Monday, August 10, 2009

Is Afghanistan Worth It? A (Limited) Roundup of Opinions

What to do when three of your favorite bloggers decide to take significant portions of August off? Luckily we have plenty of opinions to discuss on "should we be in Afghanistan?" front.
The Wall Street Journal proclaimed that General McChrystal stated the Taliban are winning (although the Pentagon is now protesting that he didn't really say that). David Rothkopf gave the Obama Administration a six-month grade of D for Afghanistan and Pakistan policy, saying "The best we can hope for is to get some bad guys and get out, hand the problems over to locals and forge a partnership with the other great powers in the region, notably India and China to contain the spillage from a place that is likely to be an open wound on the world for decades to come." Of course having India involved in Afghanistan would only add to the problems with Pakistan, but no matter. Seth Jones does his usual shtick of repeating platitudes and recycled ideas--this time how to "win" in Afghanistan without defining what winning means--and somehow getting published.
Lee Hamilton is asking the questions. The counterinsurgency crew (and hangers on) are providing their answer. CNAS' Andrew Exum has even provided a forum on his blog compiling people's answers to the strategic questions.
The overall feeling seems to be turning more pessimistic about the chances of our success in Afghanistan. As for me, I still think we can succeed, depending on how we define success. We will never pacify or control the tribal regions completely, and it would be crazy to even try. We can, however, give Afghanistan a fighting chance at having a stable central government that controls most of the country--on their own terms--but it will require long-term aid as well. The U.S. military is capable of almost anything, but the civilian policy makers need to define what limited goals they want accomplished and then allow the military to do its job. The longer we fail to have a real defined strategy the more pessimistic I will become.

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