Wednesday, January 10, 2018

US Failures in Afghanistan - what to do?

The biggest threat to US National Security is strategic miscalculation. In Afghanistan, the battle was an internally oriented conflict; but it had a confused and open ended definition to it. The US insisted in calling it COIN (counter Insurgency Operations) when it was not. The US method to madness unfolded from one dimension to another, ignoring geography, history, culture and ideology. In their enthusiasm the United States jumped from one plan to another in search of strategy as they lumbered on, never listened to anyone while they continued to do what they thought was the way forward. Ignorance and arrogance never go together. The result that with total air supremacy, against an enemy that had no tanks, artillery or air defence; the United States manged to put themselves into a losing situation. 

The only worthwhile ally, Pakistan, who could have helped the US win this conflict and bring stability to Afghanistan was cast aside and the alliance was broken through a successful man oeuvre of manipulation by an enemy that would have made Napoleon Bonaparte swell with pride. Breaking an alliance was Napoleon’s forte and was an obvious first step that an enemy would have taken in this case too. Who was this enemy, other than our very own? The US, leader of the world, commander of all Armies now cannot whine and blame others for their own failures, they must now behave the part and take responsibility of all that came to pass. It comes with the leadership role that the US loves to play. Well here are some very obvious things that need to be explained:

1. Political
  • Removal of the Taliban government, which had a Pushtun leaning. The Pushtuns represent about 50 to 60 % of the Afghan population.
  • Replacing them with a Northern Alliance biased government that represented less than 40% of the people.
  • Introduced a universally unacceptable constitution, hoping that it would catch on. It did not.
  • Tried a reconciliation process; top down approach.
  • Tried integration; bottoms up approach.
  • Wanted to negotiate with the Taliban but never considered speaking to the Pushtuns. The former believe in an ideological discourse, the latter a political one. Though most Taliban are Pushtun, but a strictly Pushtun dialogue would keep out the foreign spoilers.
  • Assassinated any Taliban leader willing to talk through drone attacks.
  • Insisted that Pakistan arrange the negotiation and when they did, destroyed their credibility by killing Taliban commanders in Pakistan who had been asked to come for the negotiation. 
  • Setting up a ‘Unity Government’; it’s neither here or there and remains a confused, artificial structure that has no jurisdiction beyond the precincts of Kabul.
  • Out of the three parties, the Taliban, the government and the US, the weakest is the government. That is why this government is probably the only known government to invite a foreign occupation, because it lacks in capacity, authority and legality.

