Three bits of recent news from and about Afghanistan tell you virtually all you need to know about how bad it’s about to get in that country as the US and allied forces prepare to end combat operations there.
First, from the Wall Street Journal comes a new report suggesting that, contrary to the advice of US and allied commander, General John Allen, “some White House officials…have been pressing for a more rapid drawdown.” Instead of maintaining American force levels at the present 68,000 through the 2013 fighting season and ending combat missions in 2014, the new push may involve cuts of up to “between 20,000 to 30,000…in the coming months.” This comes on top of reports that, regardless of when exactly the drawdown begins, the White House is pushing to keep the actual number of American troops left in country for training and assistance purposes to a miniscule 10,000 or less.
The second news of note is the apparent acceptance by Pakistan of the Afghan government’s proposed roadmap for reaching a peace agreement with the Taliban, which among other things includes the release of Taliban hardliners from Pakistan jails and, as a nod to “reconciliation,” the appointment of Taliban members to government positions—presumably and most notably in Pashtun areas in which there are “shadow governments” already in place.
Finally, there is the report that arms sales in Afghanistan are booming. As a Reuters story notes: “It’s not just ordinary Afghans who are buying. Warlords who control militias, and former anti-Soviet mujahideen fighters are also boosting the trade.” As one Afghan quoted in the story remarks, “Whenever you turn on the TV or radio, the discussion is 2014. I’m not feeling safe now, it’s become like doomsday for Afghans….People are saying security will collapse, or soldiers will join warlords or the Taliban, so we need something to protect our families when there’s a crisis.”
So, there you have it. For want of a strategic bone in their body, administration officials are about ready to return Afghanistan to a Hobbesian state of nature, a situation in which “a war of all against all” becomes the everyday reality and the immense sacrifices of American and allied militaries over the past decade to stabilize that country may well be for naught.