Monday, March 12, 2007

Iraq withdrawal plans must be serious about Afghanistan too

It is nice to see a few somewhat concrete proposals developing about the disaster that is Iraq and how the US can extricate its’ military from being targets in a civil war. However, there is a very serious element that many seem to have glossed over, or are not paying enough attention to that should be a significant part of any Iraq withdrawal/redeployment plan.

That, obviously, is dealing with the threat of al Qaeda and the Taliban reconstituting and the steadily and rapidly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan. Some of the Democratic proposals touch on this – none that I have seen devote enough to it. I only reference Democratic proposals since there is no republican proposal for dealing with Afghanistan since Bush decided to cut and run from there.

Interestingly, and ironically, the signature document put out by the Project for a New American Century, Rebuilding America’s Defenses includes four core “Missions” for the US military. One of them is to ”fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theater wars”. Looking at Afghanistan and Iraq, the US seems to have decisively and rapidly lost both.

However, there are still attacks being launched in Afghanistan. Late last year, I wrote a diary titled The bubbling disaster that is Pakistan which discussed the dire situation over there. Since then, we have learned that Pakistan has been accused of brokering deals with the Taliban and al Qaeda, that the Taliban is regrouping in Pakistan and that al Qaeda is regrouping as well.

Now it is too late to keep saying “I told you so” with respect to Afghanistan (even though we all did say so) – but there is talk of and preparation for a “spring offensive” by the Taliban in Afghanistan. No doubt that if this occurs, it will be bloody as hell, a disaster regardless of whether the “offensive” is turned away or whatever the outcome. A disaster for NATO, a disaster for the Afghan people, a disaster for the US troops, a disaster for other countries involved as well.

Yet, this ties in completely to what SHOULD be done, what SHOULD HAVE been done all along, and how to get our troops out of Iraq. Yes, it would be going from the proverbial frying pan to the fire, but they have no business being in Iraq anymore. I’ll give some more background and then throw out what, to me, should be part of any serious plan to (1) get out of Iraq, (2) deal with the Taliban and al Qaeda resurgence and (3) start acting serious about combating terrorism at its roots. It is already way way way too late to salvage anything in Iraq – but there is still a wee bit more time to actually reverse the trend in Afghanistan.

An article from last week by touches on a few Democratic plans and seems to say some of the right things about Afghanistan:

n announcing their strategy, Democrats assert that redeployment from Iraq will allow U.S. efforts to refocus on Afghanistan, where American, NATO and Afghan National Army forces face strengthened resistance from Taleban and al-Qaida fighters.

"Afghanistan is the correct war, that is the one that will require readiness today, tomorrow, and in the days and months ahead," said Ike Skelton, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

Another article from late last week outlines three Democratic proposals for a withdrawal plan from Iraq. One bill, the “Bring Our Troops Home and Sovereignty of Iraq Restoration Act” says some good things about getting out of Iraq, but makes little to no mention about Afghanistan. The House Leadership plan (sponsored by Pelosi) makes mention of “refocusing our efforts on Afghanistan and fighting terrorism”, which is hopeful. The text of the bill is not yet available (at least as of earlier today), and I would hope that there will be significant meat to this area. The third plan is in the Senate and is a binding resolution to start redeployment of troops.

While all of these are noble and would get us out of Iraq, they don’t address the fact that those who actually attacked us and supported those who attacked us are still out there and preparing for new attacks in Afghanistan and possibly elsewhere. This doesn’t require the US to start invading countries again – it requires us to finish the “fight” (and I use the term in quotes since military action is hardly the only or best way to “fight” them) against terrorism.

What are my particular thoughts as far as details go? Well, for starters, troops should IMMEDIATELY be redeployed to Afghanistan from Iraq. At least 30,000 – 50,000 over the next month. Another 25,000 should be sent home from Iraq. Period.

What will happen here? Well, Iraq will still be a disastrous civil war, but we will see that having less troops will probably not have much of an impact as far as more or less violence between the Sunnis and the Shiites. It will also get around 1/8 of our troops some much needed rest. It will also keep close to 100,000 troops in Iraq as far as a staggered or phased withdrawal – still keeping in line with the plans that the Iraq Study Group, the Democrats in Congress, some of the Democratic Presidential candidates, and many others have put forth to date.

Let’s face it – 200,000 troops in Iraq now aren’t going to cut it. 500,000 troops in Iraq right now probably wouldn’t cut it, even if that was (1) feasible and (2) desirable by anyone. So an immediate redeployment of 1/3 to Afghanistan (where the real “terrorists” are) for what is already known as a planned effort by the Taliban and al Qaeda would help put our resources where they not only should be but should have been all along.

Then start your withdrawal from Iraq – get some troops home immediately as well. The rest of the world (or at least those who still take the US with any bit of seriousness) will see that we are serious about (1) getting out of Iraq, (2) not going into Iran, (3) not leaving their NATO troops hanging out to dry in Afghanistan and (4) helping to rebuild Afghanistan in a way that it should have been done in the first place.

If there is any chance of any success (military is only one of many parts and not even close to the largest part), we need to stop the resurgence of the Taliban and al Qaeda, (and yes, dealing with the “Pakistan issue” is a very delicate matter) and we need to at least show that there is an alternative to killing US and NATO troops. Whether a “democracy” is that alternative is irrelevant. It is to get serious about the country that we should never have abandoned in the first place and to defeat terrorism in a smart manner JUST AS MUCH as it is about getting out of Iraq.

Any plan that doesn’t seriously address Afghanistan in a detailed manner is doing a great disservice to the reality of combating terrorism. Iraq and Afghanistan are not mutually exclusive as far as a “plan”. Quite the contrary, they are inextricably linked.

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