This post takes as it's subject matter firstly the battle for Afghanistan and secondly a successful waging of the War on Terror, the war we should always have been involved in.
Afghanistan - The right war in the right place
There is never been a doubt in my mind that when the Taliban regime refused to hand over Osama BinLaden to world justice an invasion of Afghansitan to remove that regime and apprehend the extremists who had backed and been involved in several atrocious acts of terrorism became neccessary. In the first phases, the battle was carried off with great skill and courage by US forces, reducing the repressive Taliban and their AlQaida allies in a matter of weeks. However, at that point the US and the Coalition became distracted by the trumped-up War in Iraq and several crucial mistakes were made. These mistakes will have to be addressed sooner or later or the occupation of Afghanistan will continue to drag on and perhaps even go into reverse. Unfortunately, much that needs to be done will have to await freeing up of resources from the occupation of Iraq - a matter which I firmly believe my own suggestions for the occupation there provide a means to better do.
Afghanistan is currently costing the American taxpayer about $1 billion a month - much of which is wasted money due to the corruption and inefficiencies we are all familiar with from Iraq and which I have dealt with in my previous posts.
The Defence Department "doesn't have a system to be able to determine with any degree of reliability and specificity how we spent" tens of millions in war-related emergency funds set aside by Congress, Comptroller General David Walker told a Senate Armed Services subcommittee.
My primary solution is to cancel all contracts which have not begun within a reasonable timeframe of their award and re-offer them by a process of competitive bidding, with a weighting in favour of local Afghani businesses. The whole operation should be closely overseen by US Inspector General staff and Afghan inspectors. In this way, much needed cash and employemnt enters the local economy at the same time as desperately needed reconstruction finally goes ahead at a realistic pace. Pimping and protecting vested corporate interests and political pork barrels in the US or the UK is no longer an option if the problems attendant on lack of reconstruction are to be solved. Those corporations which cry foul will only show themselves as more interested in making a buck than in being patriotic.
Working Afghanis with a realistic wage and basic amenities, just like Iraqis, will be far less likely to turn to crime or extremism. Most of the other problems experienced in Afghanistan are also identical in character to those of the Iraqi occupation and democtaisation process and can be solved in the same ways - building up a force which can provide the nation with it's own internal security; dealing with corruption in government; building and equipping an as yet non-existant force for national defense; ending the illwill generated by illegal detentions and torture; changing the nature of Coalition operations to better win "hearts and minds", avoiding the Lebanon/Syria model of de facto client state and turning the new nation loose as a free state in it's own right. I refer the reader to Part Two of these essays for details.
There are two factors which are more than a little unique in Afghanistan, however, and I would like to deal with these now - the related issues of drug trafficking and the juggling act between militias and terrorists.
Almost all of the world's heroin crop is now grown in Afghanistan. Very little of the crop is grown by local villagers and even where it is they sell to local warlords who give them very little cash in return. Often, it is these very warlords who force them to grow opium poppy in the first place. The crop grown by villagers should be replaced by income from jobs in reconstruction and by another cash crop such as oil-seed rape or flax. Simply descending upon a village and burning the opium crop will only feed resentments and violence, as has recently been proven. Especially in the light of the preferential treatment given to those very same warlords, upon whom the occupying forces rely upon for local enforcement as well as for much of the fighting against Al Qaida/Taliban militants.
Herein lies the greatest danger in Afghanistan. There are only 17,000 Coalition troops in the country at present - easily outnumbered even by the militants resident in the Pakistani city of Karachi just across the border, where it is estimated by Jane's Defence that over 25,000 graduates of Al Quaida training camps live. Add in the several thousands of renegade Taliban and militants in the border mountains and the Coalition forces in place are heavily outnumbered. Even given a huge advantage in weapons and tactics, they cannot be everywhere at once. The militants are becoming resurgent in Afghanistan, as recent under-reported incidents have borne out.
The US has been using local warlords and their militias to keep civic order and fight the militants in Afghanistan from very early on in the occupation. Germany's top spy, August Hanning, says that Osama binLaden escaped US forces by bribing the Afghan militias tasked with tracking him down. The US has said it used Afghan fighters to reduce casualties among its troops but Herr Hanning said that:
The principal mistake was made already in 2001, when one wanted Bin Laden to be apprehended by the Afghan militias in Tora Bora. There, Bin Laden could buy himself free with a lot of money."
Hanning went on to say that BinLaden subsequently was able to create a network of sympathisers among tribes in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
It is the warlords who benefit from 95% of the opium crop, but the Coalition is unable to do anything about their criminal pursuits because they do not have enough troops or resources on the ground to fight both the warlords and the militant terrorists. The almost criminal short-sightedness involved in drawing off these needed resources and soldiers for the War on Iraq therefore becomes readily apparent - and there's little can be done until money, troops and resources can be diverted from Iraq again, which requires solving Iraq's problems at least in the main! The Afghani campaign against terror is far from being "mission accomplished" and may yet, through distraction and inaction, become a lost one.
Fighting Terror on a Global Stage
Suppose we manage to turn around the catalogue of mistakes being made in Iraq and Afghanistan, almost all of which stem from the introduction of an unnecessary "second front" coupled with incompetent planning and a desire for vested interests to profit from the Twin Wars....what then? Well there are several arenas in which shortcomings must be addressed.
In conclusion, I would like to say that although I have tried to cover as many points as possible, I know I have missed more than a few. However, I hope I have succeeded in my aim, which was to lay out a cogent and progressive plan for successfully unentangling the Twin Wars and moving forward in the greater battle against terrorism worldwide. I welcome commentary, suggestions and critiques.