Erle Frayne Argonza
A retired US general recently spoke about the overall conduct of war in Afghanistan. To the surprise and chagrin of defense experts and officials, the general most candidly declared that Afghanistan was a disaster.
The retired general spoke more like a development expert than a uniformed defense official. Accordingly, there is no military solution to Afghanistan’s problems. The ideas proposed by the same (ret) uniformed official combine relief and rehab, infrastructures, and capacity-building efforts, or those solutions that have to do more with a total development package. This is a clear departure from the demented thinking in Pentagon and DC that tend to exacerbate the destructive facets of US engagements in Afghanistan.
Below is the news item about the (ret) official’s pronouncements.
[18 August 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila. Thanks to Executive Intelligence Review database news.]
McCaffrey: Afghanistan Disaster, Unless We Send in the Engineers
Aug. 7, 2008 (EIRNS)—Retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who often functions as an informal advisor to senior Army leadership on the current wars, reported on the disaster in Afghanistan following his July 21-26 trip to that country and to NATO headquarters in Belgium. In a memo dated July 30, addressed to the Social Sciences department at West Point, McCaffrey writes: "Afghanistan is in misery." Sixty-eight percent of the population has never known peace, life expectancy is only 44, and Afghanistan has the highest maternal death rate in the world, he reports. The security situation, the economy (including agriculture, which is "broken"), governance, and the opium problems, are "all likely to get worse in the coming 24 months."
There is no military solution, McCaffrey writes: "The atmosphere of terror cannot be countered mainly by military means. We cannot win through a war of attrition.... Afghanistan will not be solved by the addition of two or three more US combat brigades from our rapidly unraveling Army."
Instead, McCaffrey argues that, in addition to building up the Afghan security forces, economic measures are also required. He calls for the deployment of a "five battalion Army engineer brigade... to lead a five year road building effort employing Afghan contractors and training and mentoring Afghan engineers.... The war will be won when we fix the Afghan agricultural system which employs 82% of the population.... The war will be won when the international community demands the eradication of the opium and cannibis crops and robustly supports the development of alternative economic activity." McCaffrey pointed to the tremendous growth in the poppy crop since the US invasion in 2001 and warned that "Unless we deal head-on with this enormous cancer, we should have little expectation that our efforts in Afghanistan will not eventually come to ruin."
On Pakistan, McCaffrey warns against a US military intervention in that country from across the border in Afghanistan, which he says "would be a political disaster. We will imperil the Pakistani government's ability to support our campaign. They may well stop our air and ground logistics access across Pakistan and place our entire NATO presence in severe jeopardy." In dealing with Pakistan, "We must do no harm..."