Has the US War in Afghanistan Made Us Safer?? Will Hopkins NH Peace Action
A Brief History of US Involvement with Afghanistan. Democratic process installed in 1964, a Marxist faction, the Peoples Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) was founded in 1965 and continued to grow and gain in power through to 1978. In 1978, a prominent PDPA member (Akbar Khyber) was killed, PDPA leaders publically accused the government of being responsible. Protests surrounding the dubious conditions of Khyber’s death led to the arrests of the majority of PDPA leaders. Military factions loyal to the PDPA staged a coup in April of 1978 and PDPA took control of the country. As the PDPA attempted to instill state atheism and equal rights for women, religious Afghans began to rebel, with arming, funding, and training provided by the United States whose chief concern at the time was preventing the spread of communism. These forces became known as the Mujahedeen. To attempt to quell the rebellion, PDPA officials requested soviet military re-enforcement. US support of the Mujahedeen skyrocketed and the proxy war against the Soviet Union was engaged.
Soviet forces withdrew in 1989, leaving behind a great amount of military equipment for use by PDPA. PDPA and Mujahedeen engaged in civil war from 1989 to 1992, while the US, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan continued to fund Mujahedeen. In 1992 with the Soviet Union dissolved a well funded and armed Mujahedeen finally toppled the PDPA, Islamic State of Afghanistan is born.
Civil war between different factions of the Mujahedeen essentially broke out in 1992, with the Taliban taking control in 1996, but regional violence has continued unabated to the present.
So we went in because the Taliban blew up the towers right? In the years leading up to September 11, 2001, the Al-Queda network, an international group with anti-western aims conducted training and recruitment all over the middle east. Very few local governments attempted to curb this in any way. The US attacked training camps in Sudan, Somalia, Lebanon, Jordan, and Afghanistan. Al-Queda, a Wahabi group, is strongest and recruits most of it’s members in Saudi Arabia which is also the hub of Wahabism.
Osama Bin Laden openly supported the Taliban regime, and was thought by some in the intelligence community to be hiding in Afghanistan after 9-11. Seeking Osama Bin Laden to hold him accountable for the 9-11 attacks may have legitimately been a part of the reason we invaded. However, the Taliban agreed to cooperate and turn over Bin Laden to the US if the US would provide evidence that he was indeed responsible for the attacks.
So if the Taliban and Al Queda are different, and they offered to help us catch Bin Laden, and there were all these other countries where Al Queda was training , what makes Afghanistan different?
#1. The Caspian Pipeline Unical (Union Oil/Chevron) was engaged in negotiations with Afghanistan to build a pipeline across Afghanistan opening up 4.7% of the worlds natural gas reserves. Caspian natural gas reserves currently flow at about 4 trillion cubic feet per year. Negotiations broke down in August of 1998. The US had reasonable diplomatic relations with the Taliban up to this point. Bombing campaign began within days.
#2. Heavy Metals Afghanistan holds some of the worlds largest reserves of copper, bauxite, aluminum, iron, cobalt, gold, and lithium. In July the Pentagon announced that a US Geological survey estimated the reserves’ net worth at over 1.4 Trillion dollars.
Realistically isn’t the bulk of our invasion a retaliation for 9-11? Bombing began in 1998. With the breakdown of diplomatic relations, the US began planning a small scale invasion, India and England both committed troops to a US invasion during the summer BEFORE 9-11.
Obviously, Osama Bin Laden is not in Afghanistan, the Taliban is no longer in charge, and there is no longer a significant Al Queda presence in Afghanistan, so what are we doing still there? Caspian Pipeline is still not open. Minerals are not being harvested by US Interests. We still have a strategic interest in that part of the world. Taliban have popular support and resources to retake country without our presence.
Alright then, so what is our strategy? The counter insurgency manual was published in 2006 and was written under the supervision of Army Lt. Gen. David Petreaus and Marine Lt. Gen. James Amos. “Defeating such enemies requires a global, strategic response—one that addresses the array of linked resources and conflicts that sustain these movements while tactically addressing the local grievances that feed them.” Counter Insurgency Manual 1-23 on Al-Queda
“People who have been maltreated or have had close friends or relatives killed by the government, particularly by its security forces, may strike back at their attackers. Security force abuses and the social upheaval caused by collateral damage from combat can be major escalating factors for insurgencies.” Counter Insurgency Manual 1-45 “An operation that kills five insurgents is counterproductive if collateral damage leads to the recruitment of fifty more insurgents.” 1-141
“Twenty counterinsurgents per 1000 residents is often considered the minimum troop density required for effective COIN operations” Counter Insurgency Manual 1-67 Population of Afghanistan as of 2010: 28,395,716 CIA World Factbook. Minimum troop density required for effective COIN operations in Afghanistan: 567,914 combat troops. Post-surge troop density: 102,000, or roughly 18% of minimum for COIN.
“Insurgencies are protracted by nature. Thus, COIN operations always demand considerable expenditures of time and resources.” Counter Insurgency Manual 1-134 “Historically, Counter-Insurgency Ops have gone nine or ten years.” –General David Petraeus on Fox News
The Math behind a full Counter-Insurgency Campaign in Afghanistan Cost to put one soldier in Afghanistan for one year= $1,000,000-$1,200,000,00. Minimum number of troops required to conduct a counter-insurgency campaign in Afghanistan= 567,914. Amount of time required 9-10 years. Total “direct” costs= $5,111,226,000,000.00- $6,814,968,000,000.00
The current plan: There were four high-ranking Generals who publically took positions on the best strategy in Afghanistan in the fall of 2009 as President Obama weighed his options. McChrystal and Petreaus each favored increasing to troop levels more conducive to a counter-insurgency campaign (60-80,000 additional troops to begin) and continuing operations indefinitely. McCaffery and Eikenberry each leaked or released statements suggesting that without reliable partners in government in Afghanistan, or the resources to successfully conduct a counter-insurgency campaign, the United States and coalition forces should begin withdrawal.
President Obama opted to compromise between the two plans, and institute a slight surge to roughly 102,000 troops (+33,000); but to begin withdrawal with no firm timeline dependant on “conditions on the ground” beginning in July of 2011. This compromise between beginning a counter-insurgency campaign, and beginning a withdrawal has thus far been disastrous and has led to substantial increases in civilian casualties, US and coalition casualties, and substantially bolstered the popularity and influence of the Taliban.
So, where do we go from here? Full COIN Afghanistan Study Group Hayden/Bennis