Thursday, January 10, 2013

Afghanistan is Not South Korea

Peter Bergen wrote this:
Instead of publicly discussing the zero option on troops in Afghanistan after 2014, a much smarter American messaging strategy for the country and the region would be to emphasize that the Strategic Partnership Agreement that the United States has already negotiated with Afghanistan last year guarantees that the U.S. will have some form of partnership with the Afghans until 2024. 
In this messaging strategy, the point should be made that the exact size of the American troop presence after 2014 is less important than the fact that U.S. soldiers will stay in the country for many years, with Afghan consent, as a guarantor of Afghanistan's stability. 
The United States continues to station thousands of troops in South Korea more than five decades after the end of the Korean War. Under this American security umbrella, South Korea has gone from being one of the poorest countries in the world to one of the richest. 
It is this kind of model that most Afghans want and the U.S. needs to provide so Afghanistan doesn't revert to the kind of chaos that beset it in the mid-1990s and from which the Taliban first emerged.

The U.S. military is not going to get a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) from the Afghan government that will be worth anything; it is simply not going to happen. Without a SOFA agreement, our troops would not be able to function in the war zone that is Afghanistan; each and every engagement with the enemy would become a legal nightmare for any American forces stationed in the country.

Bergen's idea that there is any kind of similarity between Afghanistan and South Korea is a howler of the first magnitude. When the American military agreed to a presence in South Korea after the Korean War, it did so knowing that there would always be a simmering "hot" war with North Korean forces. Americans have died defending South Korea in numbers that would startle most, especially during the resurgence of incursions in the 1960s. There has never really been a "quiet" time in South Korea for American forces, only periods of relative calm.

North Korean forces have, repeatedly, crossed into South Korean territory and butchered people, soldiers and civilians alike. And yet, this has not occurred on any scale similar to a single month in Afghanistan where whole entire areas of the country have never been safe or pacified. There really is no comparison.

America is going to abandon Afghanistan and it will not become "another" South Korea because there is no cultural or religious similarity between the two. Anyone trying to sell that is simply ignoring the fact that the Afghans are ready to fight the invader forever and the Koreans do not possess that same level of fanaticism. No one in Afghanistan is going to manufacture a product that is not heroin that people in the west will want to buy. No one in Korea is willing to spend the entirety of their natural life fighting as an insurgent against a foreign army.

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