The leading authority on American war aims throughout South Asia, Dr. Fredrick Kagan has remarked that even in an election year with distortions reported from ‘blue on green killings’, American war aims in Afghanistan remain possible.
His review of American performance throughout this last fighting season reveals that two dominant historians of South Asia, namely Dr. Ahmed Rashid and Dr. Anatol Lieven are misplaced guides regarding American war aims throughout the contentious AfPak region.
I say this with great caution for I have taken extraordinary caution to examine both the written records of both historians who are professional international relations experts with both credential and language proficiency making them irreplaceable for anyone considering engaging the region. STILL, their historically informed views of American war aims in Afghanistan must be severely circumscribed given the advance that American forces have had on procuring success throughout Afghanistan.
Initially, I found Dr. Anatol Lieven, professor of international relations at Kings College, London, kind in his regard to respond to my inquiry regarding his pronouncements from The New York Review of Books Summer 2012 edition grateful yet misplaced. I found his moral equivalency characterizing both Soviet and American war aims unacceptable. This did not mean that his characterizations were wrong, it meant that their trajectory had not yet been completed. Neither expert has gained permission to study intelligence communiqué between operations commands on the ground. This is significant for both Dr. Lieven and Dr. Rashid had made historically sufficient judgment pertaining to Afghanistan in ‘the long war’. What remained misplaced was an ability to discern movement of American war aims in theatre. Both men, in my view are as shortsighted in their purview of American war aims as the Obama administration.
Afghanistan has developed several politically significant developments that continue to threaten the Taliban. Throughout Afghanistan, American war command is witnessing an evolving determined anti-Taliban movement. Secondly, the Taliban have not regained key terrain, nor have they been able to mount violent campaigns in populated areas. The ‘green on blue attacks’ that are making western newswires are deadly but they are occurring far away from population centers.
According to Dr. Kagan, the war in Afghanistan is far from won, but a path to victory remains if the American political class can sustain its policy convictions.
Throughout 2009, the Taliban controlled vast swaths of territory throughout Kandahar, they controlled most of Helmand province with uncontested control in the town of Marjah. Afghan forces throughout both provinces were not disloyal, just ineffective.
The American surge into Afghanistan was well underway by September 2010, by November the situation throughout the south was reversed.
As of this writing, each province fields a Provincial Response Company, a joint operations command team that embodies both SWAT & Special Ops. This command node has not shied away from engaging the Taliban. Currently, the political and strategic gains in the south must be held while forces move into eastern Afghanistan. This will be the most significant engagement of the American war effort, for this region is home to the Taliban and its only source of income, poppy.
Many villages throughout eastern Afghanistan’s Andar province is witnessing an uprising, a political surge evicting dominant Taliban. If the American political class in Washington can fortify its own political courage, the Americans will succeed in securing the graveyard of Empires.