack the Federal Reserve needed to cut interest rates dramatically to spur domestic spending. Rates quickly moved from 3.5% to 1%. This reduced Federal Reserve rate helped to fuel speculative borrowing to homeowners who would not normally qualify for home mortgages. Post 9/11 interest rates were also a contributing factor leading to the real estate bubble that burst in 2007. The recent economic crisis has cost the global economy over $11.9 trillion dollars. [5]
Can the U.S. taxpayer afford another 9/11 type of attack, which coupled with nuclear devices, could have far worse second and third order effects? Spending $60 billion annually is a far less expense than a potential $11.9 trillion dollar impact related to another 9/11 incident.

7. President Obama and GEN Stanley McChrystal have both claimed that the fight to stabilize Afghanistan is winnable.
http://www.swamppolitics.com/news/politics/blog/2009/02/obama_afghanistan_still_winnab.html [6];
http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/08/31/afghanistan.mcchrystal/index.html [7];
http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/09/03/27/A-New-Strategy-for-Afghanistan-and-Pakistan/ [8]

8. Today’s U.S. All Volunteer force is qualitatively a more capable military force than Vietnam predecessor.
Despite the challenges of facing multiple deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan, the All Volunteer force still retains advantages in education, training, hard-won experience, superior leadership and proven equipment compared to its Vietnam counterparts. Joint, Interagency and multi-national coordination has improved.

9. U.S. Precedent for Bringing Stability in Iraq and Kosovo.
The U.S. government has experienced recent successes against hostile adversaries during transition phase of war. Although skeptics denounced the potential for U.S. success in these recent conflicts, the track record for success resides with the U.S. government.

10. Afghanistan provides the venue to Learn about the Long Term Adversary.
If observers believe that Al Qaeda is a long term enemy of the United States, where is the best location to study the threat than in the actual region? Residing in Afghanistan provides the opportunity to develop language skills, foster culture apperception, discern tribal networks, study vulnerabilities, learn weaknesses, and to recruit the next generation of informants to eventually penetrate Islamic networks. The intelligence preparation of the battlefield (IPB) begins with cultural appreciation that can be gained first-hand by living in the region.

11. U.S. Presence Denies Sanctuary of the Adversary within Ungoverned Spaces.
The Al Qaeda selection of Afghanistan is no accident. Terrorist networks have managed to find the ungoverned spaces in Somalia and Afghanistan to construct training camps for future terrorists. Remaining in Afghanistan denies this remote country from becoming a host for terrorist training activities.

12. U.S. Presence, if managed properly, can serve to Drain the Terrorist Recruitment Swamp.
This is a delicate balance. Merely occupying a country, does not guaranteed setting the conditions to diminish hostile recruitment. Nonetheless, if presence can be performed in a manner which engenders hope, fosters rule of law, exhibits benefits of governance and development, then the seeds of peace can be sown into a war torn region.

13. The Germany Precedent.
Unless a determined adversary is convinced of defeat, the second war becomes much more pronounced, highly probable, and devastating. World Wars I and II were the same war. Germany merely brought about a strategic pause to regroup and refine its war winning strategy. The Peace treaty of 1918 was nothing more a temporary cessation of conflict. Germany convinced the world that it was militarily weakened. A strategic deception plan was underway that only became apparent in 1939. The Wehrmacht’s “stab in the back” thesis led by WWI veterans kept the interwar sentiments strong and thriving. Similarly, Al Qaeda must be taught that it has been defeated to prevent a far worst catastrophy. If, as a decentralized network, it cannot be made to accept defeat, then a generational strategy to await the natural death of key Al Qaeda leadership may be a more thorough and calculating approach.

14. Loss of Superior Force and Infrastructure Posture against Iran.
If Iran is truly one of the most likely and most dangerous near-term adversaries of the United States, it makes little sense to abandon a mature base infrastructure and a means for a Second Front against a potential War with Iran. Multiple Lines of Communications complicates Iranian defense planning, splits their leadership focus, undermines soldier morale, and can lead to a much shorter Iran war with superior U.S. force posture.

15. Strategic rhetoric of an early withdrawal prolongs any conflict.
During later phases of a war (Phases 4 and 5), one of the greatest challenges is to cause the mid-level managerial “fence sitters” to choose sides. The Fence sitters are the local leaders who will eventually make a support decision, encourage the reporting of concealed identification of Taliban adversaries, and buttress a regime when it becomes apparent that the presence is for the long term. The irony is that public indecision and senior official debate weakens the U.S.
position. A firm strategic communications plan to express long-term presence will speed the commitment of mid-level managerial fence-sitters to align with U.S. supporters.

