First, forget Obama’s purported reasons for staying in Afghanistan; those are just easily understood anti-terrorist bromides for the media and the viewing audience. He supposedly knows we aren’t fighting any real threat to the US in Rock City, nor are there enough Al-Qaeda hanging around the Af-Pak border waiting to be captured to make it worth the billions we are pouring into this new ‘surge’.
Word is the real reasons the ‘clinchers’ presented by the Pentagon chieftains and the president’s staff for maintaining an American and NATO military presence there are threefold:
1. Pakistan’s government, contrary to Obama’s speech, is weak and has little sway in the northern and western parts of the country, the same regions where various anti-American groups operate with impunity. Ostensibly, the Pakistan military has the country’s nuclear arsenal under tight control but, then, it’s known Muslim extremists have infiltrated the army. The nightmare scenario, barely touched on by Obama, is of a band of Islamic fundamentalists getting their hands on nukes. The thinking is that, if such a scary scenario unfolded, the US and NATO troops in Afghanistan could move to secure Pakistan’s nuclear weapons before the wackos could launch. Obama could not say this publicly without offending the Pakistan government, damaging our relationship with them, and causing a diplomatic furor. He also allegedly privately promised India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that he would not hesitate to use American troops to keep Pakistan’s military in check, if need be.
2. The Pentagon believes that a large military force on both Iran’s eastern and western perimeters will staunch any ambitions they may have in Iraq or Afghanistan. Forget the nuclear distraction; the fear is that Iran will try to fill the power vacuum left by US withdrawal from either nation. Whether this is a valid concern, the groupthink in Washington convinced Obama of this even before he started his run for the presidency.
3. Obama’s most trusted advisors and the Joint Chiefs believe he must not be trapped into a test of his resolve and willingness to employ force. While he has extended the olive branch of peace with one hand, and repaired most of the damage done by George W. Bush’s my-way-or-the-highway foreign policy, the world must know he will be ready to use the sword that’s in the other. In order to avoid another ‘Cuban Missile Crisis’ test of wills, it’s believed by this faction that he has to show that he’s capable of bucking the peace faction in his own party and US public opinion in order not to appear weak and invite challenges. Afghanistan is a chess move to establish his readiness to use force to avert future, potentially more disastrous, tests of his strength. Another example of Washington groupthink with dubious legitimacy, but a theme Obama has embraced entirely.
If you think we will be withdrawing from Afghanistan completely in 2011, put down that crack pipe. There may be some troop withdrawals by then, but a sizable US military force will remain in the country until, like the USSR, we are forced out by economic circumstances and/or insurgents, a highly probable outcome historically.
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org
2009 RS Janes. LTSaloon.org.