If it were me, I would tell our capable military leadership that the strategy is to focus on the mountains along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border, and eliminate Al Qaeda there.
The strategy is not nation building for Afghanistan. The strategy is not to eliminate Taliban, as awful as those people are.
Let’s be honest with ourselves, Mr. President. This is a part of the world that has been inhospitable to other foreign intervention, in recent history: Great Britain, the Soviet Union and the United States. What can we learn from history?
Let’s also acknowledge that the last 8 years of US military involvement in the country have been a confused and unclear effort. If the “War on Terror” has been what our country was fighting, the guns were focused on the wrong place—Baghdad.
There is a dysfunctional election process that leads to no credibility for President by default Karzai, the opposing candidate, Abdullah Abdullah, saying he would not participate in the re-call election.
Corruption in the current national government is rife, and I don’t see that changing, it is part of the culture in that part of the world. The place does not really have a central government, rather it has disparate and dispersed number of local “townships” that are run by so-called “War Lords,” who are in effect the Mayors in their localities. In many respects, this is no different from what goes on all over the world, including the States.
Defense Secretary Gates has stated that the resources and money he gets in his job overwhelms what the Secretary of State gets, and he is willing to throw some of that money over the wall, He is right, we need more conversation, not more troops.
Mr. President, here is my advice to you:
--Do not send more troops to Afghanistan
--Tell the leadership in Pakistan and Afghanistan that the US is defending its own interests, not theirs. But that the Taliban must be minimized, and we need to find a way to do that together.
--US Military resources will be focused on the border between your two countries and not a huge blanket like previous regimes have attempted and failed with. It will be there to take out Al Qaeda and minimize Taliban
--It is sad, but the US cannot intervene with cruelties all the time. We made a mistake in Rwanda, but a mistake should not be an example.
--Nation Building begins at home, to paraphrase NY Times columnist Tom Friedman, and there are many things domestically that will be your legacy.
--Put this national security matter in perspective. This is a threat mainly from thugs and unsophisticated people who buy into a marginal religious doctrine. It is more a police matter than a national security matter. The police in Afghanistan and Pakistan may need some help with their policing of these bad guys, but it is not a national mission for the United States military.
Thank you, Mr. President, for going to the Dover Air Force Base, and saluting the fallen who returned home last week.
Be brave, not bold, as you decide how our country and troops deal with the Al Qaeda and Taliban menaces.