12 November 2008

A Plea to Obama Regarding Afghanistan: Don't Be Ellis!

For those not familiar with '88 classic action movie, Die Hard, Ellis was the sleazebag who unsuccessfully tried to appease his terrorist captors to get an early release, but was shot in the head. A "Don't Be Ellis" plea was issued months ago to the newly formed Pakistani government regarding misguided negotiations with the Taliban insurgency in the FATA, and a similar plea is being issued to the President Elect today.

Granted, Operation Enduring Freedom is in need of a serious overhaul as enemy combatants continue to operate freely in the Pakistani tribal areas and violence has risen rapidly this year. But, according to the Washington Post, Obama might be leaning a bit too precipitously towards negotiations and reconciliation with the fanatics in the Taliban to end a long war in a quick fashion:

The incoming Obama administration plans to explore a more regional strategy to the war in Afghanistan -- including possible talks with Iran -- and looks favorably on the nascent dialogue between the Afghan government and "reconcilable" elements of the Taliban, according to Obama national security advisers.
This tactic of "reconciliation" worked well in Iraq, as Coalition Forces teamed up with Sahwa councils (many of whom were ex-insurgents) to give Al-Qaeda the boot. However, you get into an "apples and oranges" argument, because the Sunni insurgency in Iraq was largely motivated by power and money (which is easier to co-opt), while the Taliban are much more motivated by religious fanaticism. A look at Musa Qala, which fell under Taliban control in early 2007, demonstrates this fact. From The Long War Journal:
Four Afghan men are hanged for allegedly spying for American forces. Locals claim that the Taliban closed all of the schools in Musa Qala and force females to wear a burqa and be accompanied by a male relative when traveling in public; they also claim Taliban FM radio program airs during the day. A hefty Taliban tax has also been imposed on the impoverished citizens and tales of forced military conscription have merged.
Attempting to negotiate with a bunch of crazies may prove completely worthless, as Pakistan has learned the hard way. General Petraeus (CENTCOM Commander) has given subtle indication that some level of reconciliation would be a "positive step", but it is certainly unwise to make it the cornerstone of a new strategy in Afghanistan.

Obama also is considering talking with Iran to achieve some level of common goals in Afghanistan[WaPo]:
Obama said during the campaign that his administration would explore talks with countries such as Iran and Syria, rejecting bedrock Bush policy and rhetoric that some U.S. military officials believe may have outlived their usefulness.

Iran, on Afghanistan's western border, has played a mixed role over the years, at times indirectly cooperating with U.S. objectives and at times assisting the extremists.
It is true that the Iranian theocracy has a vested interest in keeping the bordering countries of Afghanistan and Iraq stabilized. But the past few years has shown that they are much more interested in fighting their holy war against The Great Satan. Whether it be using Hezbollah surrogates to murder our troops, shipping weapons to the Taliban, or deliberately undermining newly-formed democracies to make America look bad, the motivation for Iran's nefarious activities remains clear.

The President-Elect needs to weigh these options carefully and consider the consequences. As our Commander-in-Chief, we hope that he leads the world in stomping out the murderous brand of terrorism that has besieged civilization. But, we are deeply concerned that he may try to pander to the far-left base that is already banging on drums and proclaiming "war is over". These are tough times for our country, and we urge Obama not to cave-in to a quick fix like Ellis.

(x-posted at The Obacalypse)


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