Saturday, November 7, 2009

Can We afford to Stay in Afghanistan without Public Support?

This week, Afghanistan was scheduled to have a run-off election after there were claims of fraud on behalf of incumbent President Hamid Karzai in the initial election in August. However, on Sunday, Karzai's opponent, Abdullah Abdullah, who at one point was the president's foreign minister. pulled out of the race, effectively handing the election over to Karzai. All of this came off of the heels of President Obama's deliberation as to whether or not he will send more troops to Afghanistan and stories breaking that the United States CIA had funded Karzai's brother in a string of crooked political dealings. In a sense, Abdullah Abdullah's pulling out of the election may signal the devalidation of US Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal's push for more troops to be sent to Afghanistan.

General McChrystal and General Petraeus, the Centcom leader and former top Iraq General, are proponents of Counterinsurgency, a method of warfare that encompasses using abundant military forces to essentially duplicate the methods the enemy uses.. In fact, Petraeus wrote the Counter Insurgency field manual, which has been seen as the gold standard for counterinsurgency, or COIN as it is known in military circles. The method is hailed among many high ranking politicians and officials like John McCain and Lindsey Graham, but is not without its opponents, namely Gen. Colin Powell, his former aide Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, and Vice President Joe Biden.

However, COIN is completely contingent on "winning hearts and minds" of the native people as General Petraeus would put it. In many ways, the push for more troops is very similar to Petraeus' "surge" method, which he executed in Iraq. But Afghanistan is very different than Iraq. In Afghanistan, one is dealing with the threat of Pashtuns, who are not only the main ethnicity that the Taliban recruits but are also Karzai's own ethnic group. The Pashtuns are known to be very militant whenever they feel as if Justice is being violated.

Prior to the election, it was no big secret that Karzai was a very ambitious man and it was not below him to play dirty tricks to get what he desires. While the Bush Administration hailed his arrival, many people remained wary of him both in the United States and in Afghanistan. However, in a world where justice and following the will of God is more important than liberty, it would be unfair to characterize Karzai as a diametric enemy of native Afghans. For one, just before the election, he re-instated Muslim Shar'ia as the supreme law of the nation.

Yet, in the same respect that Karzai can be revered for administering the will of God, he can also lose public support for being President without the democratic mandate from the people of Afghanistan. In turn, without a strong ally that the Afghans can trust, the US would not be able to initiate any kind of counter-insurgency, given that we have no credible allies from Muslim Afghan leadership. Without a partner, the United States basically becomes an infidel force, just like the Soviets before us and the British before them.

As a result, the only way the United States can really be seen as victors is to be able to curb Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and in Northern Pakistan in hopes of being able to catch Bin Laden. However, as long as we are a foreign force occupying a Muslim land, the United States is susceptible to attack from Taliban, who would become a perpetual thorn in our side.

While Abdullah Abdullah probably would not have gotten a fair shake in the election, it appears that it would have been better if he had stayed in the election, if anything for the purpose of the United States. Without an ally in the Afghan government that has the support of the people, the United States is now susceptible to constant battle with insurgents.