'While there is a Rupee left...'

On a surprise visit to Kabul Tuesday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Afghan President Hamid Karzai that the United States "will never turn our back" from Afghanistan. Gate's trip to the war zone came only a week after President Barack Obama pledged to send 30,000 more U.S. troops to embattled country, with another 7,000 to come from other NATO nations.
In the long run, however, success in the counterinsurgency campaign against the Taliban will depend on building up Afghan security forces. Only soldiers, police and administrators drawn from the local population possess the necessary knowledge of the people, language, and culture to be effective in creating the national loyalty needed for victory. A surge of U.S.-NATO forces may be necessary to stabilize the situation, but reliance on foreign troops by the central government in Kabul undermines its legitimacy and calls into question whether it has the strength to rule.

Afghanistan is a poor country while fielding the 240,000 regular soldiers and 160,000 police that U.S.-NATO commander General Stanley McChrystal wants will be expensive. At his joint press conference with Secretary Gates, President Karzai said that for "A number of years Afghanistan will not be able to sustain our force with our own resources. We hope the international community and the U.S. will help Afghanistan reach the ability to sustain our force with numbers and equipment."

It would be useful to look back at the British experience as to how important it will be to provide the funding needed to keep Afghan forces in the field. The British Raj maintained its control using mainly locally recruited and trained fighters. In 1795, the directors of the East India Company stated "the leading principle of the Company's Government should be that the pay of the soldier never be in arrears, while there was a rupee in the treasury, he is to be paid, every other article of expenditure being postponed to that consideration." In 1879, the British had to send an expedition into Afghanistan to avenge the murder of an envoy by rebellious Afghan soldiers who had not been paid and were threatening the regime in Kabul.

Almost a hundred years later, the U.S. allowed Saigon to fall to an invasion from North Vietnam. In large measure this defeat was the result of Congress drastically cutting funding for the South Vietnamese military, leaving it low on fuel, ammunition and spare parts. The country for which over 50,000 Americans had died to defend was overwhelmed because the local forces established to cover the American withdrawal ("Vietnamization") were not sustained. This is the real danger of President Obama's strategy given a Democratic majority in Congress whose leaders hold the same defeatist ideology that the party manifested when it controlled Congress in the 1970s.

Substituting money for blood can be an effective strategy, as long as the money continues to flow. If it dries up, then the blood flows again.



On a surprise visit to Kabul Tuesday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Afghan President Hamid Karzai that the United States "will never turn our back" from Afghanistan. Gate's trip to the war zone came only a week after President Barack Obama pledged to send 30,000 more U.S. troops to embattled country, with another 7,000 to come from other NATO nations.
In the long run, however, success in the counterinsurgency campaign against the Taliban will depend on building up Afghan security forces. Only soldiers, police and administrators drawn from the local population possess the necessary knowledge of the people, language, and culture to be effective in creating the national loyalty needed for victory. A surge of U.S.-NATO forces may be necessary to stabilize the situation, but reliance on foreign troops by the central government in Kabul undermines its legitimacy and calls into question whether it has the strength to rule.

Afghanistan is a poor country while fielding the 240,000 regular soldiers and 160,000 police that U.S.-NATO commander General Stanley McChrystal wants will be expensive. At his joint press conference with Secretary Gates, President Karzai said that for "A number of years Afghanistan will not be able to sustain our force with our own resources. We hope the international community and the U.S. will help Afghanistan reach the ability to sustain our force with numbers and equipment."

It would be useful to look back at the British experience as to how important it will be to provide the funding needed to keep Afghan forces in the field. The British Raj maintained its control using mainly locally recruited and trained fighters. In 1795, the directors of the East India Company stated "the leading principle of the Company's Government should be that the pay of the soldier never be in arrears, while there was a rupee in the treasury, he is to be paid, every other article of expenditure being postponed to that consideration." In 1879, the British had to send an expedition into Afghanistan to avenge the murder of an envoy by rebellious Afghan soldiers who had not been paid and were threatening the regime in Kabul.

Almost a hundred years later, the U.S. allowed Saigon to fall to an invasion from North Vietnam. In large measure this defeat was the result of Congress drastically cutting funding for the South Vietnamese military, leaving it low on fuel, ammunition and spare parts. The country for which over 50,000 Americans had died to defend was overwhelmed because the local forces established to cover the American withdrawal ("Vietnamization") were not sustained. This is the real danger of President Obama's strategy given a Democratic majority in Congress whose leaders hold the same defeatist ideology that the party manifested when it controlled Congress in the 1970s.

Substituting money for blood can be an effective strategy, as long as the money continues to flow. If it dries up, then the blood flows again.