On the eve of our final and formal departure from Iraq, the GOP is shouting that the U.S. should have engaged in tougher diplomatic negotiations and insisted we keep a sizable force in-country.
The Obama Administrations has made great strides in acting with one simple idea in mind: Other Nations are Not the U.S. and Will Not Be Better if They Try to Become US.
Afghanistan provides a valuable illustration.
The War in Afghanistan began on October 7, 2001 as the armed forces of the United States of America, the United Kingdom and the Afghan United Front (the Northern Alliance) launched Operation Enduring Freedom. The primary drivers of the invasion was the September 11 attacks on the United States, and growing concerns about spreading Al Qaeda operations with the stated goal of dismantling the Al-Qaeda terrorist organization and ending its use of Afghanistan as a base AND Taliban actions involving assassinations of tribal leaders in the North of Afghanistaan coupled with the imposition of a radical minority view of Sha’ria Law.
The goals of the action being taken were clear:
a) From the U.S. perspective, go after and eliminate Al-Qaeda as a threat,
b) From the Northern Alliance point of view, drive the Taliban from power an restore local governance.
But from the first Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld et.al. added a goal:
The U.S. would remove the Taliban regime from power and create a viable democratic state.
Northern Alliance leaders while happy for the logistical, intelligence, transport, and intelligence support and for the action by specialized U.S. and British units, made it clear that that goal was not their goal.
By January 1, 2002 the war was over.
With less than 5000 U.S.troops, mostly Special Forces and Rangers, assisting, the much larger Northern Alliance forces, based out of villages and only massing when that would be most effective, the Taliban had been driven from most villages and removed from control in all of the cities. Al Qaeda had abandoned all its operational centers and had fled to the AfPak Border lands. THAT WAR WAS WON. BUT WE WERE ABOUT TO LOSE THE PEACE AND TRIGGER ANOTHER WAR.
Things went awry. Rather than pursuing AQ into Tora Bora and demanding Pakistani help with incursions into the AfPak no man’s land, the U.S. turned to nation building to create a permanent extension of U.S. power into Asia, just as it hoped to do in the upcoming Iraq War.
Following a Loya Jirga or Grand Council of all major Afghan factions, tribal leaders, and former exiles, an interim Afghan government was established in Kabul under Hamid Karzai an ethnic Pashtun of the Popalzai tribe.
The Problem: The Loya Jirga did not reflect the alliance that unseated the Taliban. The Council should have been dominated by the tribal groups of the Northern Alliance who were mostly rural, conservative Muslims and supportive of localized government. Instead the Council was packed with an urban alliance of wealthy individuals, mosly Pashtuns, aligned with the West and not by those who had won the war.
The Northern Alliance with its conservative, but not Taliban, Muslim clerical support wanted a symbolic head of state, favoring a restored monarch, and a small central government controlled by a parliament favoring village representation in Kabul.
In April 2002, while the country was under NATO occupation, Zahir Shah, the exiled king, returned to Afghanistan to open the Loya Jirga, which met in June. After the fall of the Taliban, there were now open calls for a return to the monarchy. Zahir Shah himself let it be known that he would accept whatever responsibility was placed on him by the Grand Council.
However the U.S. refused to consider this option and used its military presence and promised post-war economic relief to pressure him. He was obliged/compelled/forced to publicly step aside at the behest of the United States because of the many delegates prepared to vote for Zahir Shah and block the US-backed Hamid Karzai.
It was because of this U.S. pressure that Zahir Shah now claimed that while he was prepared to become head of state he did not necessarily believe that role to be as monarch: “I will accept the responsibility of head of state if that is what the Loya Jirga demands of me, but I have no intention to restore the monarchy. I do not care about the title of king. The people call me Baba (Father) and I prefer this title.”
He was given the ceremonial title “Father of the Nation” in the current Constitution of Afghanistan symbolizing his role in Afghanistan’s history as a nonpolitical symbol of national unity. He never was consulted or asked to act in any official capacity. The title of the ‘Father of the Nation’ dissolved with his death.
The U.S. had clearly backed those aligned with its own interests which was the urban and Western oriented Pashutuns. As a result the Northern Alliance disengaged from the Karzai-Kabul government declaring it inauthentic and unrepresentative
They have only cooperated with limited actions in support of their local priorities but not so-called “national” priorities. The Taliban has renewed its efforts and the U.S. has been pulled into a conflict that the former U.S.S.R. experienced in its own Afghan adventure in state building. I have every confidence that the Northern Alliance will be able to do what it did in 2002 when we leave. It is now well armed and well trained. What they lack is motivation. They will not fight for Karzai.
Despite his complete reliance on the U.S., Karzai is NOT a friend of the U.S. He is a loyal member of the Pashtun aristocracy who supports and is supported by the money that flows in from the West. Like similar regimes in the past, he says what is convenient¬, takes little risk, and always has a well financed escape in mind.
Not surprisingly, he is very disturbed that the U.S. is backing talks with the Northern Alliance AND the Taliban.
This is the Separate Peace he fears.