Saturday, April 26, 2008

Afghan President: Stop Killing Taliban

What is politics if not just a random mess of relationships and interests?

Yesterday in a interview with the New York Times, Afghan President Hamid Karzai demanded that coalition (NATO) forces, especially US forces, stop targeting and killing Taliban militants because they are killing civilians. He suggests that the US military go after "terror sanctuaries" in the wildly unstable Pakistani frontier lands across the Afghan border.

What does this all mean though?

Does he like terrorism and the Taliban now? Has he entered some kind of unholy alliance with his enemies? The answer to those questions is No. What did happen was that like any politician when you start seeing an election coming up you must ruffle your feathers and sing to the tune of the electorate. The Afghan elections are just around the corner and one of the top issues on Afghan minds is being more independent AND reducing the number of casualties from military strikes of villages. On the issue of further sovereign independence (at least topically) Karzai absolutely needs the US and NATO troops in his country to hold it all together because his Afghan Army is weaker than most militias in Iraq, so Karzai instead of enacting real change that would anger his closest allies he has opted to try to solve the problem by changing the image of the US forces.

The Taliban are still out there and attacking Afghan targets but there is no way that any military action will oust them from their positions in Afghanistan and Pakistan . The only way to oust a political foe who is among the people is have the people turn against them, and with significant amounts of villagers and innocent civilians being killed by US air strikes the people are angry at the US military and the government for not protecting them. So, Karzai's move is partially targeted towards answering the people's cry for help and partially targeted towards bringing down the popularity of Taliban and other renegade forces in the far reaches of his country. He figures, most logically, that if the majority of Afghan casualties are caused by Taliban attacks (such as one of the most recent on a police station) the people will slowly turn against them, and according to every piece of military literature (including the US War College's study on insurgency) when an insurgency loses the backing of the people it will fade out of existence very quickly.

However, I know a few of you reading this must be outraged wondering how this "peaceful" approach would ever work against groups who are so ideologically driven to kill people. My approach to the problem would be more two-pronged, part precise military intervention and part peaceful interaction. The US military is a beautiful machine of force, capable of either leveling a country or two simultaneously or silently putting a bullet in someone with ever being detected. The military is currently using its big hammer to crush targets in Afghanistan, which is not the best instrument to use when it comes to an insurgency-like movement. Instead the US military and coalition forces should be focusing on Special Operations (even more) in order to exact scalpel-like efficiency in removing and arresting the Taliban's key members, and to keep civilians happy, publicize the Afghan Army's a role in them.

Terrorists must be dealt with no doubt, but air strikes and large show of force attacks do more to help insurgencies by scaring and killing civilians.


New York Times article: Here
MSNBC Story: On Karzai's Comments
CNN Story: On the Afghan Police attacked

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