So for politically correct reasons, we’re moving the focus of the war on terrorism to a very bad place for us. The Russians couldn’t win there. Peter the Great couldn’t win there [bold mine-DL]. Oh, but maybe the messiah can win there, ok. ~Ann Coulter
Yes, there is a comparison with Vietnam, too. Of course, Peter the Great was otherwise occupied with Swedes, and never had the opportunity to get anywhere near Afghanistan. The Central Asian khanates had not yet been acquired by the Russian empire, and the Great Game was almost two hundred years away, but don’t let that stop you. Not that it needed to be said, but Coulter doesn’t have a clue what she’s talking about. Yes, I know this is just oppositional posturing–increasing troop levels under Gen. Petraeus was Holy Writ two years ago and last year when it concerned Iraq, but this year in Afghanistan it is crazy, hopeless escalation and Vietnam redux. In itself, increasing troop levels in Afghanistan will not necessarily do very much, but if it is combined with some effort to buy off or negotiate with reconcilable Taliban units there is some chance that it could improve matters.
One wonders what there is in the history of Iraq, which has been a frequent battleground between different polities and resistant to every Western power that has ever set foot there, that makes it a preferable location. Depending on how ambitious our objectives are, the war in Afghanistan not only needs more soldiers in the near term, but it will almost definitely fail without them. It could be that there is not much more that we can realistically accomplish in Afghanistan without undermining Pakistan, but then defenders of the war in Iraq have never had much interest in questions of regional stability; stability has always been a curse word for them. Besides, Coulter is not actually saying that we should end the war in Afghanistan, but merely that any tactical change in that war is a mistake because Obama is the one making the decision.
Support for Taliban attacks on NATO forces is vastly higher in areas where air raids have been used to make up for lack of manpower, as these raids invariably cause civilian casualties, and these raids make it harder to reduce the numbers of so-called “accidental insurgents” (i.e., armed locals who sporadically join battles against our forces when their territory becomes a war zone). Obviously, there are some goals that are out of reach (e.g., eradication of the poppy trade) and should be scrapped right now, and some tactics that are positively harmful to the stability of neighboring Pakistan, and therefore directly advantageous to Pakitani Taliban forces, such as the drone strikes. The war in Iraq is still far from over, regardless of the withdrawal timelines announced this week, and we will still be bearing its costs for years to come while we maintain tens of thousands of “residual” forces there. It may be that the war in Afghanistan will become unsustainable, and Pakistan could very well collapse thanks in part to years of neglect and lack of support, but the longer we remain in Iraq and the more resources we continue to waste there the more likely both of those outcomes are. It may make sense to scale back our involvement in Afghanistan for many reasons, but there is no argument for doing so that also permits us to perpetuate the war in Iraq.