I was on "Outside the Beltway" radio last night with James Joyner and Dave Schuler. This three sided conversation lasted an hour and covered a lot of ground. If you want to hear this podcast, the link is below.
Some time ago I was asked to encapsulate my views on the afghan policy situation. The resulting summary is quoted below. Since policy has clearly gone in a different direction I feel free to state my view for the record. pl
"Bernard Fall was one of the most significant theoreticians and practitioner of Counterinsurgency (COIN) in the 20th Century. He was the expert most listened to at the SpecialWarfareCenter at Ft. Bragg when LTG William Yarborough commanded the school there in the Kennedy and Johnson eras.
Fall defined COIN clearly. He said that: Counterinsurgency = political reform + economic development + counter guerrilla operations
This theory of warfare was developed by the colonial powers as a “cure” for the wave on “wars of national liberation” that swept through their overseas possessions after World War Two. Because of these revolts against authority most of the European powers found themselves faced with colonized populations engaged in extended attempts to obtain independence from the metropole. Such rebellions were usually based on ethnic and racial differences with the colonizers and were often led by vanguard Left parties with communist connections. That connection caused an eventual American policy commitment to the COIN struggle. That commitment sometimes occurred as a partner of the colonial power (Vietnam in the late ‘40s and ‘50s) and sometimes as a successor to the colonial power after at least partial independence had bee achieved. (Vietnam after the French)
Whatever the outcome of President Obama’s deliberations, two things are certain. One, the war in Afghanistan will continue, in whatever altered shape or form. Two, it will still be the wrong war, against the wrong enemy, and in the wrong place. The danger that the United States and the West face in that region is not from a Taliban victory in Afghanistanbut from an Islamist takeover of Pakistan. And every day that the war in Afghanistan continues brings that takeover one day closer.
"Taliban spokesman Azam Tari said the guerrillas had inflicted “heavy casualties” on the army, the Associated Press reported yesterday. “We will defend our land till our last man and our last drop of our blood,” the agency quoted him as saying. “This is a war bound to end in the defeat of the Pakistan army.”
The army has said it expects to complete the offensive in six to eight weeks, though today Abbas said he could not say how long it would last.
“This fight could be longer and harder than any the army has taken on so far,” said Ashraf Ali, director of the FATA Research Center, an Islamabad think-tank that studies the tribal areas, including Waziristan.
“The Waziristan terrain is much tougher for the army and better for guerrilla-style fighters,” Ali said. He added that the Taliban targeted in the campaign “are more experienced and trained than the ones in Swat,” the northern valley the army recaptured in a 10-week battle that ended in July.
Even a determined offensive may not crush the Mehsud faction or its allies.
The Taliban will “split into small groups and harass the strangers in a terrain which the Mehsuds know well,” said Bahukutumbi Raman at the Chennai, India-based Institute for Topical Studies. Pakistan is likely to face a new round of terrorist attacks in cities far from the fighting, he said. " Bloomberg
What is to be feared in this situation is that the Pashtun tribesmen in South Waziristan might fight the Pakistan army to a standstill. This could happen. These men are fighting on their own terrain, under their own traditional leaders, for their own homes. The terrain is very tough for a conventional army designed to fight India in maneuver warfare down on the plains to the east.
An army failure to dominate the situation would strengthen the Islamic zealots in the general Pakistan population and threaten the stability of the government.
If the United States has played a significant role in pressuring Pakistan into this operation we may have future reason to regret our actions. pl