Pages: 1 2
One of the reasons the offensive was delayed was so that relationships with the tribes could be cemented, as this was key to success in Iraq. This effort has been stymied by the fact that some Pashtun tribes have family ties to Taliban militants and warlords often fight with each other. Jason Meszaros, the author of Interrogation of Morals, served in Afghanistan as an Army intelligence officer and says it will be difficult to win the tribes over.
“The Sunni tribes that turned against Al Qaeda were fighting for representation in the new Iraqi government. The Pashtun tribes that encompass the Taliban want to control the entire country of Afghanistan, establish their own government and run it as an Islamic theocracy,” he told FrontPage.
There has been some success in allying with Pashtun tribes despite these obstacles. The Shinwari tribe of 400,000 pledged to send at least one male per family to join the police or army. Polls indicate there is a longing to support the U.S. against the Taliban if given the opportunity.
A poll from January found that 68 percent of Afghans support the military presence, 61 percent support the sending of additional U.S. troops, and 51 percent have a favorable view of the U.S. The Taliban fares much worse, with 69 percent of Afghans viewing them as their greatest threat and 90 percent favoring the Karzai government over them, despite the election irregularities and corruption. It is worth noting that the Afghan attitude towards the U.S. became more positive after the surge was announced.
Meszaros agrees that the U.S. has the advantage in public opinion.
“According to Human Rights Watch over 400,000 civilians died during the Taliban regime. Contrast that to the 16,000 civilian deaths (again Human Rights Watch numbers) during the almost 10 year American campaign and the majority of Afghanis would rather have the Americans in charge. Even though a fair amount of the civilian deaths under American control were caused by Taliban attacks (IED’s, etc),” he said.
The fourth major problem facing General Petraeus is foreign support for the Taliban and other militants. Members of the Taliban admit that they are becoming more reliant upon Iranian support, which includes harbor, arms and training. Support from the Pakistani government is significantly higher than often assumed. Up to seven of the 15 members of the Shura council in Pakistan are agents of the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI.
A report by the London School of Economics concludes that this support is not the work of rogue elements, but is the “official ISI policy.” It alleges that President Zardari and other senior officials have visited Taliban leaders that have been imprisoned and have told them that their detainment is temporary and is being done just to alleviate U.S. pressure. Afghan intelligence has also found that over $1 billion worth of Saudi money has entered their country over the past four years via Waziristan. The hawala networks continue to allow for the flow of foreign currency into Afghanistan that can fund militants and criminal activity.
The three obstacles of declining public support, foreign support for Islamic extremists, and the conditions causing the delay of the Kandahar offensive are exasperated by the fourth obstacle, the July 2011 deadline. When that time comes, President Obama must decide whether to begin a major withdrawal, push back the timeline, or take a middle course by withdrawing a small amount of soldiers that won’t significantly alter the battlefield. The fate of Afghanistan will be decided by President Obama’s political backbone as it will be by General Petraeus’ military effort.
Pages: 1 2