US should conduct 'offshore' strikes on Afghanistan

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Washington, Sep.2 (ANI): A leading conservative columnist, George Will, has called on the Obama administration to pull American troops out of Afghanistan, and instead focus on fighting from "offshore" by means of "intelligence, drones, cruise missiles, air strikes and small, potent Special Forces units."

According to the Washington Post, there seems to be some merit in waging an "offshore" war, given the success that has been achieved in neighbouring Pakistan against the Taliban with the help of Predator drone strikes, minimum troop deployment and contractors. The acknowledged U.S. toll: zero dead. That's in stark contrast to the 813 Americans killed so far in Afghanistan.

Obama faces a key decision in coming weeks on Afghanistan. He has already sent 21,000 additional troops there this year, boosting the U.S. total there to 68,000, along with some 40,000 NATO allies.

US commander in Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal is likely to ask him for more - most likely 10,000 to 20,000 - just as the President wrestles with health-care reform and a still-feeble economy.

Stephen Biddle of the Council on Foreign Relations, who has been advising General McChrystal, says that drones don't work everywhere. They can be easily shot down by even a "third-rate air force," he says.

He also says using drones to eliminate enemy personnel needs good intelligence from sources on the ground, something that would melt away should the Taliban reclaim power.

Biddle isn't overly concerned about Afghanistan falling, again, into the hands of the Taliban. But he is concerned about its nuclear-armed neighbor.

"At some level, the loss of Afghanistan could be tolerated," he says. "There's nothing especially unique about Afghanistan as a haven for striking the U.S. Yemen, Djibouti or Somalia could play that role - there are lots of ill-governed spaces around the world that could. But Afghanistan is unique in its proximity to Pakistan, and its potential role in destabilizing Pakistan if Kabul falls under a Taliban government," he says.

Andrew Bacevich, a retired Army colonel, says the drone strikes are paying off in Pakistan because of that nation's "quasi-legitimate government and reasonably effective army" - neither of which Afghanistan has.

But he does call the war "misguided and unnecessary," and argues the U.S. should work with the country's tribal chiefs to ensure stability in their respective valleys.

And offshore spy-and-strike capabilities could, at a minimum, keep al-Qaeda off-balance in the region "and optimally destroy whatever entity is engaged in a plot," Bacevich says. (ANI)

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