Presentation on theme: "Finding a New Way Forward in Afghanistan"— Presentation transcript:
1Finding a New Way Forward in Afghanistan A Presentation for Selected Members of the House of RepresentativesA presentation byDouglas Macgregor, PhDColonel (ret) U.S. ArmyLead PartnerPotomac League LLC
2Bottom line up front:Understand what it is you are trying to accomplish with military power!What’s the purpose, appropriate method and desired, attainable end state in Afghanistan?“The first, the supreme, the most far-reaching act of judgment that the statesman and commander have to make is to establish by that test the kind of war on which they are embarking; neither mistaking it for, nor trying to turn it into, something that is alien to its nature.”Carl von Clausewitz, On War, Book 1, Chap. 1, Sect 27, page 100.“Karzai is very dirty by all accounts, but I am not sure you could replace him with someone who isn’t. Plus, it’s not our place to choose an Afghan head of state (as we did this one). The more I think about it the more I think we need to talk seriously about leaving.”A former CIA officer with extensive experience in the Middle East and Afghanistan recently returned from Afghanistan.
3What you should take away from this presentation! The United States cannot fix Afghanistan.We cannot undo nearly 40 years of continuous bloodshed, destruction, and occupation or manipulation by outside powers.Afghanistan is a country, not a nation. It has four distinct national groups in it -- three tied by ethnicity and/or religion to one of the country's neighbors and divided from the fourth by the Hindu Kush; the fourth being a collection of loosely confederated tribes.The best we can do is withdraw our forces with the publicly stated understanding that how the Afghans govern themselves is their business.However, if the Afghans harbor anyone – al Qaeda or anyone else who threatens the United States and its allies, we must state clearly we will annihilate those who threaten us without concern for the welfare of those Afghans who harbor them.“Damage control,” not “total victory,” is the most realistic goal for U.S. national military strategy in Afghanistan.In 2000 Condoleezza Rice told Foreign Affairs, "American values are universal."That four-word sentence summarizes the problem. American values are not universal. They are Western, primarily English-speaking values rooted in English common law, including respect for private property and minority rights. These values are not exportable at gunpoint as demonstrated repeatedly in Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq.Tom Barnett sees a "core" and a "gap," but there is no such thing. There was no such gap in the late 19th century (the Second Age of Empire). There are several competing cores -- at least three: North America, the continental Europeans, and the Chinese; there are several discrete disconnected gaps, too: Latin America, unsuccessful former WP/SU E. European states, Muslim Africa, southern Africa, Near/Mid-East & SW Asia, SE Asia -- each with unique aspects.The "Cores" cannot police the "Gap(s)" because the latter do NOT want to resubmit to imperialism, and have the sheer manpower and will to kill to make the cost of imposing hegemony far too high and the benefits too low.How much is it costing the US Tax payer to buy up the accidental guerrillas in Iraq? Tthe illusion that if we Americans in uniform can just find the magic formula, we can nation build everywhere and forever needs to go away. In truth, we are buying off enemies who are strategically irrelevant in a place where Western-style governance has no chance of surviving. Like all of the non-European places where we’ve invested blood and treasure – Philippines, Cuba, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Mexico, Vietnam, Haiti, Somalia, the Balkans - the underlying cultural dynamics will reassert themselves rendering American investments null and void.
