Monday, June 21, 2010

Wasting Our Time in Afghanistan

This is from a George Will piece in the WaPo that I caught linked at VodkaPundit.

Torrents of uninteresting mail inundate members of Congress, but occasionally there are riveting communications, such as a recent e-mail from a noncommissioned officer (NCO) serving in Afghanistan. He explains why the rules of engagement for U.S. troops are "too prohibitive for coalition forces to achieve sustained tactical successes."

Receiving mortar fire during an overnight mission, his unit called for a 155mm howitzer illumination round to be fired to reveal the enemy's location. The request was rejected "on the grounds that it may cause collateral damage." The NCO says that the only thing that comes down from an illumination round is a canister, and the likelihood of it hitting someone or something was akin to that of being struck by lightning.

Returning from a mission, his unit took casualties from an improvised explosive device that the unit knew had been placed no more than an hour earlier. "There were villagers laughing at the U.S. casualties" and "two suspicious individuals were seen fleeing the scene and entering a home." U.S. forces "are no longer allowed to search homes without Afghan National Security Forces personnel present." But when his unit asked Afghan police to search the house, the police refused on the grounds that the people in the house "are good people."

This is obviously not the way to run a counterinsurgency. Someone is missing the basics, and that someone in the President. The timeline is a joke and complete proof that he has no intention of actually finishing the job. I doubt his military commanders agree with him on that one, and I'd bet most counterinsurgency experts do either.

You do have to be more cautious with collateral damage, but this is ridiculous. There are other examples in the piece that are frankly quite sad. I wonder how many deaths can be easily attributed to playing too soft on such events.

I have to say the conclusions that George Will comes up with are farcical at best:
Obama has counted on his 2011 run-up to reelection being smoothed by three developments in 2010 -- the health-care legislation becoming popular after enactment, job creation accelerating briskly and Afghanistan conditions improving significantly. The first two are not happening. He can decisively influence only the third, and only by adhering to his timetable for disentangling U.S. forces from this misadventure.
First, there is no way to get out of Afghanistan by the time of the mid-terms. Sticking to the time table will just have the US pulling out of the situation as an assured failure. He's setting the US up for another guaranteed Vietnam scenario. The Taliban know and understand that he's bailing out of the counterinsurgency and so do the Afghan people. The attrition that the Taliban fighters are seeing may have some minor effects in the short term, but they do nothing in the long term. A secured and stable Afghanistan is what is needed.

The fact that Afghanistan appears now to have vast mineral resources should be an encouragement to the administration to actually try and succeed. If they can even marginally clean up the Afghan government they could get the world to invest in Afghanistan's resource development and provide the people with wealth and stability. With those two together they would likely stand firmly against the Taliban. Especially if they are given security while the resources are developed. Many have lived under the Taliban and understand that there will be no wealth if they return to power. Poverty can be a strong influence to stand against an oppressive power.

Well, unfortunately, the President doesn't seem to think about those things. He's just out there to push a political agenda that has reached all time unpopularity and he's slowly sinking below the Jimmy Carter level of incompetence.

Being a realist I won't say Obama is the worst president ever, but he certainly is much worse than Bush ever was.


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