Saturday, October 24, 2009

More On Afghanistan

Yesterday I wrote about how complicated the Afghanistan puzzle is. It’s like a chess game. Every move we make brings forth “check” by the opponent. There is no way out – or so it seems. I’m going to see if I can make sense of this mess.

One thing I know for sure: As an undifferentiated mass the issues, contradictions and challenges are unconfrontable. We have to sort them out before committing to a strategy.

Our starting point is that we have overwhelming evidence that what we have been doing for the past eight years in Afghanistan isn’t working. Okay, agreed. So now what? I’ll begin with the players:

1. U.S. forces on the ground

2. NATO forces on the ground

3. The Afghan government

4. The Afghan Taliban

5. Al Qaeda

6. The Pakistani Taliban

7. Afghan police and security forces

8. The Pakistani government

9. Afghan and Pakistani tribal leaders

10. Village leaders

11. U.S. drones

12. Villagers

13. Pakistani police and security forces

14. I.S.I.

15. U.S. diplomats

16. U.S. military leaders

17. Local bosses and their militias

18. Drug kingpins

19. European governments

Even if I’ve missed some people, that’s enough. Can all these groups be neatly coordinated? Not a chance. What we have are competing interests inside competing interests inside more competing interests.

Are there any commonalities? Sure.

1. The people of Afghanistan would like to live in peace with security

2. The Afghan Taliban would like to regain power

3. The U.S. would like to make sure that Afghanistan will not again be a staging ground for terrorist training and attacks

4. Tribal leaders and other special interests with power would like to maintain their power

5. The Pakistani government would like not to be threatened by internal terrorism

6. The people of Pakistan would like to live in peace with security

To be continued . . .


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