08 February 2009

Afghanistan and the essential fight

The following is a posting from The Jacksonian Party.

The following is a position paper of The Jacksonian Party.

Of all the things that cannot be done, Nation Building is the one that cannot be done from the outside. To have a Nation one must have a people committed to it, willing to stand up for their neighbors to live under the rule of law and be able to expect some modicum of protection from their government. When reading Sen. Lieberman's piece in The Wall Street Journal of 06 FEB 2009, I come away agreeing with much and disagreeing with some areas. While I have disagreed with Sen. Lieberman on many social issues, on military and foreign affairs I find more than majority agreement with his positions.

First and foremost is a strategic coherence on the fighting in the Afghanistan theater, as it is more than just Afghanistan a full and complete approach that includes Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, China, Pakistan, India, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan is essential. I have looked at the main supply routes now under attack by al Qaeda, Taliban, Mehsud fighters, and followers of Hekmatyar and they are choking off the critical supply routes to Afghanistan from the south. Because our supply system depends so much on shipping as the cheapest form of transport, fully 90% of all supplies for Afghanistan arrive in Pakistan and must be shipped overland through the passes through the mountains. Those routes must go through hostile provinces, now under siege and often full control of these opposition forces. Pakistan has not been ready to take up arms to finally integrate these Pashtun provinces into their country, disarm the rebels, and disband traditional war fighting bands (known as Lashkars, or personal forces beholden to a leader or organization). At this point the most powerful organization is Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's terrorist organization that spreads across the Central Asian Republics that used to be held by the USSR.

Russia has been unwilling to offer supply services and, instead, wishes to send troops into Afghanistan. This would further break up command, put different Rules of Engagement in play and cause more complexity than what we now have on the ground. To simplify command the command structure must revert to the Nation that actually declared war on Afghanistan and that is the United States: it is our responsibility to see it through to its end, not NATO's. Further we need the troops that can be acclimated to the climate and who have the best capability to fight there. Finally we need a secondary route of supply for our forces so as to lessen reliance on Pakistan.

The route to do this is clear: work with Turkey, Greece, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan for a route across the Caspian using Georgia and Azerbaijan to trans-ship goods from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea. This would bypass the need for Russian help and put Russia on notice that interdicting Georgia or Azerbaijan is a direct threat to US warfighting in Afghanistan. In theory this should be part of a 'hope & change' initiative by the US to offer good contracting through those Nations, help support Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan trade with the rest of the world and help to start putting the ability of Pashtun tribal areas into a role of reduced significance in our fight in Afghanistan. Doing so would also put it to Pakistan that the US is more than prepared to set up alternate and more expensive means of secure transport if they are unwilling to step into their role to actually build their Nation.

Unfortunately I do doubt if the new leadership in the Oval Office has the skill, fortitude, and capability to be assertive abroad in a war handed to them by their predecessor which was mandated by the 9/11 attacks and Congressional response.

Thus to firm up strategic coherence with limited supply lines, the troops most able to fight in such conditions, and fight extremely well, are Mountain Warfare, Alpine, Highland and other similar forces from NATO. Mountain Warfare forces are not regular, flatland forces, and have some of the most rugged and disciplined training for fighting in the most hostile climate the planet has to offer. I go over that in this article, on such troops and how they consistently out fight, out maneuver and out survive their opponents in any conditions. These are not 'Special Forces' but Specialized Forces and this is their domain of battle and now that Iraq is moving towards civil control by local authorities, it is time for a full deployment of Mountain Warfare forces into Afghanistan. During the Winter of 2007-08 Canadian Mountain Warfare forces staged the first successful winter campaign in Afghan history: the locals said it could not be done. When we look back at all the training camps identified in Pakistan we can rest assured that specialized forces known for their ability to infiltrate in hostile climates had no small part to play. When the Taliban attempted a Spring Offensive their troops were spotted, targeted, more than decimated and routed.

To that end the US should call on all NATO Allies to agree to a unified set of Rules of Engagement administered by CENTCOM and remove any and all troops not willing to be under that ROE. Additionally the US should call for all NATO and Allied specialized warfare units adapted to Mountain Warfare to come and join us in removing the al Qaeda, Taliban and other forces in Afghanistan and in interdicting their supply routes. Further all Stryker Brigades not actively needed in Iraq should now be given Afghanistan as their central mission area as these are the troops best equipped to do forms of fighting that were once only the realm of Special Forces. This redirection may actually cause a draw down of troops in Afghanistan, but the fighters put in often fight far above their 'weight class' on a 3:1 basis or better. As this fight may take up to five more years to complete, the US is now in sore need of a SECOND Mountain Division and we should spend the eighteen months necessary to train and equip such a Division.

