Following the U.S. Army’s Counterinsurgency Manual, U.S. and NATO forces have sought to win the “hearts and minds” of the Afghani populace as the cornerstone to winning the war against al Qaeda and the Taliban. However, as Americans learned with prior counterinsurgencies in Vietnam and Iraq, the “hearts and minds” strategy is unwinnable when employed by a third party intervener (US and NATO). When the host populace distains its own government they turn their displeasure to the occupier and mar any chance at victory. Unfortunately for Americans, that is precisely what is unfolding in Afghanistan.
“Even when the U.S. and allied militaries are able, together with Afghan forces, to wrest control of an area away [sic] from the Taliban, violence continues as Afghans frustrated by the absence of accountable government and rule of law rebel against the civilian authorities,” (Hearts and Minds in Afghanistan: Explaining the Absence of Victory, Andrew M. Exum (2011) p.7).
Warring nations date back to the oldest civilizations and historians have written volumes of wisdom about the brutality of war. Regrettably, Afghanistan has been embroiled in war throughout most of its turbulent history.
Prussian militarist, von Clausewitz wrote that war is the final act of diplomacy in that its purpose is to break the will of the enemy to resist (aka destroy his means of resistance) and force your will upon him. And of course Sun Tzu says, war must not be entered lightly but requires deliberation and that “victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.”
With these resounding words of historic wisdom, modern day military thinkers claim a kinder- gentler- war is possible. The Geneva Conventions (1864-1949) have attempted to make war more civilized theorizing nations could reduce civilian casualties and property damage in the quest to fight a more humane war.
It hasn’t worked. War is still brutal. Soldiers and civilians are killed, and property is damaged. The bitter, enduring 10-year Middle East War has claimed nearly 8,000 U.S. military lives and hundreds of billions of dollars. Perhaps more importantly, it's the war’s elusive and amorphous goals that have lost American "hearts and minds."
Many Americans would rather follow the words of football great, Al Davis, and “just win, baby.”
A recent CNN poll reflects 75 percent of the American people do not support a sustained war effort in Afghanistan. “We cannot fight wars by polls,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta implored. “If we do that we're in deep trouble. We have to operate based on what we believe is the best strategy to achieve the mission that we are embarked on. And the mission here is to safeguard our country by ensuring that the Taliban and al Qaeda never again find a safe haven in Afghanistan.”
This argument is markedly harder to defend with only 25 percent of Americans supporting the decade-long wars. However, the commitment to further military action takes more twisted turns since the recent Quran burnings and the alleged Afghan massacre by a U.S. soldier. Now, U.S. appointed Afghan President Hamid Karzai called American warriors murderers, demons, and demanded American soldiers return to their bases.
Another aspect of concern for war-weary Americans is the capital cost caused by worn equipment (the fine dust-like sand speeds up the deterioration of all equipment) coupled with fatigue on soldiers who serve multiple-tours spurring the beating of the “peace” drums.
Russia knows best?
Perhaps the American military should be wary of Russia’s Afghanistan recommendations. (Their protracted 10-year war in Afghanistan during the 70-80s, bankrupted their country, creating internal political turmoil that resulted in the dissolution of the Soviet Union.)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recently said, “there are still security threats to be eliminated in Afghanistan, stressing that the U.S. troops must fulfill their UN mandate in the region before they pull out in 2014,” according to the Voice of Russia. “Moreover, the U.S. can’t just slip out of Afghanistan now, because otherwise Taliban would triumphantly return and topple the Karzai government, turning the country into another Vietnam for Washington. The only difference is that in 1975 Vietnam was taken over by a force, controlled by the USSR and operating under the agreed rules. The ‘Taliban Renaissance’ would mean the rise of a force, totally alien to all sides of the conflict, and an unpredictable outcome for the region.”
Considering all these facts, it’s no wonder the American population is questioning President Obama’s 2014 exit strategy from the “Right War.” Behind the scenes, some Pentagon insiders are quietly voicing their concerns regarding the Administration’s 2014 troop withdrawal and theorize that the extraction of military personnel will beat the 2014 timeline.
What is America’s end game strategy?
Any successful war effort requires substantial planning, strategizing and many contingency plans. The heartbeat for America’s national security takes place at the Pentagon. The “end-state” is always the first act of planning military operations. It is here the military leaders plan and set goals for generals and admirals to implement, and weigh any resource or territorial constraints.
When the Administration’s leadership is asked about the end-state for the Middle East Wars, a myriad of conflicting answers spring forth.
Before becoming the CIA’s top-spook, Gen. David Petraeus was commander of NATO in Afghanistan. Even Gen. Petraeus has trouble explaining to Congress what the end of the war would look like. Suggesting “we are after what is, in a sense, good enough for Afghanistan.” Gen. Patraeus’ testimonial to Washington double-speak is even more extraordinary since he wrote the U.S. Army manual on Counterinsurgency (COIN) warfare and spent most of his career in special operations. Surely he must know what the objectives are, how we seek to attain them, and when they will be attained.
Another problem with Gen. Patraeus' COIN strategy of winning “hearts and minds” are the problems associated with a government trying to retain power or prevent an insurgent coup d’état. Once a host nation invites foreign troops (read: American forces) to suppress the insurgency, the new focus becomes the foreign occupiers.
