NEWS BLOG (WSAU) It's a stretch to call Afghanistan a country. Even in times of peace, the reach of the central government has never extended far beyond Kabul. Think of Afghanistan as a collection of loosely affiliated tribes and sects that live within man-drawn boarders drawn on a map.
As a starting point for evaluating President Obama's speech, discount anything that sounds like 'nation building'. We would be building something that isn't there. Something that's never been there.
Train the Afghan army? They would only be considered central-government invaders when the go into the tribal-dominated southern region or the mountains near Pakistan. Create a national police force? Outside of the large cities, there is no need. That's not where our national interests lie.
President Obama was correct when he said our national interest is to make sure Afghanistan is not a training and planning-ground for future attacks on the United States. Is that a job for 100,000 U.S. troops? That's how many boots-on-the-ground we'll have after the build-up that was announced last night. If the true goal is to hunt down terrorists, that's a job for a smaller. lighter, special-ops type force. Perhaps 500 or a-thousand navy seals or specially-forces soldiers to track and kill terrorists -- to give them no rest. This would have been the strategy-choice that had the best chance of success. Instead we went big, when we should have gone small.
The special-ops option has some problems, most of them political. The left would howl about creating American death-squads to roam the Afghan countryside. The right could have painted the President as cutting-and-running or not giving his generals what they asked for. Last night's speech should have focused on managing those arguments, instead of trying to justify the biggest, longest, most-expensive policy choice...which may not work.
Operations Manager-Midwest Communications, Wausau