Afghanistan war spreading to Pakistan, review says
The US military led strategy in Afghanistan is spreading resistance and anti-American sentiment to Pakistan, and increasing instability in the region. The US must rethink and abandon this military led strategy or risk escalating the US war in Afghanistan to neighboring countries.
The President addressed the press yesterday morning, delivering short remarks about the National Security Council’s “Afghanistan and Pakistan Annual Review.” The full review, which the President requested last year, is classified, but an executive summary details what the White House wants us to know. The unclassified summary says the US is making progress, especially in key areas such as Kandahar and Helmand Provinces, but “gains remain fragile and reversible.” The summary lacks details, doesn’t mention Afghan President Hamid Karzai and comes off as largely rhetorical.
President Obama’s directive to prevent safe havens in Afghanistan and Pakistan was the focal point of his remarks yesterday. Yet, there is no guarantee that under this strategy-whether we leave in 2011 or 2014-Taliban and al Qaeda operatives won’t return to Afghanistan. Even Rep. Ike Skelton (MO), a staunch supporter of President Obama’s war effort, has expressed skepticism about the ability of the Afghan government and security forces to “prevent al Qaeda and the Taliban from reestablishing safe havens in the long term.”
One thing made clear by the review is the US military led strategy is spreading, not containing, the US war in Afghanistan. As the US military continues to experience resistance in the South, those “fragile and reversible” gains are a facade; the US war is not turning a corner, it is merely pushing east. According to recent National Intelligence Estimates-one on Afghanistan and one on Pakistan-refuge areas in Pakistan are on the rise, despite US and Pakistani efforts to prevent them.
The US occupation of Afghanistan does not eliminate the ability of the Taliban or al Qaeda to establish safe havens in either country. Rather, it only cause the establishment of refuge areas in Pakistan–proof the US war strategy in Afghanistan undermines, rather than achieves, the long term goal of denying sanctuary. This does not mean that the US should invade Pakistan or continue the drone campaign there, as this simply exacerbates the problem.
Why, then, are there “a lot of … kinetic actions taking place along that [Pakistani] border,” as Secretary of Defense Gates stated yesterday? Why is the Pentagon expanding the drone campaign and special forces operations in Pakistan? The Af-Pak executive summary clearly states that “denial of extremist safe havens cannot be achieved with military means alone, but must continue to be advanced by effective development strategies.” Where are the diplomatic strategies, Mr. President?
We cannot lost sight of this fact: the insurgency in Afghanistan and Pakistan exists solely because the United States occupies Afghanistan and conduct drone bombings in Pakistan.
Almost unanimously experts, Afghans and the American public are calling for an end to the War in Afghanistan. Bottom line: the US military led strategy cannot deliver President Obama’s stated end to prevent safe havens in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and only serves to undermine that goal. If the US continues down this course, the occupation will stretch on far beyond 2014 and bleed into neighboring countries.
We must ask this: is the US prepared to pour another $300 billion and countless lives into a decades long endeavor in a country of little geopolitical importance for limited, if any, tangible results?