Failure by President Obama to adopt a robust troop reinforcement strategy for Afghanistan not only risks losing the war there, but it would also open up nuclear-armed Pakistan to overthrow by the Taliban, al Qaeda and other violent Islamists.
Obama is under great pressure from the political Left to reject the new strategy of a classic counterinsurgency strategy requiring 40,000 extra troops recommended by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, his top Afghanistan commander.
Democrat Sen. John Kerry, just back from a tour of the eight-year-old war, all but rejected McChrystal’s plan, saying in a speech, "I believe his current plan reaches too far, too fast. We do not yet have the critical guarantees of governance and development capacity. I also have serious concerns about the ability to produce effective Afghan forces to partner with, so we can ensure that when our troops make heroic sacrifices, the benefits to the Afghans are clear and sustainable.”
If Kerry, as it appears, floated a trial balloon for Obama to nix his general’s plan, the president is about to announce a meager troop increase that hamstrings McChrystal’s ability to take control of — and hold — villages in Taliban-infested southern Afghanistan.
A dug-in Taliban around Afghanistan will set up a second safe haven from which to attack Pakistan and bring down the government. The first safe haven is Pakistan’s tribal areas from which new fighters enter Afghanistan to kill American troops and try to bring down the Hamid Karzai government.
This week in Afghanistan, officials called off a run-off election, leaving Karzai a bruised but ratified president. The White House has used his uncertain status as an excuse not to make a troop decision. That excuse is now all but eliminated.
"The indecisiveness of the White House strengthens the belief of many Afghan leaders both friends and enemies that the U.S. does not have the resolve to stay the course and win the war," a former senior Pentagon official involved in discussions on the new strategy told HUMAN EVENTS. "As such, it does encourage our enemies and makes it more difficult to work with the reconcilable Taliban, who want to be on the winning side. Moreover, many of our troops who every day are risking their lives are left to wonder if in the end we will walk away and nullify their sacrifice and hardship."
Retired Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney, a fighter pilot in Vietnam, said the real stakes here are Pakistan’s nukes.
"What happens is, failure in Afghanistan really means failure in Pakistan," he told HUMAN EVENTS. "We risk radical Islam taking over Pakistan as well as Afghanistan and getting those nuclear weapons. That is the danger."
A secret 2000 Defense Intelligence Agency report says Pakistan owns about 80 nuclear weapons. Intelligence sources say they move some weapons around the country to confuse not only terrorists but also arch-rival India, a nuclear power. The weapons are kept in areas where the government believes the military has firm control over its installations.
"The risk that Obama runs is he gives McChrystal half a team when you need a full team to play the game and win," McInerney said. "Obama personally selected McChrystal, approved him, bought into his strategy and now his vacillation sends a very bad signal to radical Islam that we have a weak leader in the White House and it sends a very bad signal to our own men in combat."
Frederick Kagan, a military historian at the American Enterprise Institute and an author of the 2007 Iraq troop surge strategy, said failure to adopt McChrystal’s counter-insurgency plan means civil war breaks out in Afghanistan.
And what if Obama adopts a talked-about-plan to fight Afghan terrorists as expeditionary force as opposed to in-country?
"I am as confident as I can be that if we adopt a remote approach to counter-terrorism here, not only will we have a completely failed state in Afghanistan with a lot of regional consequences that are very troubling, but I also believe we’ll fail on the counter-terrorism mission," he told a House Armed Services subcommittee.
There is no more dire warning than from McChrystal himself. He took charge last summer, did an assessment and came to the conclusion things were worse than he thought when he ran the Joint Staff at the Pentagon. His warning is blunt: if America fails in Afghanistan, it will revert to pre-9-11 status as a haven for the groups who plan and execute horrendous terror attacks.
"If the Afghan government falls to the Taliban — or has insufficient capability to counter transnational terrorists — Afghanistan could again become a base for terrorism, with obvious implications for regional stability," he said in an Aug. 30 report to the White House.
To avoid failure, McChrystal needs more troops and the right number of troops — not the 10,000 Obama is reportedly considering.
He bluntly tells the president, "Inadequate resources will likely result in failure." because it would "leave critical areas of Afghanistan open to insurgent influences."
"Failure to provide adequate resources also risks a longer conflict, greater casualties, higher overall costs, and ultimately, a critical loss of political support. Any of these risks, in turn, are likely to result in mission failure," the four-star general warned.
And he states that without a " new strategy [presumedly his, not the White House’s] "the mission should not be resourced."
In other words, the U.S. has been on such a wrong course it should get out if it won’t change direction.
Meanwhile, the White House says Obama is perhaps weeks away from making a troop decision in which he is expected to give McChrystal a small portion of the requested 40,000 new troops on the ground.
A senior Marine officer involved in Afghan planning told HUMAN EVENTS it is not the Obama delay that bothers him. It’s what the decision might be.
"Thinking this through and hopefully getting this right is important," the officer said. "I have a bunch of faith in [National Security Adviser] Jim Jones, our former commandant. I feel like he’s the real adult leadership there on these issues and, as you know, he’s not a lot of flash.
"If McChrystal’s full request isn’t met they’re going to have to really be able to sell it to the folks after all the gnashing of teeth the past two months. Having said that, the full plus up of troops was only one course of action. One thing is for sure, in my opinion, is that anything less than what mcChrystal asks for is going to make it a lot harder to succeed. The war will either last longer or we’ll lose sooner."
Obama is not only getting pressure from Republicans to meet McChrystal’s request. House Armed Services Chairman Ike Skelton told MSNBC this week that the president should heed the advice of Adm. Mike Mullen, Joint Chiefs chairman, and Gen. David Petraeus, who heads U.S. Central Command. Both back McChrystal.
"You ought to follow their advice," Skelton said. "And that’s what I have suggested to him, both in writing and personally, and I hope he would do that."