Friday 1 September 2017

Afghanistan Strategy

Recently President Trump announced that more US combat troops were deploying to Afghanistan, currently US forces have been at war in Afghanistan for 16 years, the longest war in US history. On the Alt-Right there has been endless criticism of this decision, that he has abandoned his prior commitments to withdrawal and that the war has gone on long enough. The criticisms betray the Paleo-Conservative origins of much of the Alt-Right.

I however am not a Paleo, but a Traditional Conservative, I do not accept the argument that if we leave the world alone then the world will leave you alone. Not only do I not accept it, I utterly reject it. The world is not a static place but a dynamic place were other people, some of them hostile to you and your interests, get to do things as well. They get to decide if they hate you and they get to decide if they want to do something about it.

First let me answer two persistent myths regarding Afghanistan, the first is that it is the graveyard of armies and the second is that it has never known peace. Afghanistan is often portrayed as a land where war is perpetual. The first army that "died" in Afghanistan is the army of Alexander the Great, the only problem with that idea is that the land that is today Afghanistan was successfully conquered. And it stayed conquered, Greek cities were built and for centuries remained under Greek control. The reason that the myth continues is because there is nothing of great value in Afghanistan, it is it's strategic placement that gives it any value so armies don't stay for long. That is not to say that armies have not been defeated in Afghanistan, they certainly have been but that is true of Estonia and Portugal and insert the name of a random country here. It also bleeds into the other myth that Afghanistan has never known peace, but in fact before 1973 Afghanistan had fought one war in the Twentieth century, the Third Afghan War of 1919. That means that Afghanistan had 72 years of peace in the Twentieth century. Banditry yes, war no. Afghanistan is not some magical country were special rules apply, it has it's own unique issues but that does not make it magical.

The reason that Western troops are in Afghanistan is because the United States decided after the Soviet intervention had ended in 1989 that it would ignore the country. That allowed the Taliban to come to power and they in turn allowed other more extreme groups, such as Al Qaeda, to use the country as a training camp. The United States had a number of opportunities to fix this issue throughout the 1990's, but instead they continued to pretend the country did not exist. Even after Al Qaeda decided to attack the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and killed hundreds the US response was muddleheaded and ineffective. That lead to the attacks on 9/11 and that lead to the current war in Afghanistan.

The United States left Afghanistan alone and forgot that other people get to decide whether they hate America or not. They did hate America and they did something about it.

The first mistake that was made was not restoring the Afghan Monarchy. Afghanistan as we would understand it came into being in the early 1700's, Kabul becoming the capital in 1776. From 1709 to 1973 Afghanistan was a Monarchy, then a Leftist Military coup took place that within a few years had become a Communist dictatorship. All of the current problems spring from this time and reinstating the monarchy would have signaled to everyone that the good times were returning. Unfortunately a Republican system of Government was put in place. Afghanistan is a traditional culture and a King would have been a return to tradition and he would have been able to reform old alliances. Alliances that had once lasted for generations. But how long will a President stay in power? Behind the President are guns, behind the King is loyalty. It is not too late to fix that mistake, the President can and should be rewarded for his service to his country.  

On the military front there are two issues:

1. The Internal Instability
2. The Pakistani Frontier

The Internal Instability

A return of the Monarchy would help return tribes and clans to believe in a more stable future. There are three other Internal issues that need to be dealt with

A. The continued support for the Taliban

B. The drug trade

C. Modernity

A return to a traditional source of authority will appeal to many Afghans, I believe that would include many Taliban. But we need to stop trying to modernize Afghanistan, it has been an unending source of evil. Most Afghans do not want to be Westerners and we should stop trying to force the issue. Womens education is one such evil, it does no good and only causes issues. It should be the Afghans themselves who make these changes, if they want too. But for too long we have insisted that Afghanistan becomes Switzerland, surely that is their decision and not ours.

The drug trade is a massive problem, we have turned a blind eye to this evil and we should not. It destroys lives in Afghanistan and outside, it hurts us all. It also distorts all economics within Afghanistan. Why grow food when you can get Western charity and still make big money in the drug trade? It stops honest men from making a living and makes fools of honest men for not trying to destroy other peoples lives.

We need to stop trying to turn Afghanistan into a Western country but we should not allow drugs to be grown when it hurts our own citizens. We have been far too tolerate of this trade, but as it hurts us we should let the Afghan Government know that we will return that hurt to the Afghan Government. Sanctions, travel bans and the like, we should not start there but we should begin to let them know that this needs to change. That we will work with them to change but that we expect results or they can expect things to change.

The Pakistani Frontier

I think the most important of these is the Pakistani Frontier, this is the same problem that confronted the US in Vietnam and in Iraq. An enemy who can train and rest in a foreign country and can then on it's own initiative decide when to fight. It is amazingly hard to defeat such forces, they are hard to find and they are hard to destroy because they get to choose when they fight.

The answer is to channel the enemy forces into areas where they can be found and destroyed. To do that the border needs to be sealed. Today the enemy can come and go as they please, across the Pakistani Frontier. To bring them under control that needs to stop. The answer is not primarily combat but engineering.

First a survey of the Frontier needs to be done.

Secondly a plan must be designed that deprives the enemy of infiltration routes into Afghanistan.

Thirdly those plans should be built, walls, barriers, laser lines, barbed wire, kill zones, the purpose is not to entirely seal the country off, it is to limit the routes that can be taken into and out of the country.

Fourth, patrol using locals, troops, helicopters, drones etc. to make sure the barriers remain in place and that they are effective.

Only by cutting the Frontier can a decisive effort be made in reducing violence throughout Afghanistan.  

The war in Afghanistan has gone on for a long time without question. But to leave Afghanistan is to return to the failed policy of the 1990's. We should seek out a space somewhere between Switzerland in the Himalayas and Failed State, actually there is a lot of ground between those two positions. We should seek out a good position and head in that direction, with the United States and it's Western Allies doing what the Afghans cannot do and leave what they can do to them.

Upon Hope Blog - A Traditional Conservative Future
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