Bob Krause, US Senate Candidate (D) From Iowa Speaks To The Nation On Af-Pak
Faced with reports that President Obama will order a significant increase in troop strength in Afghanistan in his speech Tuesday night, Bob Krause, Democratic Candidate for the U. S. Senate for Iowa, today called on President Obama to halt the rush for escalation.
“The pending decision regarding U. S. troop strength in Afghanistan is not a liberal-conservative or a partisan Republican-Democrat issue. This is an issue of geopolitical analysis and how this decision will impact America’s strategic position in the world. Too many Republican holdovers in the Pentagon are giving neoconservative advice and that is preventing Obama from considering a truly full range of options.
There are interests, such as those in India, that wish us to remain in Afghanistan because it creates a strategic advantage against Pakistan from the north for dominance of the sub-continent. A strengthened Afghanistan directly threatens Pakistan’s hold on its Pashtun areas and places Pakistan in the position of dealing with active national threats from both the eastern border with India and the northern border with Afghanistan. Because of this, continuing U. S. involvement in Afghanistan becomes indirectly a surrogate war between Indian and Pakistan. Both nations are suffering from continual terrorist attacks and regional insurgencies. Consequently, American policy may actually be pushing the two nations closer to conflict.
This intervention has been compounded by injected media feeds that become “agents provocateur” by neoconservative interests. Reports published by Seymour Hersh earlier this year that Americans planned to seize Pakistani nuclear weapons have been clearly debunked. However, they linger and fester and may have cost the U. S. large troop reinforcements from Pakistan. And, because of the American penchant for a short media sound bit, massive oversimplification of complex interrelationships is skewing the U. S. understanding of what is actually occurring in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Other interests in central Asia recognize that deep Afghanistan involvement ties America to the mast in terms of military flexibility. Recent press reports show that many of the arms used against American troops are of high-quality Russian manufacture. Additionally, reports from Pakistan indicate seizures of weapons caches in Waziristan showing Indian origin, weapons which could easily be used across the border against Americans. Nothing prevents the escalation of the current conflict from current levels to a broad regional war which could encompass Iranisn incursions into Pakistani Balochistan against insurgents there, or a wider confrontation between Indian and Pakistan over Kashmir, which could easily go nuclear.
Would General McChrystal’s proposed 240,000 man Afghan army then join the conflict against Pakistan, America’s only military ally in the region, as many believe? No effort to consider these contingencies or the wider regional conflict they entail has been made. Further, if we commit these additional troops in Afghanistan and then there is a crisis in a part of the world that is much more important to us, such as the straits of Hormuz, the Baltics, the Korean peninsula, or the Straits of Formosa, where will we find our response forces? We will again be tied up without a response option. Do we really want this to happen?
Given the geopolitical problems that we will create by an escalation in Afghanistan, we have to ask ourselves if a victory in Afghanistan, even if achieved, is sustainable? Perhaps it is a drifting dune in the desert? In even the most optimistic scenario, victory cannot be sustained without a long term commitment to keep troops in Central Asia. Here they will be surrounded by potentially hostile powers while years of costly nation building continues. We then play the same game that we have played in Iraq — only instead of separating the Shiites and the Sunnis — we sit on top of a tribal civil war amongst the Pashtuns.
Civil warfare in the Pashtun tribal nation is of long-standing and nearly intractable dimensions. In the late 19th Century, the Pashtun tribal nation was squarely divided geographically between Pakistan and Afghanistan by the British along the so-called the Durand Line. This is the cause of much of the problem today. The governments of both Afghanistan and Pakistan have long-term interests in maintaining their territorial integrity. The Pakistanis are fearful that a newly minted Afghanistan army, in alliance with India, will overpower them and take away the Pashtun territories. This has the effect of nixing cooperation.
At the same time, the porous border between the two halves of the Pashtun tribal nation have allowed Pakistan and Afghanistan to be played off against each other in the effort to secure the loyalty of the citizens of the area. The Taliban within the Pushtun tribal nation do not have a defined command structure as we understand it. The tribal structure has over sixty sub-tribes and thousands of clans. This creates a series of amorphous sympathetic alliances that are often battle and situation specific. Because they prize their homeland and are wary of outsiders, they will continue to be stirred up against the American and NATO forces for as long as the American and NATO forces are among them.
If we persist with our ramp-up, we will likely get temporary supremacy so long as we are in a particular area. But when we leave, tribal dynamics will again rule. In the meantime, our buildup and training of the Afghanistan Army — as well as the displacement of hostile fighters into Pakistan — may force Pakistan into a situation where the national leadership believes they they have to strike out.
Unfortunately, the voices that give this different assessment of reality on the ground are being drowned out. For this reason, I will continue to use my campaign as a bully pulpit to raise the alarm bells about the quagmire that we seem to be pushing ourselves more into even more deeply than before. I will be announcing a response team to speak directly to the people of Iowa and the United States immediately after President Obama’s speech on Tuesday evening.