Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Carry On up the Khyber

By the rules of Washington politics, when a conservative pundit calls for pulling US troops out of Afghanistan, it's OK to discuss pulling US troops out of Afghanistan. Enter George Will.

One funny thing about the neocon reaction to Will's column is their discovery that George Will makes factual mistakes. They haven't been reading his global warming material.

But anyway. Taking him to task for making factual errors is Fred Kagan, the shadow Minister for Defence under George Bush. Compare his supposed demolition of Will to what Will actually says:

Kagan -- There are considerably more than 4,000 counter-insurgents in Helmand Province. Will may find the British contribution “risible,” a rather offensive statement considering the number of soldiers Britain has lost in Afghanistan and the size of its military contributions to both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Will -- The war already is nearly 50 percent longer than the combined U.S. involvements in two world wars, and NATO assistance is reluctant and often risible ... Just 4,000 Marines are contesting control of Helmand province, which is the size of West Virginia.

Thus, Will never said that British contribution was risible. NATO has other members besides the UK, some of whom impose bizarre rules of engagement on their troops. And the 4000 Marines reference is correct. It was widely reported this summer.

More generally, Kagan never addresses Will's point that Afghanistan is not strategically important. Yes it borders Pakistan. But then if Pakistan is strategically important, concentrate on Pakistan. Which is what Will says --

America should do only what can be done from offshore, using intelligence, drones, cruise missiles, airstrikes and small, potent special forces units, concentrating on the porous 1,500-mile border with Pakistan, a nation that actually matters.

And it's what experts outside the neocon circle also think. Afghanistan only makes sense if you're looking at the map to the east and not to the west. Iran is "the precious". One disastrous war down, one to go.

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