Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst comments on the US administration’s review of its military strategy in Afghanistan.
Why a review of the military strategy in Afghanistan?
Releasing the review is an exercise in public diplomacy it marks the first year anniversary of President Barack Obama’s speech last year that laid out his surge strategy to avoid losing the war in Afghanistan. During long and difficult deliberation with his national security team in 2009, the president was sceptical of the generals and hardliners’ argument for surge of troops without clear benchmarks and for a major escalation without exist strategy, according to Bob Woodward inside account of the White House meetings in Obama’s Wars. Today, his administration is offering what is deemed balance sheet that shows “progress” but also difficult challenges ahead. Claiming progress that includes halting the momentum of the Taliban, operational gains and damage to the al-Qaeda leadership, and greater co-operation from the Pakistan government. On the other hand, persistent concern over the reliability of the Afghan government and safe havens for Taliban and al-Qaeda in Pakistan all of which means transition to effective Afghan control will take time.
How realistic is the Pentagon assessment?
With more combat troops, increasing attacks and night raids on Taliban hideouts by its “special forces” one could expect certain tactical successes for the US and ISAF. But even those, remains doubtful as we have no access to numbers and fact. Moreover, it’s not clear whether these terribly violent attacks, with mounting “collateral damage”, are killing more Taliban than it’s grooming new recruits for the insurgency. The Obama administration seems to have given up on its counter-insurgency strategy to “win hearts and minds”, and instead, is using extreme force to pressure Taliban leaders into making a deal that allows the US to salvage its reputation, declare victory, and withdraw most or all of its troops.
So what are the chances of US success?
Strategically, the US has already failed. When the world’s greatest military power can’t win against poorly armed insurgency after a decade long war, means it has lost in terms of deterrence, prestige and influence. Moreover, as the National Intelligence Estimates (NIE) and other US think-tanks make clear, the US can’t reverse the tide without fully committed regional partners. The Afghan government’s weakness, corruption and incapacity to take responsibility for national security, and the Pakistani government’s unwillingness to fully collaborate with US forces especially on the border areas, render any US tactical advantage only, temporary at best. Without a constructive role from all of Afghanistan neighbours on the basis of vested interest, not coercion, and that take their national security and the region’s complexity, expect more of the same “failing successes”.