As a Michigan Army National Guardsman, I personally know a lot of Soldiers who have, are, and will serve in harm’s way, fulfilling their role in the Global War on Terror. The politically correct term now is overseas contingency operations, but that doesn’t sit well with me. It’s not a contingency when you respond with military force against an enemy that attacked our homeland, killing thousands of ordinary civilians just going about their daily lives. They were clearly non-combatants.
Michigan Guardsmen have been involved since Day 1. At first, Air Guard jets took part in Combat Air Patrols to defend our skies. Then Army Guardsmen took part in airport security and border security missions. Michigan Guard units have been involved in Iraq since the beginning and there’s not been a day since that Michigan has not had citizen-Soldiers and/or citizen-Airmen in country. Afghanistan is no stranger to Michigan Guardsmen, either. Many have served in both countries.
Today, Army Guardsmen are preparing for their next deployment. While Iraq is still a dangerous place, it’s far better off, its government more stable, and troop casualties down following the surge there. The surge, then, is a strategy that’s proven to work and Gen. Stanley McChrystle, the commander in Afghanistan, knows how to implement it.
Protecting the populace from Taliban brutality and depriving the Taliban access to terrorists-for-hire are the key objectives for a surge in Afghanistan. The counterinsurgency approach won’t work on its own in Afghanistan for a number of reasons.
But Afghanistan is extremely tribalistic, a concept most Westerners don’t truly understand. Nonetheless, engaging tribal leaders is critical to success in Afghanistan. Combining the surge and counterinsurgency operations will help, along with training the Afghan National Army and security forces. All of these measures can be summed up as “show me.” Talk is cheap, but actions are telling.
And that is the problem with the central government which we see as corrupt. Average Afghans don’t see any benefit from Pres. Hhamid Karzai’s regime. The central government certainly should be made more accountable to the people. Still, what Westerners call corruption takes place at the local level as well. US policy should focus on the local level, therefore. The mission, afterall, is to deny the Taliban control in the region in order to prevent Al-Qaeda from safe refuge. Unfortunately, I think people like Hilary Clinton want to cast Afghanistan in the likeness of the US. US politicians oversimplify Afghanistan, either to dumb it down for us mere mortals, or because they really don’t get it.
We—the US—also need to ensure Pakistan doesn’t fear US abandonment in the region. Because the US wiped its hands and walked away after the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan, conventional Pakistani wisdom is to expect the same. Their concern about this is India will step in, leaving Pakistan surrounded by its long-time enemy. Still, the US needs a stable Pakistan and that means a stable Afghanistan. Consider, for just a moment, a nuclear armed Taliban.
Did I mention Afghanistan and its Taliban governance is what harbored and permitted Al-Queda’s attack on the US? It’s a shame we were distracted from the primary mision by Pres. George W. Bush’s incursion into Iraq, sanctioned by our inept Congress.