Sunday, June 27, 2010

Step 1 in Afghanistan: Avoid the Rerun

One of the first problems Petraeus is going to have when take over Afghanistan is to set conditions which prevent a rerun of the dynamics that ruined Afghanistan across the 1990s.

To that end, he'll have to put a leash on Pakistan by hook or by crook:

Pakistan is presenting itself as the new viable partner for Afghanistan to President Hamid Karzai, who has soured on the Americans. Pakistani officials say they can deliver the network of Sirajuddin Haqqani, an ally of Al Qaeda who runs a major part of the insurgency in Afghanistan, into a power-sharing arrangement.
In addition, Afghan officials say, the Pakistanis are pushing various other proxies, with General Kayani personally offering to broker a deal with the Taliban leadership.
Washington has watched with some nervousness as General Kayani and Pakistan’s spy chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha, shuttle between Islamabad and Kabul, telling Mr. Karzai that they agree with his assessment that the United States cannot win in Afghanistan, and that a postwar Afghanistan should incorporate the Haqqani network, a longtime Pakistani asset. In a sign of the shift in momentum, the two Pakistani officials were next scheduled to visit Kabul on Monday, according to Afghan TV.
Despite General McChrystal’s 11 visits to General Kayani in Islamabad in the past year, the Pakistanis have not been altogether forthcoming on details of the conversations in the last two months, making the Pakistani moves even more worrisome for the United States, said an American official involved in the administration’s Afghanistan and Pakistan deliberations.

Translation: Hey Karzai, nice country you got there, be ashamed if something should exploit long standing ethic tensions happen to it.  And Pakistan's support of the Pashtun insurgency (Taliban) is causing a lot of bad blood between ethnic groups, setting up a similar situation to the one the Soviets left behind in 1989:

The leaders of the country’s Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara communities, which make up close to half of Afghanistan’s population, are vowing to resist — and if necessary, fight — any deal that involves bringing members of the Taliban insurgency into a power-sharing arrangement with the government.
Alienated by discussions between President Karzai and the Pakistani military and intelligence officials, minority leaders are taking their first steps toward organizing against what they fear is Mr. Karzai’s long-held desire to restore the dominance of ethnic Pashtuns, who ruled the country for generations.

About a month ago, I predicted that Afghanistan was headed down the same path as South Vietnam:

After the U.S. withdraws - and between the president's commitment to a July 2011 time-line and mounting U.S. casualties our withdraw is a near certainty - Afghanistan will suffer a similar fate to that of South Vietnam. Pakistan will play the role of both the Soviet Union and China as they fund, train and run logistics for whatever rough coalition of Taliban forces has the best chance of taking Kabul whole. Meanwhile, I expect the Karzai administration to continue to flounder through one scandal after another while they burn through whatever cash and equipment we leave when we go and ultimately share the fate of Dr. Najibullah at the hands of the Neo-Taliban.

So what can be done to avoid this outcome? How can Afghanistan be saved at this point? Here are a list of three possible options the Obama administration has right now:

1. Acquiesce to Pakistani control of Afghanistan, call it a victory and go home.
2. Acquiesce to Pakistani control of Afghanistan, announce that Pakistan has gotten what it wants and is now in control of Afghanistan and that any terrorist attacks from either Pakistani or Afghan territory will be considered a direct attack by the Pakistani military and will earn a nuclear response on Islamabad.

3. Work with Russia and India to rebuild the Northern Alliance, overthrow Karzai and hope that we can find an Uzbek or Tajik who will rule the Pashtuns with an iron fist.

4. Normalize relations with Iran.

My pick is options 3 and 4. One of the core advantages Pakistan has over the U.S. is that they are our primary route for getting supplies and troops into the country. This is because Pakistan has the best deep water port in the region. If we were to normalize relations with Iran, that would open up an entirely new route into Afghanistan would allow us to make life a lot harder on Pakistan, by declaring them a state sponsor of terror and assassinating every ISI or Pakistani Army agent we find in Afghanistan. We could also sponsor a U.N. security resolution demanding Pakistan acknowledge the Durand line as the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, thus making Pakistani incursions across the border an act of war.     

The challenge at that point would be to find someone to rule Afghanistan. I would imagine we should be able to find a Tajik general who would be willing to ruthlessly rule over the Pashtuns - maybe to the point of cleansing a large percentage of them - with an iron fist. While this may sound like a cruel solution to a westerner, its probably the only way Afghanistan will ever be brought under control. And, not for nothing, but what's at stake is the safety and security of a large percentage of Afghans, because the Taliban is the worst outcome, especially for females living in Afghanistan. But the Taliban is a Pashtun insurgency, so if the Pashtuns aren't ready to turn against them they might have to share in their fate.


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