Afghanistan: Obama’s war - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Wednesday 2 December 2009

Afghanistan: Obama’s war

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 3rd Dec 09

The United States Military Academy at West Point, where America trains cadets to officer its army, has long provided an emotive rostrum for sounding the trumpet to battle. John F Kennedy, chose West Point to brace America, in 1962, for the looming Vietnam conflict. In 2002, George Bush took the podium at West Point to publicly unveil his doctrine of “pre-emptive action”, which opened the doors to Iraq. Barrak Obama, too, decided to look into the eyes of the cadets he would commit to battle, when announcing today that the US would despatch 30,000 additional troops to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan.

If George W Bush’s presidency is condemned to be associated with the Iraq War, Obama has ensured that his will be linked with Afghanistan. Since he was sworn in, Obama has tripled America’s military commitment to Afghanistan from 32,000 US soldiers in that country to 98,000 once this latest surge is implemented. This increase disregards growing opposition in America to remaining embroiled in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is now Obama’s war.

Obama’s political isolation is highlighted by his allies’ reluctance to bear a greater share of the military burden. The 19 coalition members who are fighting in Afghanistan have mustered --- after protracted US lobbying --- a mere 7,000 additional soldiers.

Given these risks, Obama spent the greater part of his 30-minute speech laying out a clear and inflexible exit strategy for eventually quitting Afghanistan. He declared that the troop surge would allow America to, “begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011…. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home. These [30,000 soldiers] are the resources that we need to seize the initiative, while building the Afghan capacity that can allow for a responsible transition of our forces out of Afghanistan.”

Obama’s commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, should be pleased with his commander-in-chief’s support. Exactly two months ago, McChrystal had submitted his plan for Afghanistan, asking for 40,000 troops to execute it. Obama has given him almost as much as he asked, and strongly endorsed General McChrystal’s strategy of training 400,000 Afghan soldiers and policemen, who would handle security after America headed home.

Obama’s plan could provide an equal satisfaction to the Taliban, who now know exactly when their enemy plans to leave. For years now, senior Taliban leaders have predicted that the west does not have the stomach for a long haul in Afghanistan. Their videotaped reactions have not yet reached Al Jazeera Television, but it is safe to predict an element of “I told you so”.

Obama implicitly acknowledged this danger, but emphatically rejected calls for “a nation-building project of up to a decade”. An open-ended commitment, said Obama, would incur heavy costs, while “the absence of a time frame for transition would deny us any sense of urgency in working with the Afghan government. It must be clear that Afghans will have to take responsibility for their security, and that America has no interest in fighting an endless war in Afghanistan.”

But Obama’s readiness to declare victory and leave sits uneasily with his reassurances to Pakistan. Praising Pakistan’s military offensive in Swat and South Waziristan, Obama proffered substantial military and aid flows provided Pakistan finished the job. Addressing Pakistan’s deep-rooted suspicion that --- like at the end of the anti-Soviet campaign in Afghanistan --- Washington would turn its back on Islamabad, Obama declared, “We will strengthen Pakistan’s capacity to target those groups that threaten our countries…. the Pakistan people must know America will remain a strong supporter of Pakistan’s security and prosperity long after the guns have fallen silent, so that the great potential of its people can be unleashed.”

For Afghanistan watchers, Obama’s West Point speech raises many questions. Can 140,000 troops pacify Afghanistan? US Army Chief, General Eric Shinseki, had estimated that half a million US soldiers would be needed to pacify Iraq, a significantly smaller country. Next, how will Afghan President Hamid Karzai, allegedly corrupt and a proven vote rigger, survive after US forces leave? And, finally, is Obama being too optimistic in saying that Pakistani public opinion had turned against extremism and that Islamabad was now genuinely on the side of America.


  1. Afghanistan is not the source. If the U.S wants to end terrorism,they must send troops to Pakistan.

  2. Ajai, Some good news. Chindits reports that the Navy plans to place order for 47 Utility helicopters (ALH) to replace the cheetahs.

    Also for the Anti-submarine helis, they will float tenders soon.

  3. Thats true unless nothing is done on Pak the additional troops are useless. When the US are training the Afgans, the Pak will be training the Taliban and support them. Also any news on India's stand in training the Afgans?

