Saturday, February 21

SWJ: Kilcullen's Senate Testimony

Dave Kilcullen's testimony on Afghanistan is compelling. I feel like I understand better the complications and nuisances of the strategy involved in the area. It is worth a full read but here is a small portion regarding our long term options:

We need to do four things – what we might call “essential strategic tasks” – to succeed in Afghanistan. We need to prevent the re-emergence of an Al Qaeda sanctuary that could lead to another 9/11. We need to protect Afghanistan from a range of security threats including the Taliban insurgency, terrorism, narcotics, misrule and corruption. We need to build sustainable and accountable state institutions (at the central, provincial and local level) and a resilient civil society. Then we can begin a phased hand-off to Afghan institutions that can survive without permanent international assistance. We might summarize this approach as “Prevent, Protect, Build, Hand-Off”. Let’s call it “Option A”.


Is there an alternative? Some have recently argued for “Option B”, where we would focus solely on the Prevent task, putting Protect, Build and Hand-Off on hold. We would conduct counterterrorism operations against Al Qaeda, while doing the minimum development and population protection needed to enable those operations, and shelving long-term nation-building aspirations. After all, we might say, we went into Afghanistan to defeat Al Qa’ida, not to build a model state in the Hindu Kush.
The problem with Option A is that we may not be able to afford it. The trouble with Option B is much simpler: it just won’t work.

And on the Pakistan part of the equation:

The critical problem is that Pakistan has so far been both unable to control its own territory and population, and unwilling to accept international assistance on the scale, or of the type, needed to do so. Meanwhile we have tended to focus what little attention we give to the region on Afghanistan, a problem that is far easier to understand although extremely difficult to address.
Because of Pakistan’s size (173 million people) and military capacity (a defense establishment that includes 100 nuclear weapons and a well-equipped army larger than that of the United States) the notion that we could or should force an unwilling Pakistan to do our bidding is both unrealistic and extremely risky

I wonder if this testimony was the reason for President Obama to commit 17,000 more troops to Afghanistan.

h/t to Rachel Maddow for the link on Twitter

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