Sunday, November 30, 2014

Afghanistan already begins falling apart as foreign troops withdraw?

It took invading Islamic State fighters and almost three years before the government of Iraq and its supposed unified military began to collapse after the U.S. withdrawal.  The major part of final troop withdrawals, not including a small force that President Obama has recently received approval to leave behind, is underway in Afghanistan and the Taliban and tribal forces are already on the attack.  In recent weeks there have been a series of bombings and raids in Kabul that are more intense than "normal" times and this weekend Taliban fighters in Helmand Province overran an Afghan National Army outpost.  Camp Bastion, the army's main base in the south which had been handed over to the Afghan's by the British in October, has been under siege for the last three days by the Taliban fighters.

Afghan authorities are quick to say that the media is making too much of the activity in Kabul and in the south of the country.  That is impossible to know from here, but that a negative pattern could emerge is not unexpected.  Afghanistan is a country of shifting alliances among tribes and between provincial ethnic groups.  It is unclear whether it has ever been a unified country in any kind of governable model except under force, under force which historically is always challenged and never completely secure.  It is unclear what impact Obama's 9800 troops left behind after the end of the year can have, as advice cannot replace a well coordinated and committed army.

The impact of the U.S. forces may simply be another one of Obama's lines in the sand, one that if crossed and American lives are threatened, lives of those staying in the country on civilian business, aid workers that stay, and the U.S. troops, and like in Iraq Obama could use air power and even an eventual "temporary" increase in troops again to prop up the government.  If that is the thought, it is unclear if this thought process is wise.

What could not be accomplished over the last ten years is unlikely to be accomplished over the next ten unless the Afghan government becomes an effective internal alliance building administration, and the rampant corruption that was allowed to exist under Karzai can be addressed.  How does this happen?

If it does, if it could, that would be extraordinary and welcome.  If Obama's 9800 troops can facilitate the process that would save the education and rights of women in that country and a period of peace free from medieval Taliban "justice" for all people there, no one here would complain.  The question is obviously whether real change in the diffuse Afghan culture is possible.  

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