I think Max Boot is on the right track, dismissing the coordinated Haqqani Taliban attacks in Kabul and elsewhere as no big deal–and while I’m sure Max sees this as a reason for staying the course in Afghanistan, I see it as the exact opposite: another good argument for speeding our withdrawal. Why? Three reasons:
1. The excellent performance of the Afghan military, which took the lead in responding to and repelling the attacks. If the Afghan National Army (ANA) can defend Kabul, our job is pretty much done. If the predominantly non-Pashtun ANA and the Taliban want to continue their intermittent, several centuries old civil war, that’s their business. Furthermore, I suspect that the ANA, not the Karzai government, will provide the leadership for the country in the near future. We should continue to fund and train the ANA, and get our combat troops the hell out of there (except for special operations forces, if the Afghans allow us to continue to base them there).
2. The Haqqani managed to pull off coordinated guerrilla attacks. That’s not such a big deal. They certainly didn’t bring the troop strength to occupy anything more than a few buildings. And how often can they pull off this sort of thing? The Tet Offensive in Vietnam was far more extensive than this–they were like the D-Day landings compared to this Bay of Pigs, a massive country-wide assault–and yet they left the Viet Cong spent, and near-defeated, according to recent military histories. It took years for them to regain the offensive. I don’t see the Haqqani Taliban as much more than a violent, despicable, lethal nuisance.
3. Pakistan’s role in all this is outrageous. The Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI) funds and shepherds the Haqqanis. We continue to provide military support for the Pakistanis, and they continue to pass it along to guerrillas killing young American troops. I know that there have been efforts to patch up the breach with the Pakistanis–they were really, really angry that we took out Osama bin Laden without telling them; and really, really angry that we killed a couple dozen of their troops in an artillery exchange after they opened fire on us first–and I know it’s important to keep up relations with a country that has 100 nukes and a history of Islamist military coups, but I’d hope that after 10 years of Pakistani shenanigans the Obama Administration doesn’t believe these people are anything remotely like an ally.