  4. Ask him to hit the source of terrorism rather than the outcrop.
    Ask him to hit pakistan

  5. Col Ajai,
    Indian government has been crying hoarse for the last 60 years or so but to no avail. Pashtun issue has always been at the heart of Indo- Pak issue. It never was kashmir. Pakistan has alway been wary of Pashtoon nationalism and they as well their british masters realised it long before the birthof this still born, retarded child called pakistan that it can not exist without Pashtonlands & Baluchistan.

    Obama must hasten the process of distributing the new CIA maps for Af-Pak and correct this cancer Americans and their masters ( UKstanis) initiated.

    Jinnah( the whiskey guzzling, pork eating) founder of Pakistan, lifted Mehsud tribes men in truckloads and used them to invade kashmir in the year 1948 and broke the stand still agreement with Maharaja Hari singh.

    With regard to Afghanistan, much before the jihad in the 1980s, Pakistan had already begun using Islamist proxies for its projection of power. Let us recall the mediatory efforts by the Shah of Iran in Afghan-Pakistan relations.

    It was in 1973 that the then prime minister Zulifikar Ali Bhutto provided sanctuary to Islamist leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar with a view to undermine the established government in Kabul. That was four years prior to the Communists take-over in Afghanistan and six years before the Soviet intervention.

    The Pakistani subversion of Afghanistan used Sunni Islamists drawn from the Pashtun community. This was a deliberate policy with a long-term objective of undercutting Pashtun nationalism, which was broadly secular-minded and based on traditional tribal structures and identity.

    Pakistan views Pashtun nationalism as an existential threat and this has been at the root of the 60-year history of its blatant interference in the neighbouring country's internal affairs. Since the Pashtunistan issue is an explosive subject linked to Pakistan's state formation and its 2500-kilometre disputed border with Afghanistan, no one wants to talk about it.

    When we discuss the 'Af-Pak strategy', we tend to emphasise a 'regional approach'. The argument goes that for stabilising Afghanistan, you need to stabilise Pakistan; for stabilising Pakistan, you should push India to take steps to alleviate Pakistan's threat perceptions and sense of insecurity; and, this, of course, means addressing Kashmir issue.

    That is, if only India 'cooperates', Pakistan's strategic anxiety can be eased and its military leadership can concentrate on tackling its internal challenges and help the international community vanquish the Taliban insurgents and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

    It is a persuasive argument. But it is not only flawed but also couched in sophistry.

    The heart of the problem as i said is pashtoon nationalism and Pakistan has always been wary of this and I am sure you understand it better than the US administration set up. Sometimes I am forced to think that this TTP is nothing but Pashtoon nationalism under the cover of islamism as there is no other way uniting these warring tribes. Islam is seen as the glue and motivator. Durand line had done a great injustice to pashtoons and it is time that it must be removed. The british duplicity in partitioning India and carving out a homeland for the 'moslems' was nothing but a ploy to maintain their hold on the 'wells of power'. They thought that nation comprising of muslims where in Islam will be the glue, will have a better chance of survival than the multi ethnic, multi religious and multi lingual India.

    India was not 'supposed' to survive this far and even now the Anglo-saxon block ( US/UK) keep on demanding concessions from India for assuaging their still born child, retarded child pakistan. The role muslim league played during the quit India movement made the Churchil sure of his beliefs that a pliable Muslim nation is far better than India. He even lied to American regarding the number of Muslims serving in Indian army.

  6. It is time Durand line is erased and Baluchis are also given their homeland. Khan of Kalat wanted to be part of India. Thanks to Mountbatten coaching and Edwina's 'Love' our Nobel obsessed and sexually frustrated Nehru opened up pre maturely and Khan got angry.

    Pashtoonkhwa, Baluchistan and pakistan( comprising of Punjab & Sindh) shd be new order of the day and correct this mistake. Northern areas of Kashmir, rightfully belong to India. In case they want to be part of us, India should take only the Shia parts of Gilgit & Baltistan. Others are too radicalised.

    There are too many secrets hidden n the cupboard and Pakistan can spill the beans. The price India and the Afghans have paid has been tremendous in terms of human life and money. We could have lifted our masses out of the poverty, better education but for the Terrorist state of pakistan Army.

    I agree with the grievances Afghans have with British. They are the originators of this cancer in this region. They encouraged the muslim league and handed over a 'Strategic piece of land' to Jinnah. In the process never setting the earlier wrong right.
    They should have erased the Durand line then and there in 1947 itself before leaving. When the Khan of Kalat was contemplating merger with India they again got in a hyper mode and dissuaded Nehru. Nehru's friend and philospher spoke prematurely on the radio and Khan got got upset. Caroe( The former foriegn secratary of british India & player of great game) realised without Baluchistan there was no Pkaistan. Baluchis bad luck was their land been next to iran and middle east oil wells and this was the real estate british were interested in and since caroe was advising US foreign office too.

