Afghanistan situation may require bottom-up solution
March 3, 2009
To the Editor:
As I read Dr. Hamilton’s column published in the Feb. 25 edition, I felt an overwhelming urge to provide my personal perspective on Afghanistan.
But, first please allow me to remind us that von Clausewitz, a Prussian military theorist, offers in his thesis, “On War,” the observation that war is the result of the shortfalls of diplomacy, and that diplomacy returns at the conclusion of war. I recall during my adolescence that, unbeknownst to me at the time, I experienced Clausewitz’s observation on the school playground. Friends would typically get into a playground fight, then after the fight, we would become friends again. Perhaps you may have experienced or recalled similar results.
Now, my theory on Afghanistan: Afghanistan is a complicated diplomatic situation, because the citizens of Afghanistan have not really ever experienced democracy as we understand it. The real power in Afghanistan rests with the Tribal Leaders, not necessarily with (President) Karzai and the Afghan government, and therefore is for the most part the purest of federations. The State Department, the U.S. diplomatic arm, has been and will continue to be challenged to successfully train an Afghan police and an armed force, whose loyalties are to the government and not to the tribe.
Perhaps success in Afghanistan, if not already implemented, is for the State Department to implement a bottom-up solution, not a top-down solution, while simultaneously increasing the U.S. troop strength to provide security for the tribes.
Finally, I believe our message to the Taliban, al-Qaida, the Afghan Government, and the Afghan Tribal Leaders should be: “We, the United States, have the same goal that you have; we want to remove the presence of U.S. troops as soon as possible.” Therefore, by working together with and through the Afghan Government and Tribal Leaders to fulfill this common goal, we will have once again proved Clausewitz’ observation to be true ” diplomacy returns at the conclusion of war.
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Terrell W. Mathews
Colonel, U.S. Army, retired