4What does the McChrystal Report Urge the President to do? The centerpiece of General McChrystal's "new" counterinsurgency strategy of "clear, hold, build" is the accelerated training and expansion of the Afghan Army and Police Forces (ANSF) (along with a major increase in the size of our forces by as much as 45,000 troops) to support clear/hold/build.The strategic goal is to establish an expanding zone of security for the Afghan people that would enable a steady build up of aid and development efforts to improve the Afghan populace’s well being with jobs, new infrastructure, new education systems, new agricultural techniques, etc., thereby winning the hearts and minds of the Afghan people.There is nothing new in General McChrystal's strategy, it is merely a rehash of the failed oil spot (tache d'huile) strategy, first tried by French colonialist General Louis-Hubert-Gonsalve Lyautey in Algeria; then tried again under various guises by the US in Vietnam.The problem is clear/hold/build cannot be executed on behalf of another government (particularly a weak and corrupt government) by a foreign army (unless the foreign army plans to permanently and ruthlessly occupy on the old European or Ottoman colonial models). Americans don’t want that!Buying off the Pashtun Tribes with hard cash as Petraeus did in Iraq won’t work! Incentive structure does not exist.The amount of aid necessary to "rebuild" the never-existing "modern Afghanistan" is beyond any conceivable amount of US spending -- we cannot make Afghanistan into Turkey or Indonesia, much less into a secular, capitalist democracy. Lyautey's plan achieved limited success in Algeria -- but the French people lost patience, the French government was out of money and the Arabs did not want the French in their country. Americans have less patience, no more money and no interest.
5What’s wrong with the McChrystal Report? Soldiers and Marines cannot control, secure, stabilize, direct, democratize, or secularize Afghanistan or the rest of the Islamic World. The numbers work against us, time works against us, distance works against us, and above all culture and religion work against us. (McChrystal Report (authored by Fred Kagan) is totally unrealistic). In Afghanistan the U.S. is repeating mistakes we made in Vietnam – in 1965 we misconstrued a region of temporary, tactical importance as being of enduring strategic value. Afghanistan is not strategically vital to U.S. interests.The LBJ government had unfounded, naive, and unrealistic expectations of Vietnam’s near-term potential to evolve into a modern social democratic constitutional republic if the US put the "right people" in charge and provided a pile of cash and some "military assistance." The Muslim world does not want the United States to be its savior; or to “Westernize” through military occupation regardless of the material benefits American-led Westernization offers.“For Afghanistan to become a unitary state ruled from Kabul, and to develop into a modern, prosperous, poppy-free and democratic country would be a worthy and desirable outcome. But it is not vital for American interests…” (Graham Allison and John Deutsch, “The Real Afghan Issue Is Pakistan,” Opinion, 30 March 2009)The use of general purpose ground forces to occupy part of Iraq imposed severe human and economic costs on the United States, its allies, and even our friends inside these states. Any attempt to repeat this approach in Afghanistan will be economically ruinous and politically unsustainable.
6If the large-scale commitment of general purpose ground forces is not the answer for Afghanistan, what is the answer?Next Steps:Economy of Force (damage control) is the principle that must shape future U.S. military engagement in Afghanistan and most of the Islamic World.Limit American involvement in Afghanistan when necessary to modest, low-profile SOF and covert operations backed by air and naval power to eliminate al-Qaeda elements/camps and local elements that support them.Meanwhile, work with those in the region who will work with us in the fight to destroy, suppress and neutralize Islamist terrorism.But scale back expectations regarding change in the Islamic World in general and Afghanistan in particular.Remember, a culture that supports the "Rule of Law," respect for private property, pluralism/tolerance, due process, a standard of integrity and competence for public officials, as well as the separation between the government and private/communal sectors in society does not emerge spontaneously nor does it emerge through foreign military occupation.Remember, no matter what happens in Afghanistan and/or Pakistan, al-Qaeda will survive and remain a threat, but not an existential threat. There are many options for them from Morocco to London, England!Here is the latest from an officer on the ground in Iraq:“I can tell you from first hand experience and discussions with a number of other advisor team chiefs that we are accomplishing nothing with our presence here any longer, and our advisor mission is something dangerously close to a sham… Based on the observations of a number of my major brethren in team chief positions and confirmed by numerous Iraqi civilians, former military members, and others, the Iraqi military members, police members, and border guards don't want us here advising them on anything.” The combination of air and naval power in the conduct of operations against so-called “irregular forces” offers flexibility in terms of when, where, who and what can be targeted for operations ranging from intelligence collection to direct action employing special forces, special operations forces, conventional forces or stand-off attack systems. Because air and naval power are largely out-of-sight and out-of-reach for most state and non-state opponents, it is easier for these forces to conceal their movement, intent and capabilities."Rent-a-Pashtun" is really just a recapitulation of the despised (by the Pashtuns, at least) divide-and-conquer strategy practiced by the imperial British forces in the 19th Century. While that strategy worked for a time in India, it never worked very well in the Hindu Kush. The only people likely to buy into this kind of propaganda are its writers.This leaves the problem of Greater Pashtunstan unresolved -- solution would have to sort out Pakistan AND Afghanistan, and we lack the massive resources and long-term commitment necessary to manage an area with nearly 200 million population & areas comparable to the eastern CONUS.Like all of the non-European places where we’ve invested blood and treasure – Philippines, Cuba, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Mexico, Vietnam, Haiti, Somalia, the Balkans - the underlying cultural dynamics will reassert themselves rendering American investments null and void.
