The Afghan War Is Not Lost

The Afghan War Is Not Lost by Michèle Flournoy and Richard Fontaine - The National Interest

Sixteen years after the United States first sent troops to Afghanistan, U.S. military commanders describe the war there as stalemated. The Trump administration has initiated a major strategy review, and the Pentagon reportedly seeks to add several thousand American troops to the 8,400 already in Afghanistan. More troops can help achieve American objectives in Afghanistan, but only if they are part of a larger and more effective strategy. That will require a change of course.

The current approach is plainly inadequate. Although more Afghan forces are trained and in the fight than ever before, the Taliban today controls more territory than at any time since 9/11. Faced with corruption and exclusionary politics, popular opposition to the government in Kabul is rising, while the Taliban makes inroads in rural areas and, increasingly, near the cities. According to the U.S. government, some twenty insurgent or terrorist groups now operate in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater, including ISIS, Al Qaeda and the Haqqanis—the world’s highest concentration of extremist networks.

The current approach is plainly inadequate. Although more Afghan forces are trained and in the fight than ever before, the Taliban today controls more territory than at any time since 9/11. Faced with corruption and exclusionary politics, popular opposition to the government in Kabul is rising, while the Taliban makes inroads in rural areas and, increasingly, near the cities. According to the U.S. government, some twenty insurgent or terrorist groups now operate in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater, including ISIS, Al Qaeda and the Haqqanis—the world’s highest concentration of extremist networks.

The primary objective of U.S. strategy has been preventing Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven from which terrorists could launch attacks against the United States and its allies. As the Taliban and other extremist groups have regained strength, U.S. focus has been to prevent the collapse of the central government while continuing counterterrorism operations. In practice, this has involved training and advising Afghan security forces, coupled with air attacks on Taliban forces and direct action against terrorist networks…

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This article -- as many of our articles often do -- skirts the critical issue -- the central driving force -- which has caused:

a. The "traditionalist-oriented" populations in Afghanistan, et al., to prevail over the "modernization and development" entities of the world. And which now also causes, it would seem,

b. The "traditionalist-oriented" populations of the U.S./the West to, likewise, prevail over these self-same "modernization and development" folks.

Examples "a" and "b," respectively below, corresponding to these such, worldwide it would seem now, resistance to unwanted -- alien and profane -- political, economic, social and/or value "change" demands of "modernization and development:

Example "a:" The Greater Middle East:

"But, in several modern campaigns — Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Chechnya, for example — the government or invading coalition forces initiated the campaign, whereas insurgents are strategically reactive (as in “resistance warfare”). ... Politically, in many cases today, the counter insurgent represents revolutionary change, while the insurgent fights to preserve the status quo of ungoverned spaces, or to repel an occupier — a political relationship opposite to that envisaged in classical counterinsurgency. Pakistan’s campaign in Waziristan since 2003 exemplifies this. The enemy includes al-Qa’ida (AQ) linked extremists and Taliban, but also local tribesmen fighting to preserve their traditional culture against 21st century encroachment. The problem of weaning these fighters away from extremist sponsors, while simultaneously supporting modernization, does somewhat resemble pacification in traditional counterinsurgency. But it also echoes colonial campaigns, and includes entirely new elements arising from the effects of globalization."

(See "Counterinsurgency Redux" by David Kilcullen, bottom of Page 2 and top of Page 3. http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/uscoin/counterinsurgency_redux.pdf)

Example "b:" The U.S./the West:

"Extensive research indicates that since about 1970, affluent Western societies have seen growing emphasis on post-materialist and self-expression values among the younger birth cohorts and the better educated strata of society. This has brought rising emphasis on such issues as environmental protection, increased acceptance of gender and racial equality, and equal rights for the LGBT community. This cultural shift has fostered greater approval of social tolerance of diverse lifestyles, religions, and cultures, multiculturalism, international cooperation, democratic governance, and protection of fundamental freedoms and human rights. Social movements reflecting these values have brought policies such as environmental protection, same sex marriage, and gender equality in public life to the center of the political agenda, drawing attention away from the classic economic redistribution issues. But the spread of progressive values has also stimulated a cultural backlash among people who feel threatened by this development. Less educated and older citizens, especially white men, who were once the privileged majority culture in Western societies, resent being told that traditional values are ‘politically incorrect’ ..."

(Google: "Trump, Brexit, and the Rise of Populism: Economic Have-Nots and Cultural Backlash," the Conclusion, by Norris and Englehart and beginning at Page 29 of this PDF document.)

Bottom Line Question:

If the "conservative" populations of the Greater Middle East -- and indeed now the "conservative" populations of the U.S./the West also -- are, essentially, fighting the same fight,

To wit: the fight to preserve and protect one's traditional way of life, one's traditional way of governance and one's traditional values, attitudes and beliefs; this, in the face of demands being made by the "modernization and development" entities of the world (post-the Old Cold War, and until the Brexit and the election of President Trump, these were, of course, entities primarily within the U.S./the West),

Then, how might the Afghan War -- in what appears now to be such "common cause" circumstances -- (a) be pursued, (b) be fought and/or (c) be won?

(This, given that the "common enemy" in these such wars now seems to be -- not other people and/or their cherished and time-honored cultures, ways of life, etc. -- but, rather, "modernization and development;" which seems to threaten all such traditionally-oriented populations. Thus, the "universal," and "across-the-board," cultural backlashes -- that we are witnessing throughout the world today?)

Wrong location