As these forces are ones best able to adapt to climate and local problems, they are the ones that should be used and only backed up by regular forces that are also adaptable and able to change to varying local conditions of tribal concerns. This needs to be dovetailed with Mr. Lieberman's second point.

Further the US should seek the help of Mountain Warfare troops in Iraq, particularly Kurdish troops, as Kurds have ethnic heritage that stems from that region of Central Asia. Iraqi troops drawn from all ethnic and religious groups in Iraq, however, are to be the primary goal, even if Kurds will tend to lead such troops at the highest levels, the lower levels will be populated by a diverse set of ethnicities, cultures and religions. What we seek is the necessary cultural and ethnic support, along with combat support, to help Afghanistan examine how it is that close cousins can work with others. This is one of the great benefits of having done such hard work in Iraq: we can now ask for help from those we have helped and know that when we say it will be a tough fight, we mean it.

Second is increasing civilian capacity both in areas of tribal and National concerns, and in helping to stand up local government beyond the tribal level to interact with the National government. Here Provincial Government has not received much attention by the MSM or even embedded reporters, but has proven to be a key mediator between tribes in locales and in passing problems up to responsible offices to be addressed without bias towards any tribe or ethnic group within a locale. I have heard very little about this middle-tier of government from anyone in Afghanistan, and yet a good federal system of distributed powers and local authority has been a demonstrated positive good for all Nations, save for periods of internal conflict and then the National government must take on the same role as the Provincial Governments so as to mediate in good faith between Provinces and Ethnic groups.

To do this requires substantial training of government officials at that level not only on the bureaucratic side, but the accountability side. This is of primary importance as policing power administered to the good of all citizens then removes an argument for forces controlled by strongmen. For Afghanistan to self-govern, the day of Private War forces held by the local leaders in tribes must be ended and equitable policing power enforced at the Provincial level. This requires training for judges in these concepts to be carried out and administered by them. Further a means for checking and restraining judicial authority and a system of higher courts is necessary so as to remove judicial bias via an internal check and balance system within the judiciary itself. This gives citizens the right to appeal judgments they feel to be unfair and yet puts a final stop at such things at the highest National level. Continuing problems in the judiciary will be seen at that level and, with good training and mentoring, addressed over time. This does not mean that tribal level courts or other systems need be abridged, just that they need to be incorporated into the larger suite of judicial systems in the Nation.

Do note that this is not a mandated system from the outside, by the US, and must be indigenous to Afghanistan. If there is any legal tradition to the English Common Law system, however, the US and Great Britain will be in good stead to help firm up such a system as we all use the same judicial philosophy. Even absent that, ensuring that good laws that are not biased towards any one group or ethnic concern becomes a key point in demonstrating that the tribes can be respected, that local control can be exercised and that war fighting is done by the Nation, not strongmen.

The single, largest threat to civil government in Afghanistan is not ethnic rivalries, although those are ancient and need to be addressed, we, in the West, can learn profitably from our ancestors on how best to do this. Nor is it the Islamic Radicalism of the Talibe and al Qaeda sort as these arise and fall in frequency in Islam, although the death toll to each is horrific. Both of these seek a common table setting with which to become local overlords of their peoples and other peoples, and it is that source which threatens Afghanistan to its core time and again. I looked at this some time ago in Defunding the opium trade in Afghanistan, and stand by that view and it is the one of Jefferson: a people who are able to profitably farm to sustain themselves and have enough to trade and ensured income from it will prosper. The illegal nature of the crop does not change that component, but shifts it hard against local support for food and shifts it to imported food via illegal commerce to procure it. It is true that many farmers plant in fallow or rugged areas unsuitable to farming and gain meager extra income from that, from which their lives are put at risk from the criminal class seeking to gain those crops. Here the criminal class can be actual criminals, Islamic Radicals, local strongmen... the list is near infinite and yet their means of coercion and meager pay while taking the middle-man's cut is unchanging. To destroy that system, the farmer needs the tools and skills necessary to not only grow legal goods for local use, but to have an advantage of better techniques and equipment to do this.

