Third Party & Independents Archives

Unleashing Dostum's Dogs

Many people agree with the simple statement that we should give the Afghan people the same effort that we gave the Iraqi people. Does that mean we should butt heads endlessly with the insurgency? That didn’t work in Iraq. Does it mean we should send another surge? That wasn’t the magic bullet either.

Does it mean we should bring in another planeload of cash to pay off and arm local militias? That’s what did the trick in Iraq and that’s the only thing that’ll save Afghanistan from the Taliban.

First, a clarification. In Iraq, the pay off (otherwise known as the Anbar Awakening) was more a surrender because we paid militia to stop fighting us and go after Al Qaeda in Iraq instead. Anytime in history when money is given to an enemy to stop them from fighting those paying, it’s a form of surrender. Just to be crystal clear.

In Afghanistan, we would be paying warlords to join a fight they’re already itching to jump back into. Paying and rearming the Afghan warlords would once again increase their power throughout Afghanistan, but no one can honestly say this would be at the expense of a legitimate democratically elected government. This was a good argument in the past, but we now know the Afghan government is riddled with corruption. In fact, after General Dostum was banished to Turkey for warlord-like behavior he was still flown back into Afghanistan to bring Karzai the ethnic Uzbek vote just in time for this year’s elections.

So, although corruption and nervous human rights workers follow General Dostum wherever he goes, the alternative is clearly worse. Just ask any Afghan girl with a melted face and you’ll know why. The Taliban themselves are not eager to fight their war with men like Dostum either, not after he shut 2,000 Taliban prisoners into shipping containers as a cheap & quiet way of executing them all by suffocation.

The news cycle has been focusing on how limited US options are in Afghanistan and they’re right. The American people obviously don’t have the will to give their son's and daughter's lives for much longer; not after eight years of loyally doing so.

The Afghan people, however, are willing to die for their own freedom. According to a former commander who fought alongside Shah Massoud "Afghanistan and its people are the only ones who can truly defeat the Taliban and Al Qaeda … We need weapons and resources … More U.S. troops are not necessary, but we would fight alongside them if asked … We are not children that need to be watched over -- we defeated the Soviets," he added. "We can defeat the Taliban, but we need assistance from the U.S. Not more troops but we need the NATO commanders to listen to us, support us. So far, they are not listening and the Afghan people fear they will be abandoned. This is no way to defeat an enemy."

Another proponent of working with the warlords is Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California who said “If the Taliban is going to be defeated, it’s got to be by the Afghan people themselves, not by sending more US troops, which could actually be counterproductive … We need widespread support for a moderate anti-Taliban decentralized system in Afghanistan, “ he continued “Our allies there (the warlords), who once shared our same goal are now alienated and alone, and many are being co-opted by the enemy.”

General McChrystal is making some moves in the right direction and although I’ve been a vocal supporter of shifting our focus (& troops) to Afghanistan, stopping counter-productive airstrikes and measuring progress by how well we protect civilian population centers, this will not be enough. I believe we should follow through with our planned troop increases and if any further troops are added as a result of McChrystal’s report they should primarily be to accelerate the training of the Afghan army. However, none of this will work if we don’t enlist the help of the warlords and follow their advice. The Taliban may be an unstoppable insurgent force to us, but to the mujaheddin warlords of Afghanistan they are just another militia.

General Dostum said he could stabilize nine northern provinces with 10,000 men in three months. That’s the promise of just one warlord who goes on to say “The US needs strong friends like Dostum. They don’t need their own commanders who don’t know the land, the language, the people of this country. Where is Washington? Where am I? This is the problem.” Yes, Dostum is not perfect and he’s stabbed many people in the back, but he genuinely wants to drive the Taliban out of his country and very few doubt his ability to do so.

We’re in Afghanistan to put down a mad dog we created over thirty years ago. What better way to do this than by unleashing domesticated dogs like Dostum and Atta Mohammed Noor and Gul Agha Sherzai and Ismail Khan.

Posted by Frederick S. Friedman at September 24, 2009 7:45 PM