Originally posted October 22, 2015.
Former CIA bin Laden unit chief Michael Scheuer writes, “The only effective U.S. strategy for Afghanistan, then, is to immediately and totally withdraw: stop berating Putin as he tries-but will fail-to defend Russia’s national interests in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan; quietly rebuild the worn U.S. military for use in decisively closing the southern border.”
Dr. Scheuer summarizes the answer to Afghanistan with five key points outlined for readers below:
First, acknowledge that the Afghan war is irretrievably lost. The Joint Chiefs are now headed by a Marine general, Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., for whom truth, courage, regard for his troops’ lives, and frank manliness ought to be second nature, and who has been taught that the best generals know victory when they see it, but also know and admit when they are beaten and prefer to stop the waste that is the only product of reinforcing defeat. He should publicly say what he knows to be true and then resign his post.
Second, welcome and act to immediately exploit the tremendous opportunity to escape Afghanistan presented to the United States by Russian President Putin. Putin already has the Russian military positioned to further intervene in the Ukraine. He also has started what will be a long, costly, and losing war in Syria, a place that holds a potential threat to Russian security because of the thousands of Russian and CIS Muslims – up to 7,000 the Russian media claim — who are fighting there alongside the Islamic State. The real and immediate Islamist threat to Russia and the CIS states, however, is Afghanistan.
Third, recognize that the Afghan threat that Putin’s Russia now encounters is far more formidable than the one from Syria. Afghanistan has a long and relatively undefended border with Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan, and each of these Central Asian states — add Kyrgyzstan to the three noted — has a restive and increasingly militant Muslim population; all four also have contingents of their nationals fighting with the Islamic State in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. This is a problem in itself for Moscow, but Russia’s outlook is further darkened by the growing power of the Taliban in northern Afghanistan — note the recent battles in Kunduz — and the fact that much of the currently non-Taliban population of the northern region are ethnic Central Asians, many of whom fought as mujahedin against the Red Army in the Afghan-Soviet War (1979-1992) and still seek revenge on the Russians for their barbarity in that war.
Fourth, conclude that the Taliban’s growing strength in the north is bad enough for Russia, but that the arrival and quick numerical growth and geographic dispersal of Islamic State (IS) forces gives Moscow, the Central Asian regimes, and China a near-term and deeply unsettling nightmare. IS forces, of course, are in Afghanistan to try to displace the Taliban as the primary Sunni Islamist organization in the country and region. They also are there, however, to try to expand the IS’s caliphate into Iran, India, and Pakistan, but most especially into Central Asia and western China. This is a reality that Putin, the Central Asian leaders, and Beijing cannot ignore. They would have to fill the Afghan void created if the U.S. military presence and U.S. funding are terminated because neither the Kabul government nor its military are viable without substantial and prolonged foreign military protection and money.
Fifth, regard any U.S. politician, pundit, reverend, or academic who whines that a complete U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan would betray “our Afghan allies” as a person to be netted and packed off to an asylum. The Afghan regime will not fight, cannot govern, stole tens of billions of U.S. dollars, traffics in heroin, and is asking Russia for military and financial assistance. Clearly, the United States can only gain by losing this ally.
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