7Final Thoughts for Consideration The objective in conflict or crisis is not to spend lots of American blood and treasure, but to spend as little as possible!The goal is to make the AQ “irregular” bleed for his tribe/ religion/country while we expend as little blood and treasure as possible to secure vital US interests. (Key point is vital!)Don’t confuse liquidating al-Qaeda with liquidating the Taliban. Defeating the Taliban/Pashtun is on par with "eliminating global poverty.“ It’s “a bridge too far” and it is unnecessary.The Taliban are the organic socio-religious glue that unites the tribes against non-Pashtun invaders -- whether British, Russian, or American. They fight us because we are there.The Pakistani military and security services will use and manipulate the Pashtun (43 million people), but they are not going to give them WMD.When conflicts or crises involve U.S. forces, the use of American military power should be limited or terminated before the cumulative human and political costs defeat the original purpose of U.S. military action; destroying/disrupting AQ, not creating a modern nation-state in Afghanistan where none exists. (Selected SOF/CIA with air power makes sense.)In 1959, President of France, Charles de Gaulle confronted similar circumstances when he decided to leave Algeria. French generals insisted a withdrawal would deliver Algeria into the hands of Soviet-backed communists. It did not and de Gaulle replaced the generals.Pakistan has alwas asserted it does not accept the old Curzon line dividing Pakistan and Afghanistan, and has sought to manipulate the situation in its northwestern neighbor to ensure that it remains divided and weak. In this way, Afghanistan serves as a buffer zone between Islamabad's weak and minimally governed western frontier and the Iranians, Russians, and Turkic peoples beyond.Pakistan has never effectively governed the deeply reactionary, insular, and tribal Pashtuns or Pathans, and will not allow Afghanistan to do so either for fear that a unified, Pashtun-dominated Afghanistan would draw the allegiance of the Pashtuns and other disaffected tribal peoples away from Islamabad. Pakistan, whether ruled by the military or civilians, by Islamists or populist-Leftist, will NOT meaningfully or consistently cooperate with the US in trying to create a stable, pro-US, majority-ruled Afghanistan.Whether the Shiite dictatorship can contain the territorial ambitions of the de facto Kurdish State in Northern Iraq is open to debate. It seems certain that the Kurdish Peshmurga; a battle hardened force stronger and more capable than Iraq’s Security Forces, will reassert Kurdish control of Kirkuk and the Northern oil fields in the aftermath of U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq’s cities next summer. The possibility that these events will trigger Turkish military intervention to prevent oil revenues from funding Kurdish terrorism against Turkey should not be underestimated. Bottom line: As long as U.S. Forces are in Iraq, the probability of American military confrontation with the forces struggling for power inside Iraq, even the Turks if they intervene, will be high.US will probably need to intervene in Mexico and other Caribbean littorals with SF, may need to intervene with SOF and covert operations as well. This region is a critical concern for US -- unlike S/SW Asia which is an ocean and thousands of miles away, we have a far-too-permeable land border and all-but-unguarded Gulf sea frontier with Mexico and the Caribbean; PR & USVI even more exposed. ASD/SOLIC and Joint Staff need to start thinking about possible need for massive, rapid shift of available SF & SOF to Western hemisphere priority missions BEFORE, not after, things fall apart.