Sunday, May 17, 2009

How Do You Plan An "Exit" Strategy?

I read with interest where a group of anti-war Democrats are frustrated due to the lack of an exit strategy for the war in Afghanistan. It seems to me since we've just changed commanders and have yet to figure out how to actually fight the war, their frustration may prove misplaced. They might rather be frustrated by the nature of the war.

Wars aren't like they used to be. We fight an enemy without uniforms and really without a country. They fight a guerrilla war. We're not particularly good at it. To say it's "unconventional" warfare is an understatement. What else would you call it when we have to bribe war lords to side with us! We did it in Iraq; we're trying it in Afghanistan. This does not lend itself to a strategy, nor an ally, I would count on!

Congress was always demanding an exit strategy from the Bush administration on Iraq. None was forthcoming. We still don't have one set in stone. How many times since Obama took office have the end date and function of the troops that will remain been changed?

Afghanistan presents the same problems plus a few new wrinkles. Like the front is moving into an entirely different country - Pakistan. At least the Pakistani army is more capable than the Afghans or the Iraqis, whose army we disbanded!

One thing that needs to be remembered is the Afghanistan segment of the "war against terror", redubbed as the "Overseas Contingency Operation" by the administration, is extremely complex. There are goals, like subduing the opium trade, education, the teaching of modern agricultural techniques, etc. that best be left to civilian agencies and certainly not ours alone. Our military is there to root out Al-Qaeda, the Pakistanis want to beat back the Taliban and President Karzai wants to hold on to power. Do the goals mesh or is everyone tripping over one another?

One Congressman commented he was concerned about "mission creep". That is a valid concern; it's already happening. Al-Qaeda has free range in two countries now. How we contain them and how long it might take is a question that cannot be answered. Ask the Russians. I'm sure their exit strategy, if they had one, was the defeat they suffered. It's another conflict that most likely cannot be won.

Those Democrats looking for an exit strategy need look no further than Iraq to understand it's unlikely to happen.

I see the situation escalating before it starts to diminish. Not a pleasant thought. In looking back, do remember that after 9/11 the then ruling Taliban told us we could have Bin Laden, who was known to be in Afghanistan, if we could show proof he was the mastermind behind the attack. The Bush administration in essence told them they didn't "need no stinkin' proof". The rest is history.

Perhaps none of this would be happening if we had provided that proof. There is a lesson there.


Linda said...

Another excellent post. I'm amazed at how fast the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan is going and how extremely complicated it is. I have more confidence with Obama in charge. At least he isn't torturing people to establish a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq that never was.

I do think Obama, Gates, Petreaus and Holbrook are on the same page. That always helps, but all of them say it's going to be extremely difficult and to expect an increase in violence this summer.

Betty said...

What if there is no proof of Bin Laden's guilt? What if there never was any proof? How do we know the Bush administration didn't lie to us about that, too?