Monday, April 28, 2008

Rubin: Debate on Commitment to Afghanistan

The current (May-June 2008) issue of The American Interest includes a debate on long-term strategy in Afghanistan. Army Colonel Thomas Lynch argues that only a long-term U.S.-Afghanistan security treaty, combined with reassertion of the U.S. lead of the international forces, will stabilize the country by signaling to all and sundry that the U.S. will not leave. I respond that unilateral commitments will only provoke more resistance from Afghans and regional powers, and that Afghan stability ultimately depends on lowering the level of threat through multilateral diplomacy and political negotiations.

Such debates are a regular feature of this relatively new journal.

I received a fascinating and detailed critique of both articles from an international official whose contribution will have to remain anonymous. I will post it as soon as it can be adequately sanitized.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/28/opinion/28mon1.html?ref=opinion

April 28, 2008

Making Their Own Mistakes

When Pervez Musharraf was running Pakistan he repeatedly cut deals with tribal leaders intended to calm the country's lawless regions. The results were always disastrous. The Taliban and Al Qaeda used the time to regroup and launch attacks both inside Pakistan and against Afghanistan.

Now Pakistan's newly elected civilian government is trying again. We doubt it will have any more luck. The new leaders will need to do a better job than Mr. Musharraf monitoring developments along the border. And they need to develop a military fallback plan for when this deal falls apart.

It is not surprising that the new government is trying to set its own course. When then-General Musharraf and the United States did battle the extremists, both showed a lack of concern for civilian casualties. Mr. Musharraf never tried to explain why it was in Pakistan's interest to fight at all. It was always Washington's war.

The latest agreement, as reported by The Times, would require the tribes to expel foreign militants, cease their own attacks and kidnappings, and allow freedom of movement to the Frontier Corps, the local security force. The deal also calls for an exchange of prisoners in return for the gradual withdrawal of the Pakistani military from part of the tribal region of South Waziristan....

Anonymous said...

Me, I want us out of Iraq and out of Afghanistan and to stop supporting Ethiopia in Somalia and to stop urging war in Pakistan. Let the French take the lead in Afghanistan, with Prince Andrew as deputy to Nicholas Sarkozy. Sort of Ney to Napoleon.

Vivat!


Your series of new posts are superb, as usual.

Anonymous said...

Barnett Rubin:

"I respond that unilateral commitments will only provoke more resistance from Afghans and regional powers, and that Afghan stability ultimately depends on lowering the level of threat through multilateral diplomacy and political negotiations."

Thank you for having a conscience.

Don Bacon said...

Barnett,
Thank you for taking a logical position and sticking to it. Apparently the American military is incapable of learning from history.

There are so many possibilities, many of them bad. What happens when the occupation resistance in Afghanistan, and Iraq for that matter, gets their hands on Stinger missiles? That would change everything -- as it did for the Soviets.

John Bennett said...

I just finished reading Charlie Wilson's War (not the movie). Are the Russians now providing any aid to the Taliban? It would be a return of the favor we did them.
I also wonder what "winning" in Afghanistan means. Divided tribally and by sects, can there be anything but a weak central government, subject as always to interference from its neighbors which can play on the internal divisions. We were originally involved because of 911 and Osama. Can we just depend on a quick strike to make sure that such a force cannot hit us again? Do we really have to have a perfect government?

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