Sunday, October 4, 2009

U.S. Stakes in Afghanistan: Spillover and Another 9-11

In the titled Foreign Policy link Dan Twining addresses in “The Stakes in Afghanistan Go Well Beyond Afghanistan” that
"… The surreal belief in some quarters that abandoning Afghanistan -- described as a "graveyard of empires" with its complicated tribes, forbidding terrain, and peripheral strategic importance -- would not have direct and bloody consequences for the United States, never mind the Afghan people, can be answered with three numbers: 9-11.”

Mr. Twining’s argument for not abandoning U.S. efforts in Afghanistan is centered on the considerable spillover effects of losing in Afghanistan, notwithstanding the intrinsic desire for the U.S. to win wars it chooses to fight, i.e., “ to secure objectives that remain as compelling today as they were on September 12, 2001”.

Those spillover effects identified by Mr. Twining are as follows:

• Shaping Pakistan's strategic future. All of Pakistan's pathologies such as terrorist sanctuaries, radicalized public opinion enabling an environment for violent extremism, the lack of economic opportunity that incentivizes militancy, will intensify should Afghanistan succumb to the Taliban as the U.S withdraws

• The Pakistan impact will, in turn, destabilize India in ways that could undermine India’s rise to world power. Indian strategists fear that the spillover from a Taliban victory in Afghanistan would induce Pakistan's "Lebanonization," with the Pakistani Taliban becoming a kind of South Asian Hezbollah that would launch waves of crippling attacks against India.

• Recent uprisings by the Iranian people that could potentially change the character of the radical regime in Tehran could be diminished by the usurpation through violence of the Afghan government.

• And despite new unity in the West on a tougher approach to Iran's development of nuclear weapons following revelations of a new nuclear complex in Qum, how can Washington, London, Paris, and Berlin stare down the leaders of Iran if they can't even hold their own against the cave-dwelling, Kalashnikov-wielding despots of the Taliban?

• A NATO defeat in Afghanistan would call into question the future of the alliance and the credibility of American leadership with it, possibly creating a new and lasting transatlantic breach and intensifying concerns about the alliance's ability to protect weak European states against a resurgent Russia.

• A Western defeat in Afghanistan, which if historical precedent holds would be followed by a bout of U.S. isolationism, would only create more space for China to pursue its (for now) peaceful rise.


“A new and sustained victory strategy for Afghanistan would show that Washington is singularly positioned to convene effective coalitions and deliver solutions to intractable international problems in ways that shore up the stability of an international economic and political order that has provided greater degrees of human freedom and prosperity than any other."

"A U.S. decision to wash its hands of Afghanistan would send a different message. It would hasten the emergence of a different kind of international order, one in which history no longer appeared to be on the side of the United States and its friends. Islamic extremism, rather than continuing to lose ground to the universal promise of democratic modernity, would gain new legs --after all, Afghan Islamists would have defeated their second superpower in a generation.”

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