America oversupplies her own large scale agricultural corporations, called 'Big Agriculture', while having let the small farmer become beholden to a system of paybacks and payoffs via Congressional funding in the Agriculture budget. And yet 'the war on drugs' can actually, for once, be fought by the military and administered as part of a Counter Insurgency plan: COIN to address the rural farming base of Afghanistan with useful and needful dryland techniques and water conservation that can be done locally would begin to shift the base of that rural section out from the strongman as the money to be garnered by trade of legal goods would not come with immediate threat of life that the illegal sort has. Protecting these communities until they can protect themselves is the GOAL of COIN, in case anyone has forgotten that. This requires a multi-year commitment of shifting funds from America's already overstuffed Big Agricultural sector and putting those funds, skills and tools to use in Afghanistan. The road to fighting the indigenous Taliban and other Islamic Radicals requires not only the right skills on the military front, but the right ones on the civilian front.

There will be no peace, no ending of the supply of radicals until the local farming community has a Jeffersonian attitude demonstrated to them of how good husbanding of farms, crops and livestock via insured means taught by those skilled at such farming can gain the farmer a decent, reliable profit and demonstrate that the need to work together to maintain that system is greater than any minor profit an individual would get from illegal goods. When the land holder is invested in the land and its husbanding of resources and care, the system of tribal views changes to become centered on THAT. The farmers in their tribes will then become the backbone of the tribe, and will be the ones who will need protecting BY the tribe so that the local tribe may flourish.

With a single, hard blow, the US can remove the Central Asian supply system from Afghanistan in not less than a decade and make Afghanistan a net agricultural *exporter*. By teaching dryland techniques, how to husband rain water and other water sources, how to deal with droughts... these are the finest and most well honed weapons in excising this problem and demonstrating that investing in yourself to sustain your people is not only a good thing to do, but well supported. To date the US has paid almost no attention to this, and yet the military component to bring this home is absolutely necessary to peoples who are brought up as warriors: farming must become the respected backbone of the community to support local warfighters to protect the tribe and Province. The badge of honor must shift from how many you attacked and killed to how well you defended your people so that they may flourish against those wishing to strong arm them.

There will be no peace in Afghanistan or Central Asia until this is done.

Third is expanding the Aghan Army, and that is vital so that Private War forces that threaten the Nation can be addressed and so that Afghanistan may protect herself against neighbors such as Iran and China. With that said, we cannot discount the English and American experience of local militias under Provincial control that can stand ready to serve the Nation and yet also counters threats from local sources. As I looked at above this requires a change in COIN from Nation-Building oriented to re-orientation of local populations that will see some value in local and National control over war fighting. We cannot and must not disrespect the fierce and honorable tradition of the Afghan peoples: it has protected them for centuries against Persian, British and Soviet Empires. The very local skills of warfighting need to be upheld as that is the trump card against any invader, and supporting it through local economy and having these forces on-call to defend the entire Nation must become an honorable trade in itself. Thus the current Afghan Army will transform over time: we must beef it up now, for general self-protection of the Nation, but what must be set down is a way of reformulating it over time to reflect the culture in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan, as so many detractors like to point out, is *not* a modern Nation and we cannot make it become one no matter how much money and how many lives go to it. America and the West, however, did not arrive at modern civilization without going through this exact, same phase between roughly 900-1700 A.D. Modern tools and training do not an Army make: there must be the tradition an necessity of it that makes it a respected profession *beyond* a tribal virtue. Afghanistan, at this point in time, looks more like 16-17th century Central Europe than a modern Nation State. We must identify that the Christian Tradition is not present in Afghanistan and yet the Westphalian State concept has actually taken root in another Islamic Nation: Iraq.

One of the few and great goods of the British Empire was to demonstrate that religious tolerance was no weakness upon the majority and strengthened the State. In Iraq the local traditions are now those of religious tolerance, as you cannot get through the fact that not only do two major branches of Islam have root in the Nation, but Christianity of more than one form, minor Islamic Sects, Yazidi, Alevi, Judaism, and even followers of John the Baptist. There is no more modern equivalent of a Christian Westphalian Nation State concept in action in the Islamic world than in Iraq. British Westphalian rule had to deal with the fall of the Ottoman Empire, there, craft a common law system, and the toleration of religions in Iraq is one of the great legacies of the British rule there. That is why Iraqi involvement, especially Kurdish involvement, is vital and necessary to long term victory and peace in Afghanistan. There will be no reduction of violence in Islamic Radicalism until a peaceful method of co-existing with multiple religious sects is found and that can only be done via a tolerant population seeing the good and end in bloodshed over religion as any legitimate means to power. Iraq is well poised to teach this at a civil level, and our help of Iraq to become stable must require us to ask them to help the United States in spreading that word of civil peace and its practices to Afghanistan.

