Afghanistan Exit Strategy: “Fight, Talk, Build” Working (for Fight, Anyway)

Training exercise in Kandahar using helicopter from Afghan Air Force, September 17, 2011. (Army photo)

As the US stumbles around, trying to find its way out of a country it has occupied for over ten years, the path “forward” remains as murky as ever.  Just under two weeks ago, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was chosen as the point person for introducing the new US catchphrase “fight, talk, build” that is meant to describe US strategy in the region.  As I noted at the time, the US seemed to completely miss the irony of using the country’s chief diplomat to introduce a new strategy that is based on the concept of shoot first and ask questions later.

We learn in this morning’s Washington Post that the US strategy of attacking the Haqqani network on both sides of the Pakistan border before starting serious efforts to hold talks with them has only increased the frequency of attacks from them.  As the remarkable passage from the Post below illustrates, the US had to endure no fewer than five large, high profile attacks from the Haqqani network before considering the possibility that the attacks could be a return of “fight” for “fight” and an attempt to improve the Haqqani position for later negotiations rather than the laughable early suggestion from the US that by resorting to more spectacular attacks, the Haqqanis were demonstrating that they had been weakened significantly:

This official and others acknowledged that the success of the strategy, which Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has described as “fight, talk and build,” depends on a positive outcome for several variables that currently appear headed in the wrong direction.

On Saturday, insurgents staged a suicide bomb attack in Kabul that killed at least 12 Americans, a Canadian and four Afghans. A similar truck bomb attack Monday left three United Nations employees dead in the southern city of Kandahar.

The attacks were the latest in a series of spectacular insurgent strikes that have made reconciliation seem remote. In September, the Pentagon blamed the Haqqani network for a truck bombing of a combat outpost west of Kabul that wounded 77 U.S. troops and for an assault by gunmen on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

A week after the embassy strike, a suicide bomber killed Burhanuddin Rabbani, the head of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, which is in charge of reconciliation negotiations for the government.

U.S. officials have said they were unsure whether the attacks were a reflection of insurgent military weakness, a rejection of talks or a burst of aggression designed to improve the militants’ negotiating position — similar to the escalation of U.S. attacks on the Haqqani network.

That bit at the beginning should not be overlooked: the success of the “fight, talk, build” strategy “depends on a positive outcome for several variables that currently appear headed in the wrong direction.”  Mechanisms for reversing the current direction of these variables are not presented in the article.

Meanwhile, the first in a series of “conferences” has gotten underway in Turkey, with Afghan President Hamid Karzai meeting directly with Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari. Parallel meetings between the two countries’ top military officers are also taking place. Clinton had been scheduled to join the conference tomorrow, but her trip was canceled yesterday, apparently because of her mother’s ill health (Update: there are reports on Twitter that Dorothy Rodham has died).  It looks as though the US feels talking can wait, as no replacement for Clinton at the conference has been announced.

While the Obama administration begins to think about preparing to maybe get the Pentagon perhaps to agree to withdraw a few more troops out of Afghanistan,  we see the terrain being softened a bit more for the eventual realization that all of the US efforts  and investments in “training” Afghan forces are destined for failure.  It appears from this article that David Petraeus, who is touted in the press as responsible for training when it is described as being successful, will escape blame for the failure in Afghanistan because William Caldwell is described in the article as having “overseen all NATO training in Afghanistan for the past two years”.  In true Petraeus fashion, the slate for the previous eight years is not just wiped clean, but ceases to exist.  Petreaus’ name does not appear in the article.

There is one truly refreshing bit of honesty that breaks through into the Reuters piece on training of Afghan troops:

But senior U.S. military officials admit that money has not always been spent in the wisest ways.

“We have received an awful lot of money from the U.S. government. We need to use it differently now,” said U.S. Army Major General Peter Fuller, deputy commander for programs and resources within the NATO training mission.

Another U.S. official in Kabul, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the mission was buying up high-tech equipment to satisfy Washington, while more basic needs were ignored.

Yup.  “Training” Afghan forces turns out to be nothing more than an exercise in further lining the pockets of military contractors and the lawmakers who benefit from their lobbying.  With that driving force in mind, efforts to achieve a true exit from Afghanistan will face fierce resistance in Washington.

Tweet about this on Twitter10Share on Reddit0Share on Facebook6Google+0Email to someone

8 Responses to Afghanistan Exit Strategy: “Fight, Talk, Build” Working (for Fight, Anyway)

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8

Emptywheel Twitterverse
bmaz @joshgerstein @hbottemiller @ObamaFoodorama Were they screwing or drinking the sushi?
3mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @CBSAndrew @MikeSacksEsq Joined; good to see Mike back.
6mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz And I still maintain Naverette has far greater Constitutional significance than Schuette. It deserves more attention.
8mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz Here's @ScottGreenfield on why Navarette is such a heinous decision, and why Scalia's dissent is praiseworthy http://t.co/JkFbebz4tC
10mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz The dragnet too. Getting snitches big FBI goal RT @adamgoldmanwp Lawsuit: FBI using no-fly list to recruit informants http://t.co/TqeLQT8gPO
19mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz This quote by Guantanamo lead prosecutor Andrea Lockhart is proof of the total farce that are the Gitmo Show Trials https://t.co/NmvPfzWXdZ
31mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @carolrosenberg So she has never practiced in federal, state or local courts?
34mreplyretweetfavorite
JimWhiteGNV With Removal of Materials Under CW Agreement Nearly Complete, Concern in Syria Over Chlorine Use http://t.co/FuRNs7bmpT
36mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @ScottGreenfield @VolokhC @OrinKerr That will be one of the saddest moves imaginable in the legal blogging community.
36mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel Reup: Back Door Searches: One of Two Replacements for the Internet Dragnet? http://t.co/17vCc9ZbRe
41mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @michaelwhitney Have you considered meth?
42mreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @EdgeofSports FYI: A look at Pat Tillman the man, apart from football and Army http://t.co/LHFaQOUS99
48mreplyretweetfavorite
November 2011
S M T W T F S
« Oct   Dec »
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930