Gulliver In Afghanistan, Ctd.
Andrew Exum praises Steven Biddle's testimony from last week in favor of continuing the war in Afghanistan:
I know some of my friends opposed to this war are frustrated with me at the moment, but in all fairness, I'm frustrated with them too. No one can accuse me of glossing over the difficulties of the war in Afghanistan on this blog, but I have heard very few people make the case against the war while admitting that withdrawal might carry with it serious costs or that those who think the war is in the U.S. interest at the moment might have some evidence on their side as well. (And it's not an either/or debate, right? There might be operational choices other than COIN that safeguard U.S. interests. But those who would advocate those choices owe it to us to operationalize them and show us what they would look like on the ground as well as what risks they would run.)
Biddle's argument runs all of eleven pages and is well worth a read. He sees Pakistan as the core reason to stay in Afghanistan. A snippet:
The Taliban are a transnational Pashtun movement that is active on either side of the Durand Line and sympathetic to other Pakistani Islamist insurgents. Their presence within Pakistan is thus already an important threat to the regime in Islamabad. But if the Taliban regained control of the Afghan state or even a major fraction of it, their ability to use even a poor state’s resources as a base to destabilize secular government in Pakistan would enable a major increase in the risk of state collapse there. Much has been made of the threat Pakistani base camps pose to Afghan government stability, but this danger works both ways: instability in Afghanistan poses a serious threat to secular civilian government in Pakistan. And this is the single greatest stake the United States has in Afghanistan: to prevent it from aggravating Pakistan’s internal problems and magnifying the danger of an al Qaeda nuclear sanctuary there.
But doesn't this beg the question of why Pakistan cannot hold together and resist this kind of insurgency from a backward country on its borders. Why exactly is it America's job to prevent two vast countries and millions of people from saving themselves from Taliban extremism? At what point does anyone actually have the gumption to say: this cannot be done.
We are treating these countries like welfare recipients. And we clearly need welfare reform.