Thursday, March 26, 2009

Robert Kaplan on Saving Afghanistan

A long article from the author of Imperial Grunts and Hog Pilots and Blue Water Grunts, both of which I enjoyed and the latter of which I loved. Somehow I find it simultaneously depressing and hopeful. From the Atlantic:

Certainly, the can-do spirit of the American, British, Canadian, and other soldiers here is infectious, even as the gargantuan size of the operation, with its attendant planes, helicopters, up-armored Humvees, and massively fortified bases is simply stunning. A senior American military official told us that counterinsurgency and counter-terrorism are inseparable, and the idea that one can withdraw from Afghanistan while still conducting selected strikes against al-Qaeda terrorists is “absolutely ridiculous.” Without counterinsurgency, he says, the terrorists simply replace their killed leaders and have the freedom to plan attacks on the West.

The stakes are vast. An Afghanistan that can inch its way back to the modest and fragile stability of the mid-20th century will leverage Pakistan back toward normalcy, in addition to becoming a conduit for energy pipelines that promise to unite oil- and natural gas-rich Central Asia with the Indian Ocean—thus linking India and Pakistan in a peaceful system of commerce. But an Afghanistan that crumbles into granular ethnic and tribal elements will bring down Pakistan, too, in addition to enlarging Iran’s new and unconventional terrorist empire. And this is to say nothing of the moral victory that al-Qaeda and the Taliban will achieve if Afghanistan descends into chaos.

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