What’s behind the ‘surge’ in Afghanistan?

Afghans wonder whether Iraq tactics will work for them.

Can a “surge” work here, as it did in Iraq? asked the Daily Afghanistan in an editorial. Even before the inauguration of its next president, the U.S. has announced a new tactic for Afghanistan. It plans to double the number of U.S. troops, from around 30,000 to 60,000. Frankly, we are not “overly optimistic” about the plan. Counting all NATO troop contributions, there are more than 60,000 foreign forces in the country right now, “but they were not successful in coping with the security challenges.” The real problem is a lack of coordination between NATO on this side of the border and the Pakistani army on the other side. Whenever one side is attacking, the Taliban can simply retreat across the border. Adding more troops without revamping strategy is likely to result in nothing but additional civilian deaths.

There’s an even worse aspect to the proposed Afghan surge, said Payam-e Mojahed. The U.S. plans to arm tribal militias to help fight against Taliban and al Qaida elements on the tribes’ own turf. The Americans said that militia forces in Iraq were key to the success of the surge there, so they want to repeat the strategy here. But that would be disastrous. Arming militias would completely undermine the process of disarming the former mujahedin—a process that, while incomplete, has been key to calming regional violence and ensuring the rule of a single government. Tribal militias will surely follow their own goals, the goals of the tribe. “The question that does not have a clear answer is why America is not strengthening the national police and national army in Afghanistan instead.”

We can answer that, said Weesa. “The international community wants the crisis to continue rather than ensuring stability in Afghanistan.” That is the only way to explain how the Taliban can record success after success over the years, coming ever “closer to the gates of Kabul despite the military presence of 40 countries.” It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the foreign forces are deliberately allowing the Taliban to grow and spread, in order to cause upheaval in Afghanistan and the region. It’s all about ensuring U.S. influence in Central Asia, said Payman. The southern part of Afghanistan, which borders Pakistan, is where the Taliban are concentrated, and the foreign forces have never allowed the Afghan army to operate there because they want to “oversee the war so they can keep it going as long as they want.” Until recently, the British have “considered that area their sphere of influence.” The American troop surge is intended to “push the rival, Britain, out of the south and control the area on its own.”

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It may well work, said Cheragh. The growing tension between India and Pakistan ensures that less attention is paid to Afghanistan. The U.S. could have exerted itself to mediate between India and Pakistan, but instead it is sitting by passively, allowing the crisis to build. “America is trying to take advantage of mistrust among big Asian countries to expand its hegemony over the continent, which does not seem to have an owner at the moment.”

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