So, any foreign military campaign that chooses the "hearts and minds" war model is doomed at the outset. As von Clausewitz observed, war is about killing the enemy and destroying his will to resist.
Furthermore, Andrew M. Exum of the Institute of France Relations International wrote specifically about Amerca's “hearts and minds” strategy. “Abstract: The counterinsurgency campaign seeks to create a space for the development of political solutions leading to peace. The means granted to Afghanistan have been weakened by the priority given to Iraq. Pakistani support for Afghan insurgents continues. The weakness of the Afghan government prevents it from distributing and fully exploiting international aid effectively. All these problems largely explain the failure of creating circumstances conducive to ending the war.”
The “hearts and minds” strategy also carries a hefty price tag.
According to the State Department, and the U.S. Agency for International Development in Afghanistan, the foreign aid dispensed last year to Afghanistan amounted to $320 million each month, and the monthly military tab is approximately $10 billion. Other money earmarked for the corrupt Karzai government is a $19 billion slush fund that is included in the U.S. aid package most of it coming under the Obama Administration for its counterinsurgency operations.
Last week Congressman Walter Jones (R-NC), asked the International Security Assistance Forces Commander in Afghanistan, Lieutenant General John Allen, at a House Armed Services hearing when Americans and the Congress can expect an end to the increasingly unpopular war.
“As we are spending $10 billion a month that we can’t even pay for, the Chinese, Uncle Chang is lending us the money to pay for (what) we’re spending in Afghanistan,” Jones asked. “What’s the metric? When does Congress have the testimony that someone will say, we have done all we can do? Bin Laden is dead. There are hundreds of tribes in Afghanistan and everyone has their own mission.”
Unfortunately, Lt. Gen. Allen did not have an answer for the Congressman.
“I wish I could tell you that this war was simple and that progress could easily be measured, but that's not the way of counterinsurgencies,” Allen responded. “They are fraught with both successes and setbacks which can exist in the same space and in the same time. But each must be seen in the larger context of the overall campaign. And I believe the campaign is on track.”
However, 75 percent of Americans and many military theorists disagree and believe the Karzai government has provided the American military with a quicker exit strategy.
Even the Taliban seeks a NATO/U.S. exit strategy; “The Islamic Emirate has decided to suspend all talks with Americans taking place in Qatar onwards until the Americans clarify their stance on the issues concerned and until they show willingness in carrying out their promises instead of wasting time," A Taliban statement read. The group also referred to the Karzai government as an American “stooge.” The Taliban further stated “it was due to their (Americans) alternating and ever changing position that the Islamic Emirate was compelled to suspend all dialogue with the Americans.”
Afghanistan is of no strategic or tactical importance to America. Its only export is poppies that are used to manufacture heroin and America already imports heroin from the Mexican drug cartels through the porous southern U.S. border.
Are Americans’ concerned about the "soft-underbelly" of Russia a cold war adversary and future hegemonic threat? Are Americans’ so concerned the Sunni/Wahhabi Muslim fundamentalists will expand into the Shia Crescent and threaten our dear friends in Iran? Or are we worried the stability of America's great ally Pakistan may be threatened by Afghani incursions from the lawless areas of Waziristan?
Last year this reporter published a five part series highlighting the corruption of Afghanistan’s President “Karzai's cronies,” American implementation of a Sharia Constitution for the tribes of Afghanistan and protection money that America pays its (Taliban/al Qaeda) enemies for the “safe passage” of U.S. convoys. The money these war-profiteers shakedown from the U.S. military is then used to arm and enrich the terrorists’ coffers and produce “bumper crops” of poppies to sell to drug cartels that destroy America’s youth through addiction. (Click on link Part one--Part two-- Part three--Part four--Part five)
When will President Obama and members of Congress set aside the politicization of everything Washington for a moment and make the right MORAL judgment in an effort to end the loss of American lives? Ending the war is as easy as, stopping future deployments of troops to Afghanistan, ending the combat operations, bringing the soldiers home and giving them the parades, respect and honor their personal sacrifice deserves.
History often provides a suitable barometer for predictions of future events. With that in mind, President Ronald Reagan might have said these wise words regarding the Afghanistan War, “Mr. Obama, tear down this façade.”
Part two- http://www.examiner.com/county-political-buzz-in-san-diego/us-payments-to-taliban-afghan-warlords-threaten-american-nato-troops
Part three- http://www.examiner.com/county-political-buzz-in-san-diego/billion-dollar-corruption-within-the-u-s-picked-afghan-regime
Part four- http://www.examiner.com/county-political-buzz-in-san-diego/terrorism-s-down-payment-the-form-drugs-and-u-s-aid-money-part-4
Part five -http://www.examiner.com/county-political-buzz-in-san-diego/obama-begins-to-wind-down-the-costly-war-afghanistan-final-a-series
For more stories; http://www.examiner.com/homeland-security-in-national/kimberly-dvorak
© Copyright 2012 Kimberly Dvorak All Rights Reserved.
Continue reading on Examiner.com Afghan War ain’t about hearts and minds - 'just win, baby' - National Homeland Security | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/homeland-security-in-national/75-percent-disapprove-of-afghanistan-war-it-ain-t-about-hearts-and-minds#ixzz1qzzaySo9