We're seeing all the wrong signals of where the current administration is going in the War On Terror. The signs were there in 2006, 2008, and 2009, but we're seeing more of those signs, more frequently, with more alarming messages in 2010. (Left: Map of current Islamist countries and strongholds. See below for potential near term expansion)
The most recent alarm is that Richard Holbrooke practically welcomed Iran to a NATO meeting on the future plan in Afghanistan. Iran is a clear enemy of the United States, of NATO, and the Afghan Government. The goal of Iran is to create a puppet state in Afghanistan, to create an Islamist government akin to the Taliban, if not the Taliban themselves. In a best case scenario, this move would allow Iran inside information on how to strategize against US and Coalition forces. (And it is no secret, that Iran actively supports the enemy.) In the most interpreted scenario, it is one of the early steps of giving Afghanistan to a tyrannical enemy in the same way the Munich Agreement gave Czechoslovakia to Hitler.
News out of Afghanistan continues to place increased emphasis on "transitioning" to Afghan operations. This may sound like a positive development, but in today's terms it's like taking a Basic Training graduate and promoting them to General. Afghan units are simply not ready to do things on their own. It's not that they're stupid. It's that they are ignorant. The illiteracy rate of Afghans slows the pace with which they can learn.
The good news is that education, basic literacy education, has become one of the benefits of enlistment in Afghanistan. The bad news is that increasing the rate of recruitment means less vetting of recruits, poorer quality, increased chance of enemy infiltration, and less time for quality training. In the United States Army, it takes 8 weeks to give a High School Graduate a basic understanding of military skills. The recruit is sent on to get a basic understanding of his specialized skill before embarking on a 3-4 year journey to become fairly skilled at it. After a year in uniform, an Afghan recruit is still resistent to using the sights on his weapon.
Illiterate soldiers take longer to train and cannot attain the same levels of proficiency. Senior NCO's and Officers take decades to attain the experience needed to lead units. While the Afghan Army continues to improve, throwing green recruits into battle increases the probability of Human Rights violations exponentially.
Among the earliest signs that the current administration is clueless about war and about Afghanistan, the candidate destroyed his relationship with the elected President of Afghanistan on his first trip. Rather than trying to repair the damage, he doubled down on it, publically. Then Senator Obama went to Karzai's house and proceeded to talk down and chastise, disrespectfully, an elder and experienced President. As President, Obama openly called for Karzai's authority to be undermined with an appointed "counterweight" to be installed by the West. He went on to use the power of the US Government to openly campaign against Karzai's re-election.
While Generals McKiernan, McChrystal, and Petreaus have eached worked diligently to be diplomatic and extend respect to President Karzai, the "diplomats" appointed by the current administration have been undiplomatic, disrespectful, and discourteous to our ally. Both his ambassador (Eikenberry) and his "AfPak" envoy (Holbrooke) over him have demonstrated a lack of basic cultural understanding for the region. And while Afghanistan and Pakistan are closely related, the creation of an "AfPak" position seems to have foreshadowed an administration that undermines the sovereignity of Afghanistan, relegating it to a position below Pakistan.
In Iraq, the Awakening occured when Tribal leaders came to the understanding that the United States, at least Military Officers, were committed to seeing through what was started, that they were committed to bringing peace to Iraq, and would not stand idly by while the enemy slaughtered allies and civilians. Since the 2008 elections, that has been questioned in both Iraq and Afghanistan, to the point that Sunni Tribes in Iraq are now flirting with Al-Qaeda again and Karzai has openly considered an alliance with the Taliban.
In Afghanistan, we see the signs that leaders are already hedging their bets for an American retreat. Pakistan has been maneuvering for years on post-US influence on their neighbor. Unfortunately, Pakistan has a record of support of Islamist terrorists, preceding the Taliban and extending through its current strategies implemented in the Tribal regions. Had the US worked in concert with the anti-Taliban operations in 2009, when Obama was dithering on the Surge, the current outlook in both Pakistan and Afghanistan would look very different.
The "withdrawal timeline" of July 2011, set simultaneously to the half-hearted Surge was designed to satisfy the far left political spectrum in the US, but has been a rallying cry for the enemy. It is understandable that some Pro-Troop Supporters, even decades long Veterans would respond with "Let Them Fight or Bring them Home!" But retreat from Afghanistan would usher in an unprecedented age of terrorism and islamism. I understand the sentiment, but Our Troops are fighting through the political quaqmire back home hoping for better leaders before the politicians can give away their hard fought victories.
The question is not whether Our Troops can defeat the enemy. The question is whether they will be allowed to hold out long enough to have a Commander in Chief willing to allow them to. The question is whether or not propaganda within the United States will erode the will of the American people faster than battlefield defeats will erode the will of the enemy to hold on a little longer.
Iran continues to arm Hezbollah in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan, even as Iraq's chief politician seeks Iranian approval to remain Prime Minister. While Our Troops remain frustrated with the red tape, restrictive ROE, and political backhands dealt them, there remains hope that the US Electorate will put in place a body politic that supports them.
