Monday, August 10, 2009

Notes on a Post-Mehsud Afghanistan and Pakistan

After a weekend of thinking about it, it looks like we really did get Baitullah Mehsud. Hurray! And now his deputies are fighting each other over who gets to be leader of the club now. Double hurray! That saves us the trouble. Various analysts have speculated that whereas Mehsud focused his attacks more on Pakistan, which ever deputy ends up leading his group is likely to focus more on attacking U.S. forces in Afghanistan. That's both good news and bad news. Our troops will get attacked more, but they will be in Afghanistan, where we can fight back, not across the invisible line into Pakistan where we can only use drones.
The "successful" drone strike (it took us many attempts, and the strike that killed Mehsud may not have even been targeting him) means we will likely use drones even more readily. That's not necessarily a good thing, as we have a poor track record of killing the people we want to (terrorists and insurgents) and not the ones we don't (civilians).
On the drug front, we have decided to spend time and energy hunting down drug lords in Afghanistan. I wonder if we're going to include the drug lords who are some of Karzai's biggest supporters. Sure, extra heroin in the world is a bad thing, but we didn't invade Afghanistan to control drugs. Michael Cohen has been keeping an "Afghanistan Mission Creep Watch" going for awhile. Looks like he has some job security!
We are currently spending at least $60 billion per year in Afghanistan. That's roughly six times more (conservatively) than if we simply decided to buy everything Afghanistan produced (drugs included) every year. We're likely committed to spending at least $4 billion a year for quite a few years after we leave (whenever that may be) just to pay for the Afghan army and police forces, since their tax base cannot support it. What are we getting? Is this really the best strategy? Is there a strategy?

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