Kagan, Kagan and Dubik is not a law firm, but the by-line of a Washington Post op-ed arguing for more, deeper, longer US presence in Afghanistan. Their argument against withdrawal goes like this:
Withdrawal now would allow Afghanistan to again become a haven for terrorists.
Sorry, K,K &D. Many, many nations serve as havens for terrorists. Indeed, thanks to large-scale, unfettered immigration from the Islamic world, it is hard to find a country where "terrorists" (i.e., jihadists) do not exist in dangerous concentrations. But somehow safe havens from Iran to the UK, from Gaza to Thailand, do not require costly build-ups of US troops levels to address the threats the "terrorists" within them pose to the US and its allies. It is only when you add on the disastrous policy of nation-building that the US presence is required.
It would destabilize Pakistan by giving refuge to terrorist and insurgent groups attacking Islamabad --
such groups already have plenty of refuge, for example, in the Northwest Territories. But Pakistan's "stability" is not our problem. Its nukes are.
-- and by strengthening the forces within the Pakistani government and security forces that continue to support the Taliban as a hedging strategy against precisely such an American retreat.
"Hedging strategy"? Maybe, as co-jihadists, they just like the Taliban.
Pursuing an offshore strategy of surgical strikes using aircraft and Special Forces units would destabilize Pakistan for the same reasons.
Further, if such a strategy could work against al-Qaeda, the commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal -- the most accomplished practitioner of Special Forces counterterrorism campaigns -- would be advocating it. Instead, he is advocating counterinsurgency.
Wait a minute. K,K & D bill themselves as advisors to Gen. McChrystal, a fact which does rather blunt this alleged touche ("Further ... ). McChrystal and his supporters are clearly committed to the "counterinsurgency" -- the PC, See-No-Islam policy of fighting to win unwinnable Afghan "hearts and minds" as the alleged key to victory -- although when earlier this year I asked Frederick Kagan for a historic model of COIN success he came up with nothing but Iraq, a lousy model at best.
The fact is, withdrawal from Afghanistan to a new line of battle begins by dumping the notion of winning Afghan "hearts and minds." We need to pursue a US-centric strategy of destroying America's enemies as necessary, not an Afghan-centric strategy of "protecting" civilian populations to make them like us. Here's what Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely (USA ret.) told me last spring about Afghanistan.
"There's nothing to win there," he explained, engaging in an all-too-exotic display of common sense. "What do you get for it? What's the return? Well, the return's all negative for the United States."
The general continued: "This doesn't mean giving up battle. What it means is you transition to a more realistic, affordable strategy that keeps them (the jihadist enemy) from spreading."
Such a strategy, Vallely explained, relies on "the maximum use of unconventional forces," such as Navy SEALS and other special forces, who can be deployed as needed from what are known in military parlance as "lily pads" -- outposts or jumping-off points in friendly countries (Israel, Northern Kurdistan, India, Philippines, Italy, Djibouti ... ) and from U.S. aircraft carrier strike groups. Such strike groups generally include eight to 10 vessels "with more fire power," the general noted, "than most nations." These lily pads become "bases we can launch from any time we want to," eliminating the need for massive land bases such as Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, by now a small city of 20,000 American personnel who continuously need to be supplied and secured at enormous expense.
"There's no permanent force," the general said. "That's the beauty of it." We watch, we wait and when U.S. interests are threatened, "we basically use our strike forces to take them out, target by target." This would work whether the threat came from Al Qaeda, Pakistani nukes or anything else.
He continued: "This idea that we're going to go in and bring democracy to these tribal cultures isn't going to work. If we have a problem with terrorist countries, like Iran, it's a lot cheaper to go in and hit them and get back out."
In other words, don't give up the battle; just give up the nation-building. "It's up to somebody else to build nations," the general said. "Not us."