Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Mission Impossible

If one looks closely at the stream of current developments in Iraq and Afghanistan and projects realistically into the future, the outlook on these fronts in the U.S. “Global War on Terrorism” does not look encouraging. These are the two main and most visible battlegrounds the U.S. has chosen to pursue with stable democracies, strong allies, and a message to other countries (allied and enemy) about the strategic goals we have established.

In Iraq, it appears that an eight-month long political battle for the Prime Minister post will be resolved because Mustada Al Sudr (described by most U.S. sources as a “radical anti-American cleric”) has chosen to support Nauri Al Malaki. Sadr is the same man U.S. forces labeled an insurgent in 2006 and sought to arrest or kill. In response, he went into self-imposed exile… in Iran. He also ordered his Maudi army to stand down while the U.S. “surge” played out and the U.S. “bought” 100,000 fighters called the Sunni Awakening. It is reasonable to think that politics is universal and Sadr will get something big from Malaki. Sadr will be only the most visible among a host of Iraqi politicians aligned with and indebted to Iran. Despite the expenditure of 4,400 U.S. lives, more that $1 trillion and significant diplomatic capital, no one should be surprised if five years from now Iraq allies itself more closely with Iran than America.

There is little encouraging news coming out of Afghanistan at the tactical, operational, or strategic levels. Casualties among U.S. and NATO forces are rising rapidly. The highly touted offensive in Marja is a failure at worst and a draw at best and the Kandahar offensive is stillborn. Finally, Afghan President Karzi is pursuing peace talks with the Taliban, much to the dismay of the U.S. Pakistan is an uncertain U.S. ally with huge internal problems exacerbated recently by devastating floods and a feckless government response. Rumors circulate that the military is again considering a coup and that former strongman Musharoff (now in exile) is considering a political comeback. The U.S.-Pakistan “alliance” is strained by the intrusion of sovereign Pakistan territory by NATO forces and civilian deaths by U.S. attacks and Pakistan’s decision to close off supply routes into Afghanistan in response. A final source of stress between the two is Pakistan’s support or tolerance of the Taliban and the Haquanni network along its western border. There is no American success in Afghanistan without Pakistan sharing U.S. goals and perspectives and that is not the case today. As I have written previously, there are only two questions in Afghanistan: Do you want to lose big or do you want to lose small? And do you want to lose sooner or do you want to lose later?

Spin doctors at the White House, State Department and the Pentagon will burn the midnight oil convincing themselves and the American people that Iraq and Afghanistan represent Mission Accomplished.

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