    They denied India the chance to reclaim nothern areas of kashmir and british officers in Pak army and Indian army created a leadership confusion to halt the campaign. Rest of the role was played by ill advise of Mountbatten to Nehru to go to UN thus realising the aim of Denying India the access to Central Asia through afghanistan.

    Pakistan was a creation to serve UK and US interests in this region and this patchwork of ethnicities never worked, will not work. This injustice to Pashtoons shd be undone. Thats shd be the end goal of any Anglo-saxon presence.

  7. Does it still make sense for India to spend $1 billion+ in Afghanistan so that Taliban can take over the developed infrastructure?

    I think India should consider cutting the loss.

  8. forget about Afghan, our own army is not battle ready till 2027, the fact is the MOD, Army, Navy and AF are full of s***, pardon my language but we are the kind of peple who will issue tenders for Light utility helos to other companies when we already operate the best in their class the the Dhruv, instead of just ordering 500 more of them , we want imports. we are the kind of people who will hunt for howitzers when we already have Bhim instead of just upgrading and working on it more. We are the kind of people who will go for Barak NG which wont be ready by 2017 instead of just working on a longer range ramjet based akash-2 with ranges of over 120km and Aksha-3 with ranges of over 200km+. The kind of people who will not order more LCAs because they have not enough thrust, yet the LCA mk-1 in all counts is better than the mig-21 that fighter it will hopefully replace in the next 15 years of so. the kind of people who will issue tenders on engines for mk-2 LCA instead of just working hard to meet Kaveri's initial design requirements of 60KN dry and 90KN wet thrust. The kind of people who have developed some thing as inferior as the Insas using that powerless 5.56mm ammo that wont even kill properly. the kind of people who after so many terror attacks still equip police with Lathis and old brens that even my grandma aint scared of.

  9. Col Shulka,
    I hope you don't mind me answering some of the posters.
    Anon @ 20.18,
    It is in India's interest to manage afghanistan. Historically all the attacks on India have happened through the 'Khyber pass'. they have come whenever we have come out of rubble and on the road to prosperity add to that all the attacks on India ( so called Muslim conquests ) have come from central asia. If china could build a wall of thousands of kilometers, we must take care of few kilometer wide 'Khyber durra'. Moreover Afghan people/ pathans have been friendly to India in modern times. Why should they suffer because of the paranoia of Pukistan. Pathans , under Baccha khan wanted to be part of India but Kangress..... advised by Mountbatten off course. Gaffar khan cried at the Kangress meeting and said that it is a great injustice to Pathans.. Read the story on Patel.

    We should get out this timid mindset and get ready to defend our investments. Historically pathans have been beaten and that has been done by Indics - Sikhs and kept subdued for decades. Every Sikh general had a Durrani( Pathan) wife to boast of. We should be ready to land troopers ( I would love to see the Sikhs) with grand bargain from the Anglo saxons( World community ;-) ). We should ask for a 100KM wide lamd corridor through northern areas (legally Indian territory), afterall we are offering to help them stablise Afghanistan.

    We have to imaginative, think out of the box and seize the initiative and not tuck out tails and run.

    To Anon @ 13.42,
    Your understanding of defense matters is even worse than mine.

    Dhruv : Is light utility Copter and army is already operating almost 60 of them. 500??? where will HAL produce them out of , Musharraf ??? the running rate is not more than 20 a year.
    Integrating the weapons on the platform takes time and also the development of Helina is under progress.what about the integration with helmet? What do we do till then? sit on BUMS?

    Bhim: Well, in case you don't know. We don't produce 155 mm Barrel and Bhim is 155 mm gun on Arjun tank.

    Get a life man. It is good weapon for the role it is supposed to play. Every damn weapon in the world goes through issues. At -50C , even the balls freeze and no weapon system in the world is good enough to work every where. Americans are cribbing about M4, M6 and BTW they also use german, Belgian handguns. 5.56 mm ammo is b'cos of a doctrine - to decapitate and not kill, precisely you heard me right. A wounded comrade saps the morale and engages 4 more of the troopers. I can write long but forget it. Modernisation is an ongoing process and it is never complete. Only large issue is Communication & Artillery as of now

  10. Ajai,
    The name is spelled as "Barack", not "Barrak". Getting sloppy in your middle age, eh? :)

  11. chandrabhan @ 16:32

    OK let's assume India sends troops to Afghanistan. Taliban attacks Indian contingent and escapes into Pakistani territory.

