Afghanistan Not Vietnam?
By Staff News & Analysis - September 17, 2010

A Grave Tone at the Monthly War Council Meeting … President Obama convened his monthly war council Monday during this "very volatile point" in the war in Afghanistan, a senior administration official in attendance told ABC News. "Violence is up and we're in a. difficult political environment heading into an election in a country also facing an insurgency," the official said, adding that this dynamic was expected. "We're under no illusions – it's a very challenging time." The meeting started at 11 am ET in the Situation Room, and ran for roughly an hour and 45 minutes. US Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry began by briefing the council on governance issues – discussing the parliamentary elections this Saturday and the push-and-pull with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on corruption. The Commander in Afghanistan. Gen. David Petraeus, followed with a briefing on the security situation. Lastly, US Ambassador to Pakistan Ann Patterson discussed that country, focusing on the aftermath of the floods. – ABC News

Dominant Social Theme: Progress shall be made … eventually.

Free-Market Analysis: We really don't understand what is going on in Afghanistan anymore – or not from the perspective of the Anglo-American axis. Is it turning into another Vietnam, replete with body counts? Now there are "metrics" that the Pentagon and Obama administration are going to track. Below we analyze them, though they make little sense to us. As we have written before, current Western strategies do not seem to be especially conducive to victory.

The stakes are high and have little or nothing to do with fighting a "war on terror." As we see it, the power elite is interested in world governance and must first exert pressure on Islam to Westernize. Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Iran – and then various funny Russian satellites must all be brought into the fold. But Afghanistan is key. The British tried and failed to pacify Afghanistan 100 years ago. This is the second attempt, in our view. Additional dominant social sub-theme: "We're in Afghanistan to help build a civil society for the 21st century (and NATO is taking the lead)."

Somewhere it seems to have gone wrong. Iraq seemed to work out for a while thanks to the "surge" – though we tend to think the cause and effect of the surge is fairly dubious. In fact, we wonder how long Iraq hangs together. The Shias and Sunnis continue to confront one another and the Kurds are not comfortable with either side. Iran funds Shia mischief and no doubt Saudi Arabia is funneling money to the Sunnis.

But leave aside Iraq. Afghanistan continues to be the source of our current bemusement. The US monthly War Council agreed to look for "five basic metrics in the coming months" the article tells us, to assess how the mission is proceeding:

1) How well are US troops doing and dislodging Taliban in places where they're most deeply rooted, such as Kandahar;

2) How are troops doing in stepped-up efforts to take out Taliban leaders such as shadow governors and regional commanders;

3) Recruitment and training of Afghan forces — meeting higher recruitment goals, improving the quality of training;

4) A new metric that started in July – the progress of new local policing initiatives in communities, villages and tribes;

5) Reintegration of low-level Taliban into Afghan society.

Let us take these points one a time. The first metric to track is how well troops are doing in dislodging the Taliban. In fact, we have already read that during the current push into Kandahar, troops have been surprised by the lack of resistance. But how on earth is this news? This is in fact the way the Pashtun-Taliban always operate – and how the Pashtun has fought for millennia – refusing to wage war on the enemy's terms, melting away an then later on conducting a harrying operation. There is no metric to be had here, certainly not one that tracks rootedness.

The second metric is to track efforts to take out the Taliban leadership. But this seems to assume that the Taliban is some sort of machine manufactured entity, a limited-run production. If in fact it is a grass-roots Pashtun rebellion against NATO and Anglo-American occupation then the leadership will be self-replicating. There is a pool of some 40 million Pashtuns to draw from and we would assume (unless the information we've read is wrong) that the leadership is fairly self-replicating.

The third metric is recruitment and training of Afghan forces – meeting higher recruitment goals. While this seems to make sense, we have pointed out on numerous occasions that the Afghan army is being built from ethnicities historically opposed to the Pashtun. Thus, the bigger the army gets, the more tension that the West will inject into the current standoff between the Pashtun and other Afghan tribes. If the army does get big enough and effective enough, there is little doubt that Pakistan Punjabis shall start to provide arms to more Pashtuns to keep up.

