Monday, March 29, 2010

Where is My Junta Game?

I have speculated often in the past that the future of Afghanistan might be like that of Pakistan--where the corrupt and incompetent civilians are replaced by the military.  Who then imitate the civilians.  Well, Karzai might be beating the military to the punch.  This is not very surprising, although American non-reaction may be disturbing. 

I keep on wondering if Obama is playing a longer game--that is, he is giving Karzai the rope to hang himself so that the US could decide in 2011 that it is not worth it anymore.  I know that 2011 was a date to send a signal to the US military not to ask for more troops and that it was a signal to Karzai that he could not just stall forever.  But it may also have been  a sincere move to set a specific time where Obama could review the situation:
  • 2011 is when the surge should have had its impact if we take the Iraqi trends and extrapolate to Afghanistan as I saw a Canadian general just do this weekend;
  • 2011 gives the President the chance to say we have had 18 months of a better strategy and more troops;
  • and 2011 allows the President to make an election-year commitment to get out of Afghanistan.  While the right will be upset, this will probably appeal to the center and left who are fed up with the war.  
The risks all have to do with Pakistan, as few really care about Afghanistan.  If we depart, there will be conflict in Afghanistan, but the US could just plink the terrorists as they show up.  No, the real and most difficult issue is Pakistan's political stability.  That is perhaps the best reason to stick around in Afghanistan.  But it also makes the West more dependent on Pakistan.

Tough choices ahead, but if Karzai becomes even less appealing, then he might actually make it easier for Obama and everyone else to withdraw.  Or condone a military coup a la Vietnam.  Ultimately, you cannot build a COIN campaign on an unpopular government. 

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