This week I will pick up Woodward’s new book about the strategic deliberations of the Obama administration regarding Afghanistan. I’m very interested in reading the terms sheet written by Obama that dictated American strategy, goals, and objectives. The tension between doing counterinsurgency operations but explictly rejecting a full-scale nation building strategy will be what to look for.
However, I realized last night that Robert Kaplan is indeed right and that geography does matter. Particularly when performing counterinsurgency operations in a landlocked country. This makes logistical capabilities dependent on a neighboring country, and pissing them off would probably be a bad idea.
This is precisely the situation we have in Afghanistan. And for all of the emphasis we have on changing Pakistani behavior to eliminate Taliban safe havens and support, counterterrorism air strikes across the border in Pakistan in pursuit of those same adversaries has severely jeopardized our relationship with them. Suddenly, the Pakistanis want to show how dependent we are on them to logistically supply manpower-intensive counterinsurgency operations. It is really any coincidence that tankers stuck at the border by the Pakistani state were hit by the Taliban?
Ruthlessly pursuing counterterrorism in one country to support counterinsurgency in a neighboring one means we should be willing to tolerate political blowback when our CT ops kill the wrong people. The more dependent we are on the former to supply operations in the latter, the greater the strategic contradiction in pursuing both politics.