For months now, I have been wondering who gives President Obama geopolitical and military advice.
To me, the idea that isolated and historically ungovernable Afghanistan is THE front in our (and NATO’s) fight against terrorism seems extraordinarily naïve. We have no secure land lines of communication into the country. The Khyber Pass from Pakistan is currently available, but insurgents throughout the ages (including in December 2008) have shown how easy it is to interdict this chokepoint, then melt away and await another opportunity. Also, if there is any truth to the widely reported rumors of Pakistan’s imminent collapse, Khyber Pass, vulnerable or not, will be off limits.
Will Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Russia or China allow NATO to move troops and equipment at will through their territories? Not on your life. None of them want us there, for their respective reasons.
Well then, if not by land, how about by air? For starters, Afghanistan is completely hemmed in by nations that are not friendly to us. This gives rise to the thorny problem of overflight rights that can be pulled at a moment’s notice. Air bases? We have use of the Manas base in Kyrgyzstan, but the BBC reported on February 6 that the Kyrgyz government has announced that the base will be closed. Karshi-Khanabad, an alternative in Uzbekistan, is still a pipedream.
As if on cue, the Russians and Tajiks have followed up with a promise, likewise reported by the BBC on the 6th, that they will allow transshipment of supplies through their territory, but only of a non-military nature.
In any case, any discussion of long-term air supply is moot. Moving sufficient troops, equipment and supplies by air seems out of the question even for the existing force in country, let alone the expanded force that Obama is planning to deploy.
If President Obama wanted to present the U.S. military with an opportunity for disaster, he would be hard-pressed to find a better way to do it. The whole thing looks like a potential country-wide Dien Bien Phu.
Iraq, on the other hand, was the right war, at the right place, at the right time. I know: this is a concept that is hard to swallow, given that the war was the nefarious doing of the Bushcheneyneoconreactionaryzionistcapitalist Evil Axis, but there it is.