Iran is the center of Islamist expansion. It is the original Islamist state and the Sudan was its first sovereign satelite. Iran is not ruled by Ahdiminijihadist. He is little more than a spokesman. Iran is ruled by the Ayatollah Khameni, successor to the Ayatollah Khomeni, put in power by the actions of President Jimmy Carter. Islamism has a goal of re-establishing the Caliphate, the tyrannical Islamic empire, ran by Islamist rulers which once ruled the entire Middle East. Iran has as a tenet of its Constitution that it will export terrorism and Islamism, as a means of that goal.
Iran's first successful terrorist organization was Hezbollah, which remains its most powerful organization. To cross the Sunni-Shi'a divide, it also runs Hamas and has used its surrogate the Sudan to sponsor and cross-train Al-Qaeda. While Syria is not an Islamist government, its allies and methods support Islamists, including Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda. Syria and Libya both subscribe to the pan-Arab nationalism school, which is just as agressive, just as anti-Semetic, but does not require the tyrannical dictator to be a member of the Islamist clergy. Ba'athists rule Syria, the same party to which Saddam belonged.
If we remain on our current course and maintain the administration trajectory of abandoning Iraq and Afghanistan, the very near future of the Muslim world could look like this map. A few things to note include the question of why Saudi Arabia isn't listed as an Islamist state. The Saudi government is in fact battling the Islamists for control of the prize of any Islamist state: Mecca & Medina. The Sauds signed a pact with the devil to attain power a century ago but the Sauds themselves retain power. It will remain at risk, but the royal family is sufficiently powerful enough to hold off Islamists in the near term.
Why does this potential future not include Syria? The Syrians maintain a tight control over their populace and are more than ready to squash any movement against their rule. That coupled with their alliance with Iran and Islamists insulates them from near term shift. Syria was the location of the first caliphate, but their slogans, postions, and methods are in line with Islamists.
Why should Americans care if Islamists take over the Middle East? Why should we care if Muslims are subjected to a tyrannical government? In the near term, it would mean a recruiting bonanza for terrorists in a greater number of nations where they could train for 9/11 style attacks. One must also realize that an Islamist takeover of Pakistan would give them nuclear weapons.
The fact that a NATO ally and the model for secular democracy in a Muslim nation is falling under the influence of Islamism is a very negative turn of events. Turkey was the last Caliphate and still holds the symbols of the Caliphate though it has renounced any return to it, since WWI.
And Turkey provides an important lesson in its history. During the original expansion of the Caliphate, Turkey (then Greece) was the one place that could not be converted by the sword. The Greeks (now Turks) were too strong militarily to defeat. Once the Caliphate of the day came to terms with the military reality, they made peace. The Greeks (now Turks) resumed trade and converted willingly to the new religion. Following converstion, the Turks became the Caliphate and carried the sword to Europe for sake of expansion and conversion.
Islamism continues to claim that its flag will fly over the White House, even as we invite more to the United States. Even as a Victory Mosque is planned over Ground Zero, named after their victory in Cordoba, Spain, Mosques spring up across the Nation and Al-Qaeda points to record converts to Islam in the West as a sign of their victory. Just as the Caliphate was unable to defeat Greeks on the battlefield, neither can Al-Qaeda or Iran defeat us on the battlefield.
If instead, this administration retreats from Iraq and Afghanistan, as all the signs indicate, the Islamist Caliphate is a very real possibility in the near future. In the short term, that would mean an increase in terrorism. In the mid-term, it would mean an expansion that could not likely be stemmed. In the long term, American Politicians are loathe to return to war zones they have abandoned, as demonstrated by Somalia, though the War of 1812, WWII and OIF demonstrate the opposite and an historical need to fight to wars to achieve lasting peace.
For this reason, I cannot support retreat from Afghanistan nor the current policies towards Iraq. The short term results are simply too dire to allow a single administration forfeit to Iranian Islamism. Even our opponents fail to understand the fire with which they play. Neither Russia nor China is immune from the long term momentum of islamism. Their policies are short-sighted with hopes of weakening the US and placating an enemy only currently focused on the West. Though they both battle localized Islamists, should this near term expansion occur, their fire will also turn on them on a larger scale.
The United States is currently at a crossroads. Elements within our body politic, within our own Nation are on the verge of permanently changing our form of government, even as a more recent enemy threatens to rise into a new enemy empire and old weakened enemies re-establish their footing. We must very closely pay attention to the actions of our politicians, re-read the US Constitution, and consider why Our Founding Fathers considered each point so important. We must look at what made this Nation great and what has brought us down this path.
We must study History to avoid repeating it. The rise and fall of the Romans, the Greeks, the Turks, the Brits, the Nazis, and the Soviets all provide lessons for us. Appeasement to tyrants does not lead to peace, as Neville Chamberlain and the Munich Agreement demonstrate. Standing by while an enemy builds an empire does not provide long term security as the Soviets and Nazis show us. And Republics too can fall prey to tyrants.