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« Dealing with Iran: Military or Diplomatic Approaches? | Main | The Next Terrorist Attack: We are Not Prepared »

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lord rev dyjuan d barnes YAHWEH

we started the terrorist groups and as such we should hold our government responsible for the concept of terrorism again we must stop these draconian reptilian and their illuminati friends now

Eric Chen

Professor Nacos,

Tough call in Afghanistan regarding Pakistan.

Regarding Iraq, it makes sense that over the last 5 years, our military that was used in Iraq could have been used in Afghanistan - you can't argue with that logic. However, the logic applies only to the improvement of our defensive posture (ie, security and stabilization mission) and nation-building in Afghanistan. The logic fails to apply to the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Osama bin Laden presumably escaped from Afghanistan to his fall-back position in Pakistan in late 2001, possibly early 2002, or before we mustered for Iraq. He escaped at a time when our military forces on the ground in Afghanistan were at their fastest, most agile, and least restrained. As opposed to our mission today of defending Afghanistan from the terrorists, chasing bin Laden relies more on mobility and speed than size. Presumably, too, when the 9/11 attack succeeded and the world watched us mobilize for the War on Terror, Osama bin Laden was on alert, packed, and ready to leave Afghanistan for Pakistan on a moment's notice. In terms of the hunt for Osama bin Laden, as long as we honored the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, a million extra NATO and US troops rotating through Afghanistan over the last five years wouldn't have made a difference.

The better argument for redirecting the investment of military and other peace-building resources from Iraq to Afghanistan is based on boosting the SASO and nation-building mission there, which first assumes we've succeeded in Iraq (or else, why expect success to grow out of failure?) and then presumes that our success in Iraq could be achieved in Afghanistan using the same investment. Even assuming that Iraq and Afghanistan were equally promising choices, though, the cold calculus is that our larger liberal goals in the War on Terror - ie, the peace beyond the search and destroy and the killing - are better served with influential liberal success in Iraq rather than the limited potential for influential success in Afghanistan.

Which isn't to say we abandon our liberal promises to Afghanistan, nor the search and destroy and the killing. Our problem in hunting bin Laden isn't our Iraq mission. The problem we have in hunting bin Laden is that border. We have a delicate balancing act with Pakistan. Pakistan had its own compelling argument to be included with the 'axis of evil' and we all accept that since we defeated the Taliban government in Afghanistan, the Waziristan region of Pakistan has replaced Afghanistan as safe haven for borderless, adaptable al Qaeda and their allies. However, we can't fight both Afghanistan and Pakistan at the same time. Our priority after 9/11 was, rightfully, to clear and hold Afghanistan. As such, we needed to arrive at diplomatic terms with Pakistan in order to conduct our Afghanistan mission. (Why? For starters, just look at a map. Re-supply wasn't coming from the west.) The Bush administration made the right move; however, making a deal with Pakistan meant we relied on Pakistan to take care of the Waziristan safe haven, which unfortunately, it has failed to do.

In terms of hunting Osama bin Laden, if we decided to switch from our current invitingly static defensive posture in Afghanistan to an aggressive invasion force and march into Pakistan, I suspect we have enough military in Afghanistan right now to do the deed. In fact, there's a school of thought that, if our priority is to search and destroy terrorists, then we currently have TOO MUCH military and attendant military-political bureaucracy in Afghanistan. Rather than shift forces from Iraq to Afghanistan, that school of thought proposes we ought to down-size in Afghanistan, stream-line command and control, and get leaner and more mobile to match the agility and mobility of the enemy.

But say we invade Pakistan. Then what? How would Pakistan react? What happens to our supply lines into Afghanistan? Even assuming the Pakistani government stands down, how do we garrison and nation-build Waziristan and Afghanistan? (In comparison, Iraq looks much more the promising investment.) In 2001, the Bush administration had the right idea when we made a deal and pushed Pakistan to solve its intra-territorial problem on its terms with its own troops. By 2008, Pakistan's failure means we need to revisit our deal with Pakistan and our respect of that border. But, the reasons the Bush administration dealt with Pakistan in the first place remain in effect. The same delicate balancing act awaits the next Commander in Chief. When faced with the same serious decisions, I suspect the choices of the next President, whether Obama or McCain, will not look altogether different than the choices of the current President.

Of course, why should the reinforcements in Afghanistan, possibly for an invasion of Pakistan, be American troops? The debate whether our weary military should be taken out of Iraq in order to be thrust into battle in Afghanistan assumes that NATO militaries - in the definitive NATO mission - are either maxed out or ineffective in Afghanistan. Have our allies truly reached their limit or are too many of our friends free riders?

When I was in the Army, we were supposed to be able to fight two major wars while maintaining lower intensity missions and operations other than war. Seeing the strain on our Reservists in peace-time, I had my doubts then we had the capability, and I was right. The War on Terror, with the Bush administration's liberal peace-building emphasis, has stretched our forces severely, but this is the kind of war we have to look forward to as long as we hold leadership responsibility in this world. As leaders, the right answer isn't to lower our standard, cheat the mission, and concede to the enemy. The answer is to evolve, grow, and rise to the standard. Improve our peace-building capability to accomplish the mission.

As our nation approaches its change of command, we're in a sensitive anxious time. There's a fork in the road and we have to choose. There's some hope. Army Colonel H.R. McMaster was just promoted to Brigadier General. General David Petraeus is moving from MNF-Iraq commander to CENTCOM commander, which brings Afghanistan into his area of operations. Maybe we'll be able to look back someday and marvel again, "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."

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