    What is Indian response going to be? Hot chase? India didn't dare step on the other side of the border during 30 years of Pakistan supported terrorism and somehow India will do that from Afghanistan? I don't see that happening. India could ask the northern alliance to do sneak attacks in Pakistan against Taliban assets but that is something India's ruling class will never do.

    I will change my mind if India stands up to attacks on Indian assets from across the border. Unless there is a change in policy better to cut your loss and spend the 1 billion on some local infrastructure projects.

  12. Anon@8.52,
    Do you really think that Indian army don't retaliate? As far as Taliban attacking and escaping to Pakistan, well that is a possibility when we deploy our troopers in South of Afghanistan. We should deploy in the northern parts. South Afg shd continue to be managed by ISAF.
    It is difficult for Anglo-saxons to understand and work the fissures in pashtoons( Taliban are 99.99999% Pashtoons only and that too Gilzais). This is our backyard and we know it like the back of our hand. When a civilian like me knows so many things, Don't you think that people whose job it is know it much more.

    Durranis have ruled Afghanistan in past for almost 250 years and they are almost 'royal blood'. Karzai is a Durrani and Durrani's have lot of legitimacy from pashtoons also to rule being royal blood.

    Why do you think that these yahoos are attacking their own country now? They realised that they can no longer attack the kuffars on the other side , that is us, Indians. Troopers on ground in Afghanstan will hasten the process of Baluchistan's independence and also emergence of Pashtoonkhwa as an independent nation.

    Stop throwing this insult on Indian army. A rag tag bunch of Yahoos taking on an army that has paid in blood learning to fight low intensity insurgency and WE ARE THE BEST. We stablised Kashmir and without use of too much force( limitations of being an Indigenous population). Pakistan is using Heli Gunships and artillery shelling on it's population b'cos they are afraid of casualities and loss of face.

    All these threats and all from Taliban are mere rhetorics till they come in contact with Indian army. They know it too. Ranjit singhji's general Garard used to throw 5 pathans from Peshawar fort every morning to make his day..

    We know how to deal with them. We shd use this ability as a grand bargain otherwise the Chinese will come in and that would be trouble for us.

  13. India should send troops to Afghanistan. This is the right time do it. Pakistan is pre-occupied with its own internal battle.

    US needs more feet on the ground. They will shell out any amounts of $ to reduce their body bags count. We must use this opportunity to suck out money and equipment from the US to further ur own strategic interests. They spend about a million $$ a year per soldier in Afg. Give us half that money and high tech equipment and we should be ready to send a few thousand IA or paramilitary men to Afg.

    Such a move will send shivers down the spines of the Pakistanis. We will have them surrounded from all sides. India-Afg-Iran. We will be in a position of great strength to bring them to the table and get major concessions on all outstanding issues including Kashmir. They will not dare to send another swine to do another Mumbai.

    Such a move will also enhance our image in the global stage. We aspire to be a global power. We are salivating over a permanent seat in the security council. What better way to bolster our position than to fight from the forefront. We accuse the US of being selective in dealing with terror emanating from Pakistan -- what are we doing? We don't care what the ISAF does in Af-Pak border -- we don't care what happens to their men -- yet we expect global powers to address our concerns. Why should they?

    That s why imo India should seize this opportunity and go for the kill. The only objection to IA presence in Afg will come from Pakistan. Apart from them the whole world will welcome the move.
    IA presence in Afg will surely bring tremendous rewards for our country. So, the question is are we ready to take this gamble? Or will we cry over another missed opportunity 20 years from now?

  14. The ethnic struggle in Pakistan is the source of instability in Afghanistan. In other words, US/NATO will have to tolerate, if they choose, an unstable Afghanistan to keep Pakistan together. The opinion among the American citizens is slowly changing against Pakistan. Stop funding Pakistan military. Will the US administration read this change? The war in Afghanistan will be won or lost in Pakistan.

  15. pull NATO out and hand over afghanistan to pakistan I say . It will soon become a vietnam around the pakistani neck and sink the the bleeders . having taken over afghanistan the taliban will not allow the Pakistanis lording it over them for long afterall they will then be answerable to the people of afghanistan .


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