Saturday, August 23, 2014

Next Army on tap ---- Ye Olde Afghanistan

We've just seen the effectiveness of the Iraqi army that we left behind, heavily armed and with all of the latest equipment and vehicles.  The Iraqi army had active duty soldiers of 300,000 and 600,000 in reserves.  Estimates vary, but one reliable source says ISIS entered Iraq with 3,000 militants that quickly routed the Iraqi army, sent them running, and thus gave ISIS an incredible arsenal to carry on their attack.  That Iraq had a real and capable army was a facade. That should not have been a big surprise.

When the U.S. leaves Afghanistan at the end of the year they will leave behind an Afghan army of a reported 200,000 soldiers with of course considerable U.S. made and supplied armaments and equipment.  Unlike the Iraqi army, it has seemed from afar that they have not even been putting up the facade of reliable and well-coordinated force.

Fortunately there is not an ISIS type movement there and geographically speaking there will not be.  Afghanistan remains a nation of competing ideologies, tribes, and provinces as it always has been.  To think that the Taliban, the Northern Alliance, the Pashtun area tribes, and many others have gone away would be hopelessly cavalier.  After the U.S. leaves, a national government may maintain control, but who will control the national government.  Someone, some group or competing groups will gain control of the U.S. arms and munitions and it will at some point be used.  The supposed national army will lose control to the traditional tribal disputes.

The current election impasse is crucial here.  Abdullah won the first election handily but his 46% was not a majority while Ashraf Ghani with 32% became his opponent in a run-off.  In that vote, Abdullah simply maintained his 46% while Ghani won with 54%.  This was clearly the work of the hopelessly corrupt current President Karzai.  There is a recount underway and there is the appearance of the two sides working together for a coalition when the outcome is determined.  Unlikely.

Abdullah was head of the Northern Alliance when it kicked the Taliban out of Kabul while the U.S. forces mainly watched and provided weapons.  Ghani has worked for Karzai as an administrator and what looks like a CFO.  Karzai clearly wants to maintain control, Putinesque-like, and keep the U.S. dollars flowing into his pockets.  Karzai will compromise with the Taliban to get this outcome and Abdullah definitely will not.

You get the picture as seen from here.  The U.S. will be leaving nothing seriously intact behind and the outcome is not clear.  Afghanistan has a huge informal army called the mujahideen.  They are experienced but minimally educated men who have lived their whole lives as fighting nomads, going where the work is, and based on how their loyalties are bought and traded.  They are the wild card, literally.

Abdullah is the best hope for this nation, for whatever form of democracy they may have, for some freedom of religion, and for women in general.  That is the strong opinion here, which is obvious.


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