Afghan situation:

The Post also has its lead editorial on the Afghan situation.
Seen from a complacent Washington, Afghanistan still may look better than it did before the U.S. intervention. But experts following the country say they worry about a steady unraveling, much like that which preceded the Taliban's seizure of power in the mid-1990s. The symptoms are similar: Outside the capital, warlords and bandits rule the country, sometimes battling each other and regularly robbing their fellow citizens at highway checkpoints. At the borders, aid shipments and "customs collections" on imported goods are diverted to the warlords, depriving the central government of resources and revenue. The opium trade is booming. In some places, the Taliban's extreme practices, including the persecution of women, have been reimposed.

All of these phenomena have flourished in a vacuum knowingly created by the Bush administration, which refused to support the deployment of peacekeeping forces outside Kabul. Rather than disarm and disable the warlords, U.S. commanders continue to depend on them and even to finance some of them.
We need Afghanistan as a floursing, stable state. We aren't going to get there with peacekeepers, though--as demonstrated in the Bosnian conflict, peacekeepers' rules of engagement quickly turn them into "armed hostages," as my professor Tom Pearce used to say. Securing the borders in a rugged country, and pacifying rival clans at war, that isn't the work of peacekeepers. Let's be of a serious mind about this. Peacekeepers have their place, but this isn't it.

Disarming the Afghans isn't the solution either. For one thing, it will create a tremendous amount of hostility. All of the various cultures in Afghanistan have strong traditions that bearing arms is part of manhood. There can be no faster way to turn the country against us than to try to enforce the Washington Post's ideals of gun control. Those ideas don't even fly in the American South, whose citizens get a vote in any such laws. If I had a dollar for every time I've heard a Southerner say he'd take up arms against the government rather than let them seize his guns, I'd be a rich man. Such ideas are definitely not going to fly in Afghanistan, where they would be imposed by an outside force, on a culture with at least as strong a tradition of arms-bearing.

In the short term, we can carry on fighting opposition forces with the 82nd Airborne and Special Forces. In the long term, though, we need to found an organization like the Texas Rangers. That link is to a site on the history of the Rangers, who began in conditions not unlike those of modern Afghanistan. The Rangers began as a military force, and have evolved over 180 years to become a police force. We are, hopefully, looking at a shorter span of evolution for the Afghan situation, but the Texas Rangers are the best model. Small companies of rangers, with what amounts to martial-law authority but with backing from the central government, can act as a military force in the early days, to secure the borders and destroy the bands of warlords hostile to the government. They need to be skilled, trained in mountain warfare, and capable of moving quickly and acting on independent authority.

In time, as the Texas Rangers, they can evolve into a police force, once the situation on the ground changes. To start with, a mixed American-Afghan company would be ideal, trained by the US Army's 75th Rangers (who are closer in form and function to the early Texas Rangers than the modern Texas Rangers). As the methods and the ideals of the Rangers become ingrained, we can move to an all-Afghan regiment. Such a force, highly mobile and well trained, loyal to the government and able to enforce its will, would be just what is needed for a wild and difficult frontier.

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