Journal: Ralph Peters on Vietnam-istan

McChrystal: A'stan commander doing his best -- but for what?
McChrystal: A'stan commander doing his best -- but for what?

Tip of the hat to the New York Post, the primary outlet for Ralph Peters' syndicated column.  Below the article is reproduced in its entirety for archival purposes and with permission of the author.  Clicking on the photograph leads to the original article for as long as it remains available.

More Troops Aren't The Answer

New York Post

August 3, 2009

By Ralph Peters

OUR troops in Afghanistan are performing heroically, doing everything we ask of them. But we shouldn't ask them to die without a purpose.

We're floundering in Afghanistan — confusing techniques with strategy. Not one senior official, political or mi! litary, has explained convincingly why we're still there.

Only a few months ago, our “strategy” became the pacification of villages, providing security to the inhabitants and extending the writ of the government in Kabul.

But Afghans see their government as an enemy — a cabal of thieves grabbing all they can. We're fighting for an Afghan government that won't fight for itself or sacrifice to help its own people.

Our own officers don't trust the Kabul government. Why should Afghans believe us when we promote it? They know what they'll face — from both sides — when we leave.

Now RUMINT (“rumor intelligence,” the military term for insider scuttlebutt) has it that the new strategy isn't working and, instead of occupying rural hamlets, we'll shift to a newer new strategy of protecting major population centers.

On the plus side, that's what worked reasonably well for Afghanistan's medieval rulers, who concentrated on the ownersh! ip of cities and caravan routes.

On the down side, it never made Afghanistan a real country.

Worse, RUMINT also holds that our commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stan McChrystal (a terrific soldier tasked with the impossible), may request additional American troops above the 21,000 already in the pipeline.

Their mission would be to buy time to build Afghanistan's security forces. Yet, after almost eight years of US efforts, the illiterate Afghans who Kabul press-ganged into uniform still perform abysmally (a few elite units notwithstanding). They don't believe in their government, either.

So our troops shoulder deadly burdens for a corrupt government that sides with the Taliban in the media to win votes from a hostile population. How, exactly, is this supposed to come out?

The echoes of Vietnam keep getting louder. Our well-intentioned aid only corrupts. We never pause to try to think like Afghans. And we comfort ourselves with platitudes, then lie about our prospects.

When political and milit! ary leaders don't know what to do, they send more troops, hoping things will magically work out. In Iraq, the surge was part of a comprehensive plan. In Afghanistan, though, another surge would be rubbing a rabbit's foot and crossing our fingers.

Meanwhile, Afghans in the countryside just wish we'd leave them alone (Vietnam redux). They don't know why we're there any more than we do.

What does this accomplish for our security? How does occupying a village in Helmand Province or even a major Afghan city deter al Qaeda's Arab leadership from its global jihad? Despicable as they are, the Taliban didn't attack our homeland.

We're fighting the wrong enemy, in the wrong place, in the wrong way. And sending more troops won't fix it.

The Taliban can't defeat us, but we can't win if we set ourselves absurd goals. Is an endless stalemate in a wasteland worth it?

We shouldn't evacuate Afghanistan entirely. It remains an excellent mother! ship for a smaller, hyper-lethal US force that would co ntinue to hunt and kill al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists in the back-country that straddles the border with Pakistan.

But the idea of building a modern Afghan state with a respected rule-of-law government is an impossible dream — and not worth the life of a single soldier, Marine or Navy corpsman.

Afghanistan isn't the heartland of terror. It's just the heart of darkness.

Readers of this column know I believe in killing our enemies wherever we can find them. But I don't believe in killing our own troops because our leaders duck fundamental questions.

During his election campaign, President Obama promised us that he knew how to fix Afghanistan. His macho rhetoric made it his war. But I'm willing to let him off the hook on that one — if we just stop pouring lives and money down a bottomless rat-hole. Concentrate on destroying our global enemies, not on teaching hygiene to Afghan hillbillies.

In the words Gen. ! David Petraeus applied to Iraq, “Tell me how this ends?”

It looks alarmingly as though the answer is “Vietnam.” I recently joked to a fellow military retiree that, if the parallels to the 1960s get any stronger, we might at least get some good music out of this mess.

I believe that Gen. McChrystal is doing his best. I'm convinced his subordinate officers are doing their best. And I know our troops are doing their best.

But for what?

Ralph Peters is Fox News' strategic analyst.

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