Free Markets, Free People

Pentagon: Drop Nation Building, Fight Taliban

The Pentagon, unsurprisingly, has completed a study in which it concludes that the US should lower its expectations in Afghanistan:

A classified Pentagon report urges President Barack Obama to shift U.S. military strategy in Afghanistan, de-emphasizing democracy-building and concentrating more on targeting Taliban and al-Qaida sanctuaries inside Pakistan with the aid of Pakistani military forces.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has seen the report prepared by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but it has not yet been presented to the White House, officials said Tuesday. The recommendations are one element of a broad policy reassessment under way along with recommendations to be considered by the White House from the commander of the U.S. Central Command, Gen. David Petraeus, and other military leaders.


[T]he plan calls for a more narrowly focused effort to root out militant strongholds along the Pakistani border and inside the neighboring country, according to officials who confirmed the essence of the report.

In other words, the military is saying “let us do what we’re good at – killing bad guys.”

Taliban with rocket launcher

Taliban with rocket launcher

Let’s face it, nation building requires the intense participation of the State Department in addition to the military, and during the Bush years, State showed no stomach for that sort of work in Iraq. Under the Obama administration – and the Clinton State Department – the desire to participate will be even less.

And while only a fool would argue that the establishment of a democracy in Afghanistan would be the best case for the US (and the world), at this time, it may not be an attainable goal.

So the Pentagon, reading the hand-writing on the wall, is saying let’s go kinetic and forget about trying to establish another democracy – Afghanistan is just not worth the blood and treasure at this time.

British Soldier in Afghanistan

British Soldier in Afghanistan

Interestingly, that’s also the conclusion Michael Yon has reached a similar conclusion (via email):

My humble recommendation is to downgrade all expectations for Afghanistan. Treat the patient as best we can, and concern ourselves with more important matters while striving not to allow Afghanistan to again become a launching pad for international terror. President Obama should not stake our national reputation on the idea that we will achieve our current more ambitious goals. Decrease expectations, and work on more important matters such as the world economy and other more serious military threats. Afghanistan is not worth so much effort when most of NATO has no heart and is virtually worthless. Eventually we’ll likely end up alone, or mostly alone, holding the bag, while Europe goes home to its wine and beer.

Given the lack of progress with nation building and NATO’s intransigence, I’m beginning to think this approach may be the most rational way to proceed in Afghanistan.


9 Responses to Pentagon: Drop Nation Building, Fight Taliban

  • The left’s incessant and infantile wailing about Iraq means that Obama will own Afghanistan. Here’s my reasoning.

    The left didn’t want to appear complete pacifists, and they wanted to focus their anti-war message, so they concentrated on Iraq. They also worked hard to establish the idea that Afghanistan and Iraq are totally disconnected. The resulting popular perception, fueled by a left-leaning media, is that Afghanistan is the “good war” and has gone reasonably well to now.

    Bush owns Iraq. Obama can’t really get any credit or blame there for how things go. Bush exited with things going pretty well, so Obama gets no credit if that continues. However, Obama has insulated himself from blame if things go wrong there.

    He has no such insulation in the “good war”. With a popular perception that things have gone well in Afghanistan, if it blows up or is badly mishandled, Obama will get most of the blame. 

    That’s not really fair, given the complexities of the whole area, but I have no sympathy for him. Having depended on an infantile, quasi-pacifist base to get him into the nomination, and having mouthed the ridiculous platitudes about war they love to hear, he has set himself up for just such a problem.

  • I ain’t sure this is good advice…this is the Pentagon that wanted to “Play to a draw” in Iraq. A decent democracy in Afghanistan would DEFEAT the Taliban. The Taliban emerged, in part, from the lack of decent central government in Kabul. Just fighting them, is like fighting the worker termites, without regard to the health of the queen. Sure fighting is what the Armed Services LIKE, but then they have done this for the last 100 years as well…it’s just not a popular as winning the Second World War…no one got a heroes parade for patrolling the West in the 1870’s or for fighting in the Philippines in the early 1900’s, but the Armed Services did it and made a significant contribution, even though no one gave them a big “atta Boy” or that the Bureau of Indian Affairs was corrupt and not the most helpful.

    Just to fight the Taliban is to ensure that, in the end, the US loses in Afghanistan…as sooner or later some Administration is going to say, “Enough of this ENDLESS War” and bring the troops home.

  • In all of this, what’s going on with the ANA?  We’ve (supposedly, anyway) been training them now for six years.  I’ve seen a few milblog posts about individual units, mostly positive, but nothing about overall progress.  It seems to me this is their country and their elected government on the line, they should be far more present and visible. 

    Or it could be the MSM has dropped the ball.  Again.

  • hrrmm just doing kinetics wont work. with gorilla warfare that is Afghanistan
    the enemy will just hide behind the civilians and use their deaths as
    propaganda and weaken the central government. you don’t have to build a
    democracy but you do have to build some sort of economy and working government.
    the state dept and the pentagon need to work together and quit their bitching and get the job done.
    if we are serious about Afghanistan we will be there for the next 10-20 years.

    • Heck if we’re there for the next 10-20 years that’s a whole sight better than Germany, Japana nd Korea, we’ve been there goiong on 50-60 years.

  • It’s worth pointing out that this is, in the end, the strategy that worked best in Iraq–that is, kill all the bad ones and then let the good ones sort themselves out.

    • But this seems to focus on killing the bad ones, not helping the good ones sort themselves out….

      • The point is that the good ones are quite capable of sorting themselves out–and entirely willing to do so.   The problem is that the bad ones need to be put down and kept down, and this takes effort.

        “Staying clean” is not the same thing as “not touching dirt”.  You have to touch dirt, even if only for a little while, in order to take it away from the clean.

  • Duck this is not the Iraq tactic. what changed in Iraq was taking troops offa based in having them live with the people in their towns. its classic counter insurgency. protect the people alienate the insurgency.