Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) published an op-ed in the Denver Post this week, arguing that the US needs to scale backs its goals dramatically in Afghanistan.
Our current mission in Afghanistan goes far beyond accomplishing our national security objectives. We need to lower the governance bar in Afghanistan by allowing decentralized institutions that, albeit imperfect by Western standards, are culturally much closer to the Afghan people. We must de-emphasize the restructuring of Afghan society as a primary objective, and stop building costly infrastructure projects at U.S. taxpayer expense. An abbreviated version of the counterinsurgency strategy should be limited to relatively secure areas and a counterterrorism approach of targeting threats in specific areas instead of occupying key terrain should be used for Taliban-controlled regions.
For those two perfectly logical even obvious but nonetheless never-articulated boldfaced points alone, Rep. Coffman, a former Marine, deserves kudos. I even find myself grateful to him just for broaching the topic, which indicates the extent to which our representatives have to date wholly abdicated their responsibilities regarding the continued, excessive and wasteful drain on the American people (the military) and the American treasury ($320 million A DAY) that our ongoing inefficient (to say the least) but ignored wars represent.
Coffman sees continued US security interests in the Afghan region mainly in "the fate of Pakistan," which he describes as "a country with a dangerous mix of instability, radical Islamic sympathies, and nuclear weapons. "
Dangerous mix is right. I go farther still, as Moorthy Muthuswamy writes, and place Pakistan in the "Axis of Jihad" -- Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Coffman writes: "A victory for the Taliban in Afghanistan would serve to help the Taliban on the other side of the Durand Line with their fight against the government of Pakistan. We also need to make sure that al-Qaeda does not return to Afghanistan and that the U.S. has the ability to use Afghanistan as a base for operations against al-Qaeda and its affiliates in Pakistan."
Problem is, what is meant by the phrase "the government of Pakistan"? A solid, dependable ally? Hardly. In fact, trying to pry apart the Taliban/jihadists/sharia-ists in Pakistan from "the government of Pakistan" as, Coffman implies, a matter of continued US policy is just more COIN theory in another guise -- another blinkered attempt to win the hearts and minds of a distinctive and distinctively alien Islamic culture. After all, the long stated goal of the Taliban in Pakistan is to impose sharia on all of Pakistan, where already, as poll data consistently indicate, the strict implementation of sharia is already extremely popular. (In 2007. WorldOpinion.Org found that 74 percent of Pakistani respondents agreed with what was presented to them as "the Al Qaeda goal to impose strict sharia law in every Islamic country." In 2009, that number rose to 76 percent.)
Let it go and "lose" our way to victory.
Coffman went on MSNBC to joust (a little rustily) about his proposal for "course correction," which met with approval from the Lefty host regarding the scaling back idea, but opposition regarding Coffman's welcome if preliminary discussion of the ideological aspect of the world conflict, which Coffman called "the ideology of radical Islam" (that was the rusty part).
I can't believe we're still talking about something babyishly called "radical Islam" when everything a jihadist requires to collect an islamically approved ticket to paradise comes out the mainstream, traditional, consensus-accepted, classical texts of Islam, but there you have it. But it's another start, I hope.
Coffman made news on this same topic last month after returning from a visit to Afghanistan, arguing that the only department in which Obama's hand had been strengthened by the 2010 elections was in the president's conduct of the "unsustainable" war in Afghanistan. The AP reports:
But Rep. Mike Coffman said that's not good news. He thinks the American presence in Afghanistan needs to be ratcheted back. ...
"We are trying to create an Afghanistan that I'm not sure the Afghan people neither want nor are capable of achieving," said Coffman, who met with military leaders and visited Kabul, the capital, and Helmand province, a battle area where winning over the population is key. ...
But Coffman said that after the U.S. midterm election the president will face less pressure from anti-war Democrats to withdraw troops. With Republicans taking control of the House, the change actually could help Obama on Afghanistan strategy.
"It bought the president more time," Coffman said of the GOP takeover. "Had the change not occurred in the House, I think the president would be stuck with having a material downsizing in the U.S. military presence by July of next year."
"In every other area of his policy, the election hurt his agenda. But in Afghanistan, his hand was strengthened by Republican control of Congress," he said. ...
Coffman criticized Petraeus' strategy as too broad and not essential to American security interests.
Finally! And what does Coffman propose to do about it?
Coffman suggested a surprising tack for a Republican veteran: pushing for budget cuts for military.
"What they're doing is really unsustainable for a long period of time, in terms of its cost to the overall budget," said Coffman, adding he plans to lobby Republican colleagues to consider a leaner military presence in Afghanistan.
They better listen.