A New Path In Afghanistan?

October 6, 2009

The United States lost no troops when it toppled the Taliban in 2001, but has lost more than 800 in Afghanistan in the years since. Most of these troops were lost after 2006 when the real fight was taken to quell Taliban insurgencies aided by outside groups. Now the American military commanders have indicated that they are moving from a counter-insurgency plan to a more regional encompassing counter-terrorism strategy. This new approach would certainly include Pakistan, because a counter-terrorism strategy would have to focus on al Qaeda and the group’s leadership are currently hiding within Pakistan’s boarders.

While there are some al Qaeda elements in Afghanistan, an argument that is being made is that al Qaeda is being kept out of the country by NATO’s presence. If Afghanistan is permitted to fall to the Taliban once more, it could again become a safe haven for al Qaeda’s terrorism network. This would not only give al Qaeda a springboard to stage attacks on the United States, but it would also permit al Qaeda to infiltrate other countries in the area and potentially Central Asia.

The dictators in Central Asia have been brutally oppressing moderate Islam for the last twenty years. Therefore, there is fertile ground in Central Asia for the Taliban to facilitate al Qaeda in exporting its militant Islamic ideology.

However, the real stakes in play is the future stability of the entire region. The future of Afghanistan and its viability as a multi-ethnic state hinge on NATO efforts to keep the Taliban in check. Even more dangerous is the possibility that the return of the Taliban and a new civil war in Afghanistan could bring both Pakistan and India into a proxy war backing opposite sides. With both Pakistan and India having nuclear weapons, this would most certainly lead to the further nuclear destabilization of Pakistan.

UPDATE:

It appears that there is a divide among the military and President Obama’s advisors as to the correct strategy going forward. My next post will unpack the debate.

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