I’ve argued before that if we were going to fight in Afghanistan, we should have put our own troops on the ground. I thought that the “Bomb from the air, use the Northern Alliance on the Ground” was a bad strategy for achieving our ultimate goal — capturing bin Laden — and that it gave the Northern Alliance too much say in the post-war government. From what I’ve read, the Northern Alliance is, at best, marginally better than the Taliban.
So, it was with some interest that I read this piece in the New York Times about this style of fighting. They talk about the good points and the bad points of this style of fighting, but this sentence caught my eye:
But the American strategy also had a decided drawback: the decision to let proxy forces bear the brunt of the ground fighting may have allowed many Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders, and possibly Osama bin Laden himself, to escape.
In my mind, this calls the whole operation into question. Why were we there in the first place? To capture bin Laden, if I recall correctly. The Taliban refused to hand him over, so we had to go in with some force to get him.
While we succeeded in taking the Taliban from power, we evidently won’t be able to bring any of the leaders of the Taliban to justice. Though we did succeed in hitting a couple high-level people in the Taliban with our bombs, the head seems to have escaped.
But, I assumed this was just a side-show on the way to get bin Laden. At least, that was what ostensibly provoked this whole action, right? To me, the end result of this war seems to be helping the Northern Alliance
bin Laden’s apparent escape (for now) only serves to reinforce my pacifist leaning tendencies. Some will say that even if all we did was depose the Taliban, that is a good thing. To me, though, this looks like a diversion — we went for bin Laden, not the Taliban. The Taliban, terrible as they were with their barbaric torture, wasn’t the government that slammed those airliners into U.S. buildings.
Yes, I’m glad that the Taliban won’t be able to torture people any more. But how do we know that the new government in Afghanistan is going to be better? Is the U.S. going to actively support U.N. involvement there to ensure humane conditions for everyone?
My paranoia says it is in the government’s interest for bin Laden to remain free — they need a bogey man to fight, to ensure patriotism, etc. There hasn’t been much worth fighting for since the end of the Cold War, so now we’ll all have a rallying cry.
But I only think that in my more paranoid moments…