Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Winning in Afghanistan

You don't find too many upbeat articles that talk about winning in Afghanistan these days. But there's one in today's Wall Street Journal by Bing West. After going over a list of things that have gone wrong, West writes the following:
Regardless of these shortcomings, there will be progress over the next year. Gen. David Petraeus, the theater commander, knows how to defeat an insurgency... As he did in Iraq, Gen. Petraeus wants to recruit local forces to protect their own villages. That will expand the Afghan forces to 300,000 and stabilize the situation...A year from now, coalition forces should be able to gradually withdraw, replaced by robust support and adviser units embedded in Afghan security forces. We shouldn’t make this a NATO war, allowing the Afghans to stand back. We’re outsiders, no matter how many schools we build or cups of tea we drink.
I agree that the key is getting the Afghans to fight their own war, but his predictions appear wildly optimistic. And then there is this:
Afghan forces will need $4 billion a year for another decade, with a like sum for development.

West is in Afghanistan now and has a great deal of experience with the country. I hope his optimism is justified. But is there any reason to have faith in the Afghan government, with its minimal control of the country, its factional infighting, and its endemic corruption? Isn't it more likely that instead of an effective 300,000 man fighting force, the Afghan military will remain an organization where only selected units actually do much fighting? Is it reasonable to expect our billions in aid to be used wisely, rather than siphoned off by corruption, or wasted on things peripheral to the war?

Few people predicted the dramatic turn-around in Iraq. Can a similar near-miracle occur in Afghanistan? Let's hope so. But at this point I remain skeptical.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah. After reading about a village that had to defend itself from the Taliban (which involved about 2 dozen guys with guns, no other equipment and no training) for several weeks while the Afghani army did . . . well, who knows, I'm not sure on that one either.