THE AFGHAN CONUNDRUM: SOME THOUGHTS
Taliban fighters have killed 11 Afghan soldiers in an ambush on a military convoy in western Afghanistan. Military sources said on June 29 that the convoy came under heavy fire late on June 28 in the Karokh District of Herat Province. The fighting lasted for five hours, a military spokesman told the Reuters news agency. Afghan security forces have suffered increased casualties since the Taliban launched their annual spring-summer offensive in April. Most international combat troops were withdrawn from Afghanistan at the end of last year, with a small NATO mission called Resolute Support remaining to train and support local security forces."Taliban Attack Kills 11 Afghan Soldiers In Herat." Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty. 29 June 2015, in www.rferl.org
"As was the case in Vietnam and Iraq in 2011 ---, the US ended its combat presence at a time when Transition involved a serious risk that the war would fail to achieve any form of security and stability. The combat situation was intensifying rather than declining, and the Afghan government was still partially paralyzed by the crisis growing out of the 2014 Presidential election."Anthony Cordesman. Afghanistan at Transition: the lessons of the longest War. (March 2015). p. x. The issues at stake in Afghanistan are similar to those which have confronted the Americans and their allies formerly in Iraq and now in a new fashion in both Iraq and Syria. The question can be posed in a very simple manner: can and will the Afghan National Army perform or collapse if and when the Americans withdraw circa 2016 / 2017? Presuming that the Americans do indeed withdraw from Afghanistan in the same fashion that the Americans withdrew from Iraq circa 2011, it would seem to be a good surmise that the Taliban will stage many ferocious and perhaps very successful attacks. The conundrum is: will the Afghan National Army collapse or not? At the very least, it should be possible that if the Americans were to retain x number of troops on the ground as advisors and in the air, for the situation to be fairly stable. If the Americans as per the original plans of the White House, were to completely withdraw at the end of the 2015 / 2016, then it would be quite possible to expect that the Afghanistan National Army will, under hammer blows of the Taliban, begin to first withdraw into the enclaves of the major urban areas and then to collapse. Not, mind you a collapse tout à coup but in stages so that after two or three years, it would not be too surprising to begin to see something akin to what happened in South Vietnam in 1975 and in Kabul with the Najibullah regime circa 1992. Given the overall situation in the Near and Middle East at present a collapse of the current Kabul government to either the Taliban or to chaos would be an unmitigated disaster. Pur et simple. Accordingly, those like the American military commentator Anthony Cordesman who advocate that the Americans retain forces in some form or other for the long-run are surely correct. The only alternative being a collapse in stages by the Afghan National Army. As the greatest of all military theorists, Karl von Clausewitz once noted:
"There are times when a general must rise above it, calmly hold to his plans and face the short-term objections that are advanced by fainter hearts. Still, this impression is no mere specter that can easily be dismissed; it is not like a force that affects only a single point, but rather one that spreads instantaneously through every sinew, and paralyzes all military and civil activity....These consequences of retreat should not be underrated 1."1. Karl von Clausewitz. On War. Edited & translated by Michael Howard and Peter Paret. (1976), p.471.