Posted By Uncle Jimbo • [May 06, 2012]
Every time I think things in Afghanistan are about as screwed up as they can be, some new ray of sunshine sears right through my eyehole and fries my frontal lobe. It turns out we have been releasing some of the worst Taliban leaders that we have captured. Why you ask? Well I asked too, in a loud voice using the most creative bits of profanity in my repertoire. The reason is to push the utterly fruitless peace negotiations we have been conducting with the Talibs to their inevitable conclusion- dismal, embarrassing, emasculating failure.
As the United States has unsuccessfully pursued a peace deal with the Taliban, the “strategic release” program has quietly served as a live diplomatic channel, allowing American officials to use prisoners as bargaining chips in restive provinces where military power has reached its limits.
This paragraph is a pitch perfect example of what is wrong with our lack of anything vaguely resembling a viable strategy in Afghanistan. Our military power has reached it's limits because we posted our departure date on international TV and every media outlet on Earth two and a half years ago. The news spread all over the Af-Pak region so that even the most humble hamlet got a night letter from the Taliban informing the tribesfolk that playing nice w/ Uncle Sugar and the Karzai crime family could cost your head once the Americans bagged it. So our efforts to stabilize anyplace outside Kabul fell victim to the simple fact that the locals we needed to trust us trusted that the Taliban not us would be around for the long haul.
Our cunning plan to combat this seems to have been cutting loose the bad guys we have scarfed up in return for promises, and well in some cases nothing.
The process begins with conversations between U.S. military officials and insurgent commanders or local elders, who promise that violence will decrease in their district — or that militants will cease fighting altogether — if certain insurgents are released from Parwan. The value of the tradeoff and the sincerity of the guarantee are then weighed by senior military officials in Kabul, officials said.
"The sincerity of the guarantee" if that alone doesn't make you want to scream, you are not paying attention. All of these guys are simply jostling for position as the crusaders pack up and the turf, well the rubble wars begin again. There is some logic in doing this as one example kinda shows.
One recent case involved a commander with the insurgent group Hezb-i-Islami who was described by Lt. Col. John Woodward, formerly the top U.S. commander in northern Wardak province, as “operationally and tactically, a significant player.”
In the Nerkh Valley, a violent swath of Wardak, Woodward had decided that “given our resources, there’s no way we could fight both the Taliban and Hezb-i-Islami.”
Although the Taliban and Hezb-i-Islami are both insurgent groups, they have different leadership structures and operate independently.
Through local politicians and elders, the American officer began negotiating with Hezb-iIslami commanders, who for years had been firing at American soldiers. Those talks progressed, and weeks later, the insurgent group was providing useful intelligence on the whereabouts of Taliban fighters. Before long, the U.S. troops and Hezb-i-Islami fighters were conducting joint operations, traveling in the same vehicles and sleeping on the same bases, Woodward said.
But amid that progress, the insurgent commanders came to Woodward with a request. They wanted a relative — the man considered a “significant player” — to be released from Parwan. Woodward began contacting his superiors about the strategic release program.
Now let me say that if we had followed any kind of a long war strategy this tactic of co-opting competing bad guys might work. But in this case we are simply helping decide which collection of Islamist clowns will run the black flag up in which town. Sadly that is about the best we can do since we are not going to be around. In my last post on how even Dianne Feinstein says the Taliban are stronger since Obama's "Surge" our own Grim posted a comment that shows just how much we have been outplayed.
The Taliban responded to the Surge by pulling their shadow government into Pakistan, decreasing force-on-force engagements with American soldiers and Marines, and upping propaganda and the terroristic murder of anyone who supported the central regime. That means the central government's supporters in the outlying regions are few, and support is soft; whereas the Taliban have a shadow government ready to step in and govern. All that remains is to wait for American forces to leave, and then push out the ANA.
The Obama administration apparently thinks the war is winding down, and they're just going to be able to walk away. It's not going to play out like that. By the way, notice the arc for the endgame-by-negotiation strategy:
3 JAN 12: Taliban acknowledge initial negotiations.
15 MAR 12: Taliban suspend negotiations.
2 MAY 12: Reports indicate Taliban have executed up to 26 key members who were involved in the negotiations.
That doesn't sound like a soft landing. Expect, come November, for us to be awash in a bloody war that the Presidential campaign simply cannot ignore.
Start thinking about what you want to support when it gets here. If that's the problem set, where would you want the President you're electing to take us? They don't have an answer yet, because neither party wants to talk or think about Afghanistan any more. We need a good answer, though, because those are our folks we keep sending over there.
We cannot pack up soon enough.