OTB Roundtable on Afghanistan (Alex Knapp)

Honestly, I don’t know what to add to Dave’s and James’ takes on the current situation in Afghanistan. Like James, I supported the initial invasion of Afghanistan and was also surprised at how quickly the Taliban fell and al-Qaeda dispersed. But now, eight and a half years later, I too have to question the wisdom of why we’re there now. I largely agree with James and Dave that we should withdraw and maintain a small force to hit al-Qaeda as necessary.

But the aspect of our policy in the Afghan region that most needs discussion is not the conflict in Afghanistan at all: it’s the conflict in Pakistan. For several years now, the United States has been involved in violence within the borders of Pakistan itself–sometimes with troops, but mostly with Predator drones.

Our incursions into Pakistan are troubling for a number of reasons. For one, we’re crossing the border against the wishes of Pakistan, who are willing to cooperate with us, but a little less willing for us to ignore their sovereignty. Pakistan is one of our allies, and it doesn’t bode well for our partnerships with other nations to be seen as willing to trample over even our friends’ sovereignty to pursue our own interests.

Second, I am disturbed by the methods through which this policy is being pursued. While incursions against Pakistan were okayed by the Bush Administration, they were relatively limited in scope. The Obama Administration, on the other hand, has wholeheartedly embraced incursions into Pakistan. Under the Nobel Peace Prize Winner-In-Chief, drone attacks have multiplied. Still more disturbing is that fact that this President has okayed the CIA to pretty much pick their own targets. Where’s the oversight? It’s not like the CIA is good at picking targets. According to Brookings, about 10 civilians are killed for every 1 militant. That’s simply outrageous. It’s more likely to create more terrorists who want to attack the U.S. in revenge than it is to put a stop to it.

What is the strategy for our incursions into Pakistan? What do we hope to achieve? Have we achieved anything? These questions are rarely even raised in Washington. Much less debated. The Congress seems to be completely obsequious to the Administration on this point. We are engaged in military actions within the borders of one of our allies without our ally’s consent, with no overarching strategy, no oversight, and no contemplation of the consequences.

That’s a recipe for disaster right there.

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Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.

Comments

  1. Brett says:

    I largely agree with James and Dave that we should withdraw and maintain a small force to hit al-Qaeda as necessary.

    Is that even possible? It’s not like the US is really going to be able to carry out a Search-and-Destroy operation from a Kabul-only government if the area ends up falling to the Taliban (again).

  2. Alex Knapp says:

    Is that even possible?

    People who know way more about military logistics than I do seem to think so. I defer to their judgement. Of course, it’s possible that it may not be.

  3. Drew says:

    Alex –

    Given all the difficulties in carrying out actions in foreign countries against an amorphous enemy I’ve often mused that the only effective strategy may be to make our problem the host countries problem.

    Thoughts?

  4. Gerry W. says:

    Second, I am disturbed by the methods through which this policy is being pursued. While incursions against Pakistan were okayed by the Bush Administration, they were relatively limited in scope. The Obama Administration, on the other hand, has wholeheartedly embraced incursions into Pakistan. Under the Nobel Peace Prize Winner-In-Chief, drone attacks have multiplied. Still more disturbing is that fact that this President has okayed the CIA to pretty much pick their own targets. Where’s the oversight? It’s not like the CIA is good at picking targets. According to Brookings, about 10 civilians are killed for every 1 militant. That’s simply outrageous. It’s more likely to create more terrorists who want to attack the U.S. in revenge than it is to put a stop to it.

    We have to make up for lost time. Bush abandoned Afghanistan by taking advisors out of Afghanistan for Iraq in 2002. Years of neglect, more attention to Iraq, and not enough troops accumulated. It is hard to put Humpty Dumpty together again.