I spent some time yesterday talking with a senior editorial member of an influential conservative publication. We discussed a number of things including Afghanistan, and he had some interesting thoughts I wanted to put out into play.
First is that Obama will wait until after he gets the Nobel to make his announcement about a troop increase so he won't catch flak from his left for warmongering when he is accepting a "peace" prize. And also that he will make his first trip to A-stan around Xmas and after he announces some increase, he thought around 30K.
That pushes the announcement back past 10 December and makes a ton of sense when you consider that the politics seem to be driving this.
The second was an idea to marginalize the Pashtun tribes that support the Taliban by empowering the Tajiks. This makes sense as some of the only times of stability in Afghanistan have come when one group is able to suppress another and force them to play nice. The Tajiks make up 27% of the Afghan population and if you add in the Uzbeks and Hazara you have a Northern Alliance redux. Another interesting piece of that is that the leader of the Northern Alliance, until his assassination by al Qaeda just before 9/11, Ahmed Shah Masood has a son who is now 20 years old. There could be a nice Lion King Circle of Life effect if a new Lion of the Panjshir replaced the old one.
It has always made sense to train Afghan security forces to patrol areas where their own tribe lives, kind of a National Guard concept. It would not be an awful idea to try a little harder and spend more effort and energy among those who have been our allies in the past. Train up a formidable Northern Alliance based military to secure their own areas and then use it to pacify the Pashtuns. It would surely be ugly, but it would get us out of the fray, and it just might work. Hmmmmm.