For those looking to a long-term end to al Qaeda and similar groups: this is the only way forward that does not involve a horrific death toll. Many will die to do this, but our modern world demonstrates that this CAN BE DONE. Unless many have forgotten, the lives lost to uphold 'The Prince of Peace' demonstrates that having good intentions in a religion is NOT enough to spread peace. To do that requires a tolerant civil society that accepts religion as a personal means to enlightenment, not something mandated by the State for all peoples in the State. Religious Nations can exhibit tolerance towards other religions and not castigate or kill the members of them as those are members of civil society and of value to the entire Nation. We can but look to those pointing the way before Westphalia and directly after to examine how best to do this, and we will find thinkers like Machiavelli advocating for enlightened Princes. That does not mean *nice* Princes, but ones that will understand enlightened self-interest is in creating a safe and stable society *first*. To create a true, civil military force requires a true civil society. America can help lay the foundations, form fast friends with the peoples of Afghanistan, introduce them to Islamic enlightened rule concepts in Iraq and help *both* these Nations to secure long term civil societies for themselves.

That is what we did after WWII in Germany, Japan and Italy and should be the exact, same goal today: to help these people to civil societies and peaceful co-existence within their Nations with religious toleration and a productive class of people worthy of being defended by the Nation.

I disagree with Sen. Lieberman in the fourth goal in broad terms, but agree in many details. 'Hardening' Afghanistan is a loser's proposition as it requires time, effort and ability to be applied to the negative of defensive operations and sustainment. Many of the civil institutions need to be mightily revamped and many of the ones that we take as necessary in a modern State can't be built until the lower level society comes to some basic agreements in the Nation. Our own young Nation at the Founding had a very different set of organs and power arrangements in it than we do today: our goal must be to help Afghan society to create the organs they need in the form that best suits them and ensure that they are accountable to civil society. We did this in Iraq, ensuring that a good system of Inspectors General in the Iraqi military had the ability to root out corruption and subversive elements, and our own institutions have such organs throughout them.

Anti-corruption task forces are good, but changing the tone and tenor of civil society to move away from substantive gifts to honoring gifts, as is seen in Japan and other parts of East Asia, is a good and worthy goal. When trinkets devolve into bribes, the system becomes corrupt: those who seek honor they don't deserve will want bribes, those willing to accept the honor will take the trinket. Any goal of self-policing a society must involve the higher esteem of the honorable gift and the disdain and even disgust at the bribe. Here the value of our older allies in Japan and Korea should come to the forefront, and civil teaching of how cultures can still honor and respect, without the need for bribery have to become a necessary section of helping the Afghan society to flourish. Even in our enlightened Nation, this is no longer respected and officials now seek and take bribes, and while prosecuted for them, those seeking to excuse such activities are not castigated for corroding civil society. If we are on the downward slope of this, we can assuredly help others to see our bad example and NOT TAKE IT.

On the civil side that will give Afghan society an area in which they can be SUPERIOR to the US, and take just pride in doing that and then disdaining the corrupt American officials who only know the value of money and not the value of leading a good life. In truth much of the Left in the United States could do with this lesson, and the best way to get it is to teach the right way to do it via our friends and allies in the world. One does not need to be a mighty warrior to become a mighty,honored and respected person. Even as we forget this, we can still bring in those who know it to teach it, to get Afghanistan off to a better start. And once they do that, Afghanistan self-hardens and is sustained from the inside.

