I suppose we should be thankful there’s finally sentient life in the White House. Still, in all honesty, Obama’s “White Paper of the Interagency Policy Group’s Report on U.S. Policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan” — aka “The Af-Pak Policy” — doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence. In fact, the six-page paper is remarkable only in its vagueness. Disrupt terrorist networks, bolster civilian governments, train local security forces, negotiate with “reconcilables” when possible — it’s a mishmash of strategies that could’ve come from the Soviet playbook in the 80s.
Bearing this in mind, here’s a recommendation: if you haven’t already read it, Gregory Feifer’s The Great Gamble is a must-have. It’s an amazingly detailed account of the screw-up that started it all — the Soviet Union’s ten-year military misstep into Afghanistan. I’m sure my better-informed fellow bloggers will have a few choice words to say about the book’s sociological merits, but as military history, it’s top shit and should be required reading for all U.S. and NATO planners.
Sure, as noted before, there are significant differences between the Soviet debacle and the West’s current tribulations. For one, the coalition didn’t stumble across the Hindu Kush by accident, without no one actually giving the order to invade, as the Soviets did. And despite some civilian casualties, even the most ardent opponent of the war would be hard pressed to call ISAF’s efforts a scorched earth strategy. Even so, some similarities, like the lack of a cohesive strategy and the failure to define a desirable and achievable end state, are unnerving.