Sunday, April 20, 2008

Risk Of Expanding The Afghanistan War

NY Times reported Friday that the U.S. Military Commanders in Afghanistan are requesting widening of the war to include full military attacks into Pakistan, an ally of the U.S. This is a seriously dangerous request, one that the Bush administration, in its rare moment of sanity has rejected.

The Military Commanders are requesting the expansion of the war into Pakistan because, in their view, the Taliban operating out of Pakistan are a threat to the U.S. forces in Afghanistan. C.I.A. director Michael V. Hayden goes even further by stating that the security along the Pakistan border “presents clear and present danger to Afghanistan, to Pakistan and to the West in general, and to the United States in particular.”

This is a dangerous way of looking at the situation in Afghanistan. It is a war in Afghanistan against Taliban, who have proven over a 9-year war with the Soviet army that it is tenacious, wily, and have an amazing power to regroup to conduct hit and run guerilla tactics; a tactic that the U.S. military taught them when they were fighting the Soviet Army. This is the very same tactic that they are employing now: hit & run, ambush, striking vital supply lines at its weakest point, melting back into the remote hinterlands where it is nearly impossible to find them, and crossing national borders to find refuge and to regroup.

If the U.S. Military expanded the scope of the war into Pakistan, it would result in a global condemnation of the U.S. and will fuel more individuals to join groups that are fighting our forces in Afghanistan and in Iraq. It will also force our allies to reduce their involvement as they face growing public pressure to stop helping an aggressor nation.

It is unfortunate that the U.S. Military doctrine has been tarnished to the point of being the world’s aggressor rather than the supporter of freedom and democracy. In the most recent Joint Chiefs of Staff National Military Strategy Plan for the War on Terrorism, page 5, the military lays out our goal on the war on terrorism: “The national strategic aims are to defeat violent extremism as a threat to our way of life as a free and open society; and create a global environment inhospitable to violent extremists and all who support them.”

This goal seems very idealistic and unachievable. It reads like something a na├»ve person would say when asked the question “If you had one wish, what would it be?” Defeating violent extremism and creating a global environment inhospitable to violent extremists are something that no nation in history has done and can do unilaterally. We simply cannot overcome human nature. Additionally, one of the founding purposes of the United Nations was to foster understanding and cooperative international efforts to bring global peace. Even with all their efforts, we have yet to make a dent in global violence and extremism. I don’t know when the U.S. Military’s mission shifted from national defense to being the U.N. but this should not remain the goal of our military.

If the U.S. Military does expand its war into Pakistan, then it will only result in the Taliban gaining more creditability as the “freedom fighters,” a designation given to them by President Regan. This will add to their numbers as more radials join their ranks. Moreover, it will ignite a war with Pakistan, a military power in the region, a confrontation that the U.S. cannot win since its forces are already at the breaking point with commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Finally, by chasing the Taliban into Pakistan will only force them further into other parts of Pakistan and perhaps into the Pamir Mountains, an area that is difficult to monitor and maintain.

So by bifurcating our forces into Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. lost its military advantage to finish the war against the terrorists in Afghanistan and found a stable government. Now, it is trying to gain lost grounds against the Talibans with an armed force that is already stretched thin. Given this, it is unthinkable for the U.S. to continue on its global war on terror, as its efforts in the Middle East has proven that instead of reducing the violent extremism, it has enflamed it even further.

Ed Kim

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