16. Other Models of U.S. Occupation Beyond Vietnam.
Although Vietnam resulted in a failed U.S. position, there are other examples of successful U.S. presence with a much smaller footprint. Following the Spanish-American War, U.S. military presence existed in the Philippines from 1899 through the 1980s. A violent insurgency existed but was able to be overcome. General Blackjack Pershing, General Arthur MacArthur and others were participants in this long term presence. The strategic key is to minimize the Army’s footprint and scale of presence to be capable of sustaining posture for the long term. Still other examples include Kosovo, Germany, Japan and Liberia. Liberia is particularly interesting. LURD and MODEL combatants remained fence sitters for nearly two years after the Civil War ended in 2003. When they became convinced that U.S. and U.N. presence was for the long term, their leaders accepted political positions working for the central Monrovian government.

17. U.S. Needs to Honor the Ultimate Sacrifice of U.S. soldiers on the fields of Afghanistan by staying the course.
Dedicated families, friends, and communities have stood behind the very real sacrifices of sons and daughters to fight for defense of the nation. Woe to the nation that forgets the sacrifices of its heroes- will there be a next generation that are willing to commit its defense.

18. Whole of Government Approach
A whole of government approach is being implemented in Afghanistan in an unprecedented way, offering a better chance of success than in previous engagments of this type. According to a State Department blog, “In Afghanistan, the new Interagency Civil-Military Action Group (ICMAG) within the U.S. Embassy is the lead body for policy implementation and problem solving. Already, ICMAG has facilitated integrated guidance and geographically-based plans for Regional Command-East and is now moving to Regional Command-South. It has supported development of functional sectoral efforts in areas such as health and focused district development and is increasingly coordinating with international actors such as the International Security Assistance Force (on metrics), the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (on district mapping) and with the United Kingdom (Helmand Provincial Reconstruction Team). ICMAG is also working on developing an integrated metrics system in-country.” Moreover the U.S. military is continuing to leverage the knowledge and expertise of various kinds of civilian social scientists in winning the hearts and minds campaign. Parts of this approach were obviously used in other ewcwnt conflicts, but perhaps with less emphasis and resources.

19. The Taliban is largely unpopular and can be defeated.
While the Taliban have some following among their Pashtun co-ethnics, especially in the southern part of the country, the Taliban are generally hated by the Uzbeks, Tajiks, Hazarra and other non-Pashtun groups that together make up a numerical majority in Afghanistan. The memory of Taliban persecution is fresh and motivational for all the non-Pashtun groups. Wherever they have gone since 2004, the Taliban have used barbaric tactics to win the obedience of the local populations.
They win “hearts and minds” by murder, violence and coercion. Nearly all opinion polls indicate very little support for the Taliban. The Taliban can be defeated and blocked by strategies that protect the population and build up the security capacity of the Afghan state, its provinces and its districts.
Counter-sanctuary activities by Pakistani forces could easily disrupt their base areas and training grounds. Better coordination with Persian Gulf allies and stronger counternarcotics efforts could dry up their financial base. The Taliban cannot win unless the West quits.

In Summary, multiple threats are being addressed by the U.S. presence in Afghanistan. They include: dealing with the primary threats of Al Qaeda and the Taliban, preparing for a destabilized Pakistan with nuclear weapons, posturing for a future hostile Iran, and reducing the long-term recruitment of radical Islamic terrorists from this region.
At the center of debate, however, is the question of whether the average U.S. voter truly believes that Al Qaeda and Taliban can seriously pose a threat to U.S. national security interests at home and abroad? If yes, then it becomes questionable for a decision to willfully deliver strategic victory to a weakened terrorist network by pulling out of Afghanistan.
There are significant ramifications for U.S. credibility abroad to our detriment. When the first nuclear device explodes in a heavily populated U.S. city, who will be held responsible for this incident?


Article printed from The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation: http://blog.heritage.org

URL to article: http://blog.heritage.org/2009/10/02/19-reasons-to-win-in-afghanistan/

URLs in this post:

[1] significant: http://www.cfr.org/publication/13093/

[2] youth: http://www.cfr.org/publication/13094/battle_of_the_youth_bulge.html

[3] bulge: http://www.danielpipes.org/comments/98913

[4] Afghanistan and Pakistan: http://www.brookings.edu/fp/projects/islam/fuller2003.pdf

[5] The recent economic crisis has cost the global economy over $11.9 trillion dollars.: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/banksandfinance/5995810/IMF-puts-total-cost-of-crisis-at-7.1-trillion.html

[6] http://www.swamppolitics.com/news/politics/blog/2009/02/obama_afghanistan_still_winnab.html: http://www.swamppolitics.com/news/politics/blog/2009/02/obama_afghanista n_still_winnab.html

[7] http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/08/31/afghanistan.mcchrystal/index.html: http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/08/31/afghanistan.mcchrystal/index.html

[8] http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/09/03/27/A-New-Strategy-for-Afghanistan-and-Pakistan/: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/09/03/27/A-New-Strategy-for-Afghanistan-and-Pakistan/

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