The fourth metric is tracking progress of new local policing initiatives in communities, villages and tribes. Again, the policing is basically being done by non-Pashtuns. Thus, this metric is tracking how many armed anti-Pashtun, young men can be inserted into Pashtuns enclaves to "keep the peace." The irrationality of this metric should be obvious to someone with even a superficial understanding of inter-tribal rivalries.

The final metric is to track the reintegration of low-level Taliban into the larger Afghan community. This assumes that the Pashtuns are satisfied with the arrangement that NATO is making on their behalf, and that the Taliban itself will not seek to intimidate "low-level" soldiers that defect. Good luck with that.

We are never certain our analysis of the war is correct in all it parts. (We didn't for instance fully understand the participation of the powerful families of the Pakistan Punjabis.) But given what has come out in the past year about the war, the above approach to besting the Pashtun-Taliban seems speculative at best.

We do believe we see an outcome, however. There are, for instance, voices already raised to simply partition Afghanistan between the Pashtuns in the South and East and the other ethnicities in the North and West; however NATO has already come out emphatically against such a proposal. Thus, we propose there will be a de-facto partition if the war does not wind down.

If NATO and the Anglo-American alliance decide to "stick it out," then an Afghan army and police force will be built to enforce the will of the larger Afghan state. But the central government has traditionally been Pashtun and this will upset the cultural balance. The Pashtuns will not be able to take control of a central government that rules primarily through an army and police force that is anti-Pashtun.

Thus we would predict that the Pashtuns might refuse to cooperate with the kind of nation-building the West is involved with. If this were the case, then the army and police force that the West is building likely would not integrate well in the Pashtun South and East. The result would be isolated regiments and police units that are located within Pashtun enclaves but do not interact with the Pashtun populace. These units would be supported by the remnants of the Allied occupation, which also would not interact especially well with Pashtuns.

This is what we mean by a de facto partition. The West can certainly build up and arm the anti-Pashtun ethnicities, but so long as Pakistan chooses to help arm and support the Pashtun-Taliban, the Pashtuns will not be pacified, even with an anti-Pashtun army and police force in its midst. These elements in our view simply will not integrate in our humble view – from what we understand of inter-tribal rivalries.

Over time, the conclusion we reach is that if the West's plan is pursued to perfection, Afghanistan will end up in two pieces, with the armed non-Pashtun army and police forces basically occupying Pashtun tribal regions. As Pakistan continues to arm the Pashtun-Taliban, the simmering civil war that the West is now creating will heat up – and the remaining forces of NATO will be caught in the middle.

Perhaps our perspective is incorrect. But the best case for the West now is the creation of a long-term civil war between the Pashtun-Taliban (supported by Pakistan) and the non-Pashtun ethnicities (supported by NATO et. al.). However, in the very long term, this is a Pashtun/Punjabi struggle to expel the West from tribal lands.

The West will have to be prepared to take the casualties that a civil war brings until the Pashtuns and Punjabis cease to fight. And the Pashtuns and Punjabis have been fighting among themselves and fighting the West (and the British) for hundreds if not thousands of years. The Anglo-American elite simply doesn't seem to know how to unwind.

From global warming to peak oil, to central banking itself, the elite continues to move along the same tracks. Afghanistan, however, is especially important because it historically marked the end of the unrestrained expansion of the British empire 100 years ago. Now Anglo-American ambitions to build world governance are again being dashed against the hard hills of Afghanistan.

After Thoughts

The import is tremendous. The Anglo-American axis has proven enormously aggressive in the past half-century. But empires that harbor this level of aggression and authoritarianism usually do not take well to setbacks – which tend to interrupt the internal cohesion of the ruling class. The lack of analysis, therefore, even from the alternative press, is startling. It is one reason we continue to provide it.

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