Unforced Error

President Barack Obama is about to make the biggest mistake of the 21st century by sending 34,000 more troops to Afghanistan.   

We currently have 68,000 troops in Afghanistan.  NATO countries supply an additional 42,000.  There are maybe 100 al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, and maybe 300 in Pakistan.  Some estimates say al-Qaeda is down to fewer than a dozen core fighters.  And we already have 110,000 mechanized, highly trained and well paid dudes gunning for them.  There are also 200,000 Afghan forces under the command of Gen. Stanley McChrystal who suck, but that’s a lot of forces.  All told, McChrystal already outnumbers al-Qaeda nearly 800 to one at a conservative estimate.     

If we grant that the Taliban and the other militias in Afghanistan are the enemy, which is a dopey notion because those cats just want us to leave their bleak country, we still outnumber them by 12 to one — there are no more than 25,000 Taliban.

The Taliban are supposedly the enemy because they support al-Qaeda.  Problem: Hamid Karzai, whose government we’re supporting in that sinkhole, not only just stole two elections, but he’s thigh rubbing pals with the Taliban.  His brother Ahmed is hairline deep in the Afghan drug industry and he’s on the CIA payroll.  Among other things, Ahmed acts as a broker between the Taliban and us.  

Diplomat Richard Holbrooke, who has said that we will recognize success in Afghanistan "when we see it," has confirmed that we’re trying to cut dope deals with the Taliban.  We’re doing this through Pakistan’s Inter-service Intelligence Agency (ISI), who are a bigger bunch of crooks than the crooks Hamid Karzai is in league with.   

So why is Obama sending more troops there? 

He shot himself in the metatarsal during his campaign with his crock of jive about how the Iraq surge took our eyes off the prize of the "war of necessity" in Afghanistan, where we needed to "finish the job."  The war in Afghanistan is as necessary as removing the prostate gland of a healthy 12-year old boy. 

The notion of American exceptionalism has worn itself transparent.  We’re making the world a worse place, not a better one.  Our counterproductive wars have nothing to do with national security.  The al-Qaeda that attacked us with 19 guys on 9/11 who didn’t have the equivalent of a Chicago school system high school diploma is, for all practical purposes, dead and gone.  Their work is finished.  They suckered us into massive commitments of national blood and treasure into sinkholes that shouldn’t matter to the world’s sole superpower.  

The notion that we can create an "exit strategy" by training Afghan troops to take over the counterinsurgency task is, to put it mildly, quaint.  Afghan soldiers and police are as reliable as a flock of cats.   

We need to get out of Central Asia as soon as we can.  Alexander the Great couldn’t tame that patch of mountain and desert, nor could the British, nor could the Russians, and we won’t either.   

I had hoped that Obama would stand up to the Pentagon’s insistence on a Long War approach to Afghanistan, but alas.  We’re going to be stuck with this pig, lipstick and all, for a long time.  It’s a boondoggle that will make Iraq look like a smooth move.   

This big re-re-escalation of Afghanistan is a big mistake.  It’s a grand execution of a flawed doctrine.  Counterinsurgency (COIN), the Pentagon’s latest flimsy excuse to exist, is based on a host of internal fallacies.  Premier among them is the notion that the host nation must be a "legitimate government" that provided "good governance."  Mohammed on a crutch, if you have good governance from a legitimate government, by and large, you don’t have an insurgency.  

Talk of an exit strategy for Afghanistan is low comedy.  If you put troops into a country you’ll have to get them out with the hugest pair of pliers ever made. The way to exit Afghanistan is to exit, not to put more troops there.     

Reports will say Obama will define the "precise U.S. goals in Afghanistan."  Give me a break.  We haven’t had precise goals in a war since World War II, when the goal was unconditional surrender.  There’s no such thing as surrender in the wars we’re fighting now.  The best thing we can achieve is to bribe our enemies into playing along with us.  Bribery, after all, is the essence of our COIN doctrine.  

Bribery has been the spine of our foreign aid for a really long time.  We use the term "foreign aid," like we’re somehow feeding "those poor kids" in wherever-land, but we’re really just making crooked high rollers richer.   

I had such high hopes that Obama would really change things.  Not any more, as Inspector Clouseau once said.   

An excellent article inArmed Forces Journal by retired Army Col. Douglas MacGregor titled "Refusing Battle" deserves wide attention.  MacGregor wisely admonishes:  

America’s experience since 2001 teaches the strategic lesson that in the 21st century, the use of American military power, even against Arab and Afghan opponents with no navies, no armies, no air forces and no air defenses, can have costly, unintended strategic consequences. Put in the language of tennis, the use of American military power since the early 1960s has resulted in a host of "unforced errors."  

Obama has caved in to the Long War Pentagon and its supporters in the Congress and the press who have been so wrong for so long that nobody should be listening to them anymore.   He’s still talking his "finish the job" nonsense.  What job?  How will we know when it’s finished?

Author: Jeff Huber

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (retired), was a naval flight officer who commanded an aircraft squadron and was operations officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the carrier that fought the Kosovo War. Jeff earned a master of arts degree in post-modern imperialism at the U.S. Naval War College. His weekly satires on U.S. foreign policy high jinks are archived at his blog, Pen and Sword. Jeff's critically applauded novel Bathtub Admirals, a lampoon of America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now. Jeff lives with dogs in a house by the beach on Chesapeake Bay in Virginia, and in the summer he has a nice tan.