Petraeus, who also serves as commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, said part of the review will determine whether successes from the so-called "surge" in U.S. troops in that country could be applied to Afghanistan. As in Iraq, he said, a central task in Afghanistan will be to bolster the legitimacy of the central government in Kabul, which has little sway outside the capital. He also said U.S. and NATO forces need to pay more attention to political and cultural factors as they attempt to build alliances with local tribal leaders, an approach that has worked in Iraq.
To do so, he said, military commanders and their units would need to integrate themselves as much as possible in local villages instead of operating from isolated bases, mimicking another tactic tried in Iraq.
"You can't commute to work in the conduct of counterinsurgency operations," he said. Such an approach, he added, "requires, of course, many cups of tea." " WaPo
It must be the Afghans who need Afghanistan, or do they?
The various Pushtun, Uzbek, Hazara, Tajik, Turkman, Persian (in the west), Baluch and Arab (southwest) peoples of the state of Afghanistan have little in common other than an adherence to a wide variety of forms of Islam. Their main languages are mutually incomprehensible and even within the main ethno-linguistic groups like the Pushtun they are deeply divided into confederations, political factions and among local leaders. The state of Afghanistan is a 19th Century creation of the Russian and Indian (British) empires as a convenient way of creating a buffer zone between them. Serendipitously, that buffer zone contained many fractious and ungovernable peoples who were far too much trouble for permanent occupation and "la mission civilizatrice." The name, "Afghanistan" was rather arbitrarily adopted from the name of one of the larger Pushtun factions whose Khan had pretensions to royalty and who had a fair amount of power in the area of Kabul.
This is a country? This is certainly not a nation, not in the sense that any self respecting political scientist would recognize the term. There really is not such a thing as the Afghan People. One thing that all these kinds of "Afghans" have in common is a deep seated xenophobia, especially against non-Muslims.
President Obama's policy and strategy review seems to have as a "given" that the US and NATO should "make something" of Afghanistan, that we should fully commit ourselves to a program of building an Afghan Nation.
Why should we do that? As an act of "Christian Charity?"
There has never been such a thing as the kind of Afghanistan that President Obama and the newly converted COIN generals envision. It is not a question of re-building anything. It is a question of building something that has never existed. Why should we do that? Will the "Afghans" love us for it, and should we care about that?
We went into Afghanistan to deprive the takfiri jihadis of a base. That was a counter-terrorism operation. What is assumed to be the future of American policy in Afghanistan is something that is far more than a counter-terrorism operation.
The devious nature of Central Asian politics is well known. Why not return to the norms of local politics.
How much do the Taliban want per particular Al-Qa'ida head that we covet? Has anyone asked them? Al-Qa'ida has caused the Taliban a lot of trouble. Perhaps they would be amenable to a practical but invisible arrangement?
I have drunk a lot of tea in a variety of interesting dwellings and listened endlessly to grandmothers and uncles tell of injustices past and imaginary lineages that Homer might have constructed. It is deeply satisfying to drink their tea and have them tell strangers that you are one of them. Unfortunately, you are not one of them, and can never be one of them. The spiritual endorphins of the COIN process are deeply seductive. We must be sure that we have not seduced ourselves before we commit to an open ended responsibility for these people so far away. The president should ask himself how many more American soldiers the imagined Afghanistan would be worth.
Pakistan is a different, more complex and dangerous place. We will discuss that in due course. We need Afghanistan because of Pakistan and because of Pushtun tribes in FATA? Come now! Let us put the donkey in front of the cart and not the other way around. pl