As the Obama administration expands U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, military experts are warning that the United States is taking on security and political commitments that will last at least a decade and a cost that will probably eclipse that of the Iraq war.
Mark Lynch wonders why:
I find the strategic rationale for escalating the war in Afghanistan extremely thin, and the mismatch between avowed aims and available resources frighteningly wide. What are the strategic reasons for expanding the commitment in Afghanistan? Why should the US be committing to a project of armed state building now, in 2009?
I hope that the argument isn't that it's to prevent al-Qaeda from reconstituting itself in the Afghan safe havens. That's a fool's game. It makes sense to keep the pressure on al-Qaeda, but does that require "armed state building"?
Suppose the U.S. succeeded beyond all its wildest expectations, and turned Afghanistan into Nirvana on Earth... So what? Al-Qaeda (or what we call al-Qaeda) could easily migrate to Somalia, to Yemen, deeper into Pakistan, into the Caucasas, into Africa --- into a near infinite potential pool of ungoverned or semi-governed spaces with potentially supportive environments. Are we to commit the United States to bringing effective governance and free wireless to the entire world? On whose budget?
I fear that the escalation of the war in Afghanistan is following a dangerous path of least resistance. Given the assignment to win the war in Afghanistan, of course a military which has been reshaped by its experience in Iraq will turn to COIN doctrine. Once the decision is made to apply a COIN approach, of course the military is going to ask for more troops there, and a long commitment, since it's always been obvious that really doing COIN in Afghanistan would require vastly more troops than are currently deployed. And then, at each step of the way, there will be a strong tactical argument for expansion and a very difficult sell for any attempt to argue for restraint. Once that iron logic has been accepted, all else follows -- and it becomes extremely difficult to reverse course.
Links via Ezra Klein.
(Previously: Obama Is Wrong On Afghanistan)