In the broader sense of regional engagement, the US will continue to have vital interests in Central Asia so long as corrupt societies create havens for Islamic Radicalism. The modern world can no longer afford an Empire of any sort, and yet another one from Central Asia will bring a death toll to the planet that is horrific beyond all recounting. India and Pakistan are well agreed that they prefer to screw each other up over Kasmir without outside interference - if we are their friends we should RESPECT that and not meddle as we have a full plate. Indeed the best way to end that conflict is by cutting out the criminal money supply from Afghanistan and seeing if the US can help in some COIN operations in the Northwest Frontier Provinces and southeast provinces in Pakistan. Active fighting to remove radicals and separatists will have no end until civil society has been given breathing space and local accommodation between these ethnic populations with the Nation of Pakistan can be performed. This does not require a full constitutional convention, but some formulation of civil organs to address the problems of the different ethnic groups in Pakistan with each other. Many feel that the agreements they made at the founding of Pakistan have not been honored, while others were more than willing to wait out a century holding pattern put in by the British Empire on provisional borders between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

This cannot happen until the Pakistani ISI, its Intelligence Service, stops funding the damned radicals. This is something that can and must be addressed to at the Nation State level as the ISI is the source of much of the unrest in Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and even into the Central Asian Republics. All Nations have need of an Intelligence Arm for the protection of their Nation: any Nation that funds one that not only puts internal but external order between Nations at risk must be asked why they are doing this. Simply put the ISI, as it currently is, must go. There will be no peace in Kasmir until the ISI's activities in funding Radical Islamic groups ceases completely. Any civil society that aims at disrupting its neighbors must be told that doing so will bring the death they are exporting to their own people: and it has already started. The nest of vipers, finding the rough and thick boots of US troops stomping them flat in Afghanistan now slither home to the warmer nest of their paymasters. At this point the ISI can only be seen in the light of destabilizing their own Nation to their own ends, and they no longer care about the blood spilled by those they fund in Pakistan.

Iran is a tough case to deal with and yet, if we work with Turkmenistan in a cross-asian route for supply, the US will then have an entire suite of friendly Nations encircling Iran. Iraq, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan will only leave Pakistan as the last great outlet for Iranian exploits and they are already facing problems from the local Balochs in the East of Iran who feel they got a 'raw deal' in both Iran and Pakistan. To this day Iran has problems with Baloch separatists and the underground independence groups have demonstrate high levels of competence and expertise in their terror attacks in Iran.

By shifting through Turkmenistan the US can slowly erode Russian influence in the region and help to stabilize that realm of Republics that would help us in getting a supply route to Afghanistan. Perhaps we could call it the 'Modern Silk Road' and open up some venues for increased civilian traffic through these routes to get better export markets for the Central Asian States. These Republics are not lacking in trade goods, but they do lack the modern transportation and means to get them to a global market. A long-term strategy of opening up a conduit for US supplies will, of necessity, start to build the infrastructure necessary to address the poverty in Central Asia due to their lack of markets. By opening up a non-authoritarian route for market goods, that is to say not going through Russia, China, Iran or Pakistan, these people will be able to start not only supplying goods to US warfighters (so we don't have to ship it all), but find other venues for their products in the empty trucks and ships going *back* to the Black Sea. Here the opening of trade venues in Georgia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, and Turkey will enrich the entire region as these 'exotic' goods move from luxuries to items finding their place in the global market. Indeed, America should welcome this opportunity to start laying the infrastructure for the 21st century of trade in the world: built of necessity to become the first pathways to the spread of market based economics in some of the most deprived areas of the planet in Central Asia.

Unfortunately I cannot see the current Administration doing this: it is too much hope & change to believe that America can be a demonstrable force for enlightenment and trade, even while making the necessary routes to keep our troops supplied. Such is the myopia of zero-sum Leftism in America that we cannot seize this opportunity to turn our investment in blood into something greater for all peoples in Central Asia.

Fifth is a 'surge' in political commitment to Afghanistan in America. I fully agree with the Senator here. Our political class only knows the value of money, not of lives: and then are willing to sacrifice both to schemes of home ownership, retirement systems, medical systems and such that will impoverish us all and shorten our lives if we follow those dreams to their poisoned fruit.

The United States used to know how to see opportunity in strife and reach out to do more than any other people on the planet would ever dare to do, while leaving our people free to choose their own lives, well and unwell, while garnering general support for those needful things that protected the Nation. Now we seek to protect all the citizens in detail and will be at risk of losing them in whole rank.

Soon we will have our own COIN operations in the desert South West of the US and northern Mexico.

Perhaps it is time to take the lessons of limited government, government that protects the Nation and is held accountable home to the United States.

We sure could use it right about now...

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