Tell Me Why We’re There?
The title above is not just the title of this post—it’s the title of a policy brief from the Center for a New American Security, an organization whose members seem to be exerting quite a bit of influence on the new administration. The brief is an explication of our enduring interests in Afghanistan and Pakistan and its authors include people whose work I admire quite a bit, e.g. David Kilcullen.
The brief identifies two interests for the United States in Afghanistan and Pakistan (from the abstract):
U.S. interests in Afghanistan may be summarized as “two no’s”: there must be no sanctuary for terrorists with global reach in Afghanistan, and there must be no broader regional meltdown. Securing these objectives requires helping the Afghans to build a sustainable system of governance that can adequately ensure security for the Afghan people—the “yes” upon which a successful exit strategy depends.
While I agree completely with the first sentence in that paragraph, its connection to the second sentence wasn’t entirely clear to me. To be brutally honest it reminds me a bit of the South Park Underpants Gnomes. In order to secure objectives that I agree are worth achieving we apparently must accomplish something that’s never been accomplished before, that may not even be possible, and that we’re not getting enough cooperation from the Afghans on to suggest that it might be possible. No one doubts that the present Afghan government is very corrupt.
Can we build up the Afghan government faster than the Afghan government can undermine itself?
The brief itself is only three pages long—read it in full.