Sunday, July 19, 2009

# Posted 11:13 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE AFGHANISTAN DEBATE (YES, THERE IS ONE): Republicans may not complain much about President Obama's strategy for Afghanistan, but there is a good amount fire now directed at the administration from the liberal side. Ibn Muqawama provides a solid round-up and critique:
A common refrain I hear is that the Taliban has limited appeal, they're fragmented, the Afghans don't want them back, they're not that strong, etc. The humanitarian camp seems to think that IGOs and NGOs can effectively conduct reconstruction without more security by helping the population (a rather extreme take on "winning hearts and minds") while the "not important" camp seems to say, "Why are we wasting our time running around after a bunch of backward, bearded guerrillas who aren't a direct threat to us?"

While the past isn't necessarily a predictor, I do think it's important to remember that between 1994-2001, the Taliban was able to take over nearly all of the country. Its leadership proved adept at exploiting Afghan disenchantment and religious symbolism to attract supporters, and at gaining the allegiance of numerous warlords to bolster its ranks. Once in power, it facilitated the expansion of violent extremist groups in other Central Asian countries. Obviously things have changed a lot since 2001, but if we were to withdraw combat troops I'm not sure what prevents that from happening again.
And this time, Pakistan is on the brink of chaos, so a Taliban state next door would add fuel to that dangerous fire.

Cross-posted at Conventional Folly
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