Sunday, September 28, 2008

Hamid "Robert Frost" Karzai

Its been a full week out here so TT Carnahan apologizes for the extended dead air session since his last post. It seems inadvisable to post too often this early in the game, seeing as how a full training week can knock TT on his ass. Perhaps once a week is just right, neither too hot, nor too cold.

So who else caught Afghanistan's president quoting Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening? In an interview by the Washington Post's Lally Weymouth at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, Mr. Karzai secured the vote of 10th grade literature teachers across the United States. While I'm pretty sure the poem is about a man delaying the sweet embrace of the grave, I still appreciate the shout out. Karzai has always been a man adept at reading his audience and tailoring the message, so we shouldn't be surprised at his ability to evoke images of horse drawn, Christmas sleighs when discussing the steaming mess that is Afghan politics. The bulk of the interview bore witness to Mr. Karzai's trademark wordsmithing and wishy-washy ultimatums. The ol' 'go after the terrorists in their sanctuaries, not the villages! (Unless of course those villages happen to be sanctuaries' argument had to split air time with my personal favorite 'I'm sure the Pakistanis are giving it the ol' college try. (but you and I both know how those Pakistanis can be.' Not going to comment on it tonight, but while we're on the topic of the Pakistanis, take a look at Afghanistan's Defense Minister's proposal for border security. It briefs well...

Karzai quoted Frost when asked about his the potential for a second 5 year term as pres. Well, is Karzai the man for the job? I'll happily let history decided that one, but I'm personally not ready for a "maverick" in that office and the devil(s) we don't know could make Karzai, warts and all, look the 4-way lovechild of Thomas Jefferson, FDR, JFK, and Reagan. Assuming the elections occur (which we'll save for forthcoming posts) at a time TBD in 2009, and Karzai wins a second term, what will characterize that term? What should? Most observing Afghanistan's factitious politics in even the most cursory glance will acknowledge that "The State" is a rumor and myth for most Afghans. One of Karzai's main second term challenges will be the establishment district and sub-district governance that displays the Afghan government's competence and potency. Much of that will have to do with his ability to delegate authority and move away from the Kabul-centric power structure. Easier said than done. Much more will have to do with the ironic necessity of having more foreign forces on Afghan soil to solidify their sovereignty. More below.

If the government is effectively sent forth into the boonies, what will it be? TT believes that the Army, the Police, Teachers, and Doctors, will continue to be the vanguard of governance, and in that order. To extend their writ, however, more security and something in the ballpark of a monopoly of the use of force is required. Which brings me to the surge.

There's been a flurry of thinking and writing of THE SURGE: PART DEUX in recent weeks (here, here, and most interestingly here). Candidly I support a doubling (at a minimum) of the US presence in Afghanistan. This is vital in TT's opinion if for nor other reason than to provide our currently too-shallow footprint of over-stretched troops the breathing room to actually do their jobs. Whatever breakdown the eventual force increase consists of though, the Advisor effort must be increased by at least 100%. This is increasingly self evident as the Afghan Army's target end state size is increased from ~70,000 to ~140,000.

Note for the taxpayers: For those of you that expect similar Iraq-like short term results from the Afghan surge (whatever it looks like), please take an appetite suppressant. The struggle there is complex beyond an Anderson Cooper 360 special and meaningful progress must be measured in generations, not months.

Additional forces would, for the first time, allow for the Clear, Hold, Build approach to counterinsurgency. The methods, and circumstances, that led to the success of Iraq's surge, are in many cases not present or possible in Afghanistan as a simple result of Her terrain and its ability to swallow up and separate everyone and everything. To do to Afghanistan what has been and is being done to Mesopotamia, we'd need more troops than could possibly be mustered. To conceptualize and enact a viable, long term Afghan policy, our next president will have some incredibly difficult decisions and he will need the very sharpest of military professionals and diplomats to advise him.

Before more troops are even added, some pressing command structure questions should be addressed. This post is growing a bit long and feels like its becoming a bore so I'll save most of this for the later date. Suffice to say, our new CENTCOM CDR, GEN David Petraeus, may want to look at allowing NATO to save face and retire from Afghanistan as we trade in our current Coalition of the Unwilling for one of active participants more akin to the Multi National Force- Iraq model which he last commanded. More on that next time.

On a final note, TT Carnahan had the honor of picking up a leg- casted crutch walker on post this evening who was trying to make his way to a rendezvous point where he would meet his wife after redeploying from a year on an Embedded Training Team in Southern Afghanistan. The reunion was what you'd expect and makes 90% of this worth while. (All the high-speed gear we're issued makes up for the other 10%- read: Gerber tools for everyday of the week!)

Happy Eid!

1 comment:

Bill and Bob's Excellent Adventure said...

They issued you guys Gerber tools? We had to bring our own!

I don't think that an Iraq-style surge would work in Afghanistan, either; due to the temperament of the people. Afghans don't suffer occupation well. The mentoring mission is the best chance of success, with Afghans providing the surge.

I've seen what mentoring can do for the ANP in a province and a district. Active training and mentoring makes a tremendous difference. When the guy in the village with the gun is an ANP and he is trusted, and when life with the ANP in the village is better than life under the Taliban, we will have succeeded.

Not before.

Hang in there.