George Will wants US out of Afghanistan
This matters a lot more to the inside the beltway crowd than it does anywhere else. Nevertheless, it is significant in this way; Will has always been seen as a proponent of a strong national defense and muscular foreign policy. By turning against the Afghanistan War, he has altered the debate in Washington.
U.S. forces are being increased by 21,000 to 68,000, bringing the coalition total to 110,000. About 9,000 are from Britain, where support for the war is waning. Counterinsurgency theory concerning the time and the ratio of forces required to protect the population indicates that, nationwide, Afghanistan would need hundreds of thousands of coalition troops, perhaps for a decade or more. That is inconceivable.
So, instead, forces should be substantially reduced to serve a comprehensively revised policy: America should do only what can be done from offshore, using intelligence, drones, cruise missiles, airstrikes and small, potent special forces units, concentrating on the porous 1,500-mile border with Pakistan, a nation that actually matters.
Genius, said de Gaulle, recalling Bismarck's decision to halt German forces short of Paris in 1870, sometimes consists of knowing when to stop. Genius is not required to recognize that in Afghanistan, when means now, before more American valor, such as Allen's, is squandered.
Does this matter at all? It might encourage other, more influential fence sitters or closet opponents of the war to come forward. And while it won't affect the stance of the overwhelming number of supporters of the war, it is important to remember that policy is made in Washington, and when old DC hands like Will lose faith, it makes policy makers nervous. It may seem insignificant to us - and in all but a "psychic" sense that is true. But in the small, closed world of Washington. Will's voice still has some influence. In this sense, the debate over what to do in Afghanistan just got a little more complicated.
Hard to say, but the debate over Afghanistan seems out of control to me at the moment. As with everything else he has touched, Obama is screwing this up. The White House announced the troop increase but it was far below what the commanders on the ground were asking. Now we have a new commanding general who once again, is asking for more boots on the ground. The situation is getting more dire by the week, according to Anthony Cordesman - an analyst many consider to be both non-partisan and very good.
Writing in WaPo yesterday, Cordesman said that the Afghanistan War can't be won in the next three months, but could be lost unless Obama changes strategy:
I did not see any simple paths to victory while serving on the assessment group that advised the new U.S. commander, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, on strategy, but I did see all too clearly why the war is being lost. The most critical reason has been resources. Between 2002 and 2008 the United States never provided the forces, money or leadership necessary to win, effectively wasting more than half a decade. Our country left a power vacuum in most of Afghanistan that the Taliban and other jihadist insurgents could exploit and occupy, and Washington did not respond when the U.S. Embassy team in Kabul requested more resources.
The Bush administration gave priority to sending forces to Iraq, it blustered about the successes of civilian aid efforts in Afghanistan that were grossly undermanned and underresourced, and it did not react to the growing corruption of Hamid Karzai's government or the major problems created by national caveats and restrictions on the use of allied forces and aid. It treated Pakistan as an ally when it was clear to U.S. experts on the scene that the Pakistani military and intelligence service did (and do) tolerate al-Qaeda and Afghan sanctuaries and still try to manipulate Afghan Pashtuns to Pakistan's advantage.
It is perhaps the most supreme irony Washington has seen in a long time that Obama's most reliable supporters are firmly on the right and that his own party and far left base oppose him on Afghanistan and agree to some degree with George Will. Meanwhile, experts are telling him his policy is already a failure and that he must change course or we may find ourselves with a disaster on our hands much sooner than we can imagine.
Will Obama heed the warnings of people with vastly more experience than he and most of his national security team? Or will he fold, bring the troops home, and leave the Afghan people to the tender mercies of the Taliban and their al-Qaeda butchers?
No one will be surprised if Obama doesn't have the stomach to see this through - at least until the situation can be stabilized and there's a chance that the Afghan government can survive. We can only hope someone in his administration has the backbone to buck him up during what is sure to be a very trying few months.