Thursday, July 9, 2009

Where is the Afghan Army?

Ralph Peters has written numerous op-eds about Afghanistan, and he has another one up at the New York Post titled, "Untrustworthy Tribes." In it he identifies the key problem plaguing us in that country -- the lack of effective & trustworthy Afghan military and security forces.

After 7½ years in Afghanistan and despite extensive efforts, we and our NATO allies have produced only a now-you-see-'em-now-you-don't Afghan army. The police are corrupt, partisan and loathed by the population.
Peters covers the reasons behind this situation, which he mostly sees as a facet of Afghan disunity and culture. Some of what he writes might seem obvious, but these points can't be stressed enough if the U.S. ever wants to be in a position to leave Afghanistan.

The main reason the U.S. can contemplate withdrawal from Iraq is the existence of an ( relatively) effective central government that commands the loyalty of a new Iraqi military and various security forces. Whatever the failings of the Iraqi government and military, these institutions in Iraq are light-years ahead of their counterparts in Afghanistan -- despite the fact that we've been in Afghanistan longer and had more international cooperation assisting our efforts in that country. As Peters writes,

Afghanistan's far tougher. Iraq had a budding sense of national identity. Afghanistan doesn't. Isolated successes, the inevitable "patriotic" Afghan captain trotted out by well-meaning US advisers, can't substitute for a broad sense of national destiny.
Why is this important? Look at what we are doing in Afghanistan. Much of our focus is on fighting the Taliban and launching strikes into neighboring Pakistan. Those are important missions, but they pale in comparison to the mission of creating an effective Afghan central government and military -- a task which can only be described as a miserable failure. But that should be our primary effort, unless we want to stay and keep fighting forever. Without an Afghan force to gradually take over the duties of the U.S. and other allies, we have essentially two choices: keep fighting their war for them, or give up and let the place dissolve into chaos.


  1. If it dissolved into chaos, it would be different how?

  2. Unfortunately, that's actually a pretty good point.