Sunday, October 17, 2010

Big Test for Afghan Military?

The NY Times reports on a new military operation in the Kandahar region, the Taliban heartland, in which Afghan forces are said to be playing a major role.

This bears watching, especially after the reported failures of Afghan forces during an operation a few months ago, as well as the ongoing reports of fraud, corruption, and drug abuse in their ranks.  Add to that the fact that the Afghan army is dominated by Tajik and other non-Pashtun ethnic groups, and that they're being asked to (1) take on predominantly Pashtun fighters (2) in predominantly Pashtun communities, and that many commentators have noted that in going after the Taliban, the US has in fact inserted itself into an Afghani ethnic-based civil war . . .  one may conclude that the consequences of success or failure here may be significant.

And the timing is significant as well.  The mid-term elections are upon us.  The Democrats are evidently set to suffer substantial losses in both houses of Congress, but some signal of success for Obama's Afghan policy might mitigate some of those losses, even swing some crucial votes toward Democratic candidates (although the war in Afghanistan does indeed seem to be off most voters' radar).  Any success for Obama's policy is predicated upon ramping up an Afghan army that will be effective enough to enable the US to begin to pull its own forces out of there.

So much so, in fact, that I'd be careful to watch and see how much the reports of this operation will be spun to promote the "we're winning" trope.

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