2. Military
  1. Based operations on garrisoning troops. Failed to secure lines of communication and relied on air rather ground.
  2. Lost liberty of action and freedom of movement by not dominating spaces.
  3. Continuity in such operations is necessary and not a choice. The US rotated troops every year and as such were never familiar with the terrain or the environment.
  4. The limited understanding of the combat zone cannot be made up through ‘google maps’.
  5. Operations of this kind are based on accurate intel. The US depended on Northern Alliance intel and interpreters. These people let their hatred for Pakistan take them away from any meaningful information. Salalah type operations were the product of misleading the US troops.
  6. Raising an Army in a few years is unrealistic, it resulted in the highest rate of desertions and causalities. The NDS has still no capacity to stand ground regardless of the ‘feel good’ propaganda emanating from TOLO News. 
  7. The two areas that needed US presence was ignored despite making promises, i.e. Nuristan/Kunar valley, where the US pulled out unilaterally and Paktia where the US always complained of cross border Haqqani battle groups moving into their area.
  8. Not shutting down mobile networks along the Afghan Border despite requests to do so. SIMs are still functional while Pakistan had shut theirs down a while ago. Not blocking Thuriaya Communication which is based in Dubai and can easily be controlled.
  9. Not supporting Pakistani Operation in North Waziristan with a US brigade during the surge to block the border though having promised to do so through four different commands. This caused the ‘revolving door’ effect. 
  10. Suffering reverses by small tactical groups and blaming Pakistan instead of holding enquiries as to what went wrong. We have not heard a single case of tactical failure being attributed to incompetence or bad procedures. It’s as if no American can do wrong, though the US have lost this war and all because of the enemy!!! A really humorous conclusion.
3. Corruption
  • Please read the SIGAR report. 
  • A drug trade developed under the nose of ISAF that is now doing roaring business of anything up to $80 Billion annually. No one likes to quote these figures and everyone looks the other way as if it is inconsequential. Let it be clearly understood, the Taliban are being resourced by this drug money.
  • Corruption in the government has caused the people to be highly critical of it.
4. Miscellaneous 
  • The ISAF found it easier to justify their failures by blaming Pakistan. The lies were repeated and broadcasted so often that the US and their Coalition partners now believe it to be true.
  • Losing about 50% of the space in Afghanistan where there is no government writ. The Taliban have signed $3Billion worth of contracts with the Chinese. Why would the Taliban need space in Pakistan when the resources and the area is available to them right there?
  • Bringing in India, an enemy state into Afghanistan, and then expecting Pakistan to celebrate it.
  • Resisting Pakistan’s attempt at border fencing when the charge against Pakistan was cross border movement.
  • Insisting that Pakistan keep the millions of Afghan Refugees, whereas Pakistan has been continually complaining of the security problems because of it.
  • Blaming Pakistan for the indigenous movement in Kashmir; singing India’s song!!
  • Stating that the CPEC route was going through a disputed area, whereas, such a statement was highly uncalled for.
  • Inserting ISIL into Afghanistan to challenge the Taliban. Bad idea. Russia has openly stated that they support the Taliban because of this and so do Iran. The US still remains conveniently quiet on the Russo Shura and the Iranian Shura.
5. Conclusions
  • That Pakistan be coerced into fighting the war for the US and ‘do more’. It is clear that it is no longer about the War on Terror but more about containing China, disrupting CPEC and supporting India. Pakistan needs to be beaten into submission in phase 1.
  • Pakistan cannot find it within itself to support the US. There is not a single reason, moral, political or military where Pakistan sees its national interest being served by cooperating with the US.
  • It has now come full circle and Pakistan’s national interest can only be served by a comprehensive defeat of the US in Afghanistan if things do jot change for the better. There was a time when US success was in line with Pakistan's interest; not any more.
  • That the US public are not aware of what all has happened or is happening and need to be informed of how the US have bungled here in Afghanistan.
  • That a public joint enquiry is recommended where US and Pakistani military commanders be questioned and must be directed to explain their positions during their respective tenures. It is guaranteed to be very entertaining. 
  • The people of the United States must restrain and contain their government in taking up a highly immoral position. If democracy has any substance to it, then a mechanism has to be put into place where the other side of the story is heard as well. Do the Americans have the courage to hear the truth?
6. Future
  • If Pakistan stands its ground, the US and Pakistan can improve their relations though it will take a while that both would trust each other.
  • The US can be part of CPEC rather than resist it. Becoming a strategic partner with China would make better sense now than becoming a competitor in a world/region where the US is a stranger in town.
  • This could be of immense value to Afghanistan as well and they too could benefit from CPEC.
  • Understandably India would not get what it is looking for, but then, should the US make a fool of itself in support of India?
  • The US can only benefit fro  m the current crisis by being the leader it ought to be, having the moral courage to call a spade a spade, and the wisdom to promote stability rather than chaos.
About the Author
Lieutenant general Tariq Khan (Retired), Hilal-i-Imtiaz (Military), winner of the Sword of Honour from Pakistan Military Academy, graduate of the prestigious National Defense University of Pakistan, has a long experience of fighting the War on Terror in the tribal areas of Pakistan and along the Pakistan- Afghanistan border. He has extensive interaction with the allied commanders employed in Afghanistan and working with top US military elite at CENTCOM. He has been one of the few Pakistan Army officers awarded with the Legion of Merit by the USA. He also has the honour of commanding one of the strike corps of Pakistan Army. He is a well read military analyst who often shares his view points, incisive and thought provoking analysis on national and international affairs. His views on international / national affairs can be read on Facebook

(The views expressed above are personal of the author and do not necessarily express the opinion of the admin of this blog)
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