Here’s an interesting article in the Post on the doubts the Pentagon has about the Northern Alliance and the apparent necessity — at least if you listen to military analysts — of some major introduction of American ground troops if we’re to have any success in Afghanistan.
The argument, essentially, is that the Northern Alliance either isn’t trustworthy or isn’t up to the task. (Here’s an interesting contrary take from Slate.)
One thing that sort of jumps out about this article is that a good many of the experts quoted or noted are Pakistanis; and obviously the Pakistanis have their own reasons for not wanting us to adopt a strategy which is heavily reliant on the Northern Alliance.
This article in the Times quotes fewer Pakistani military sources and isn’t quite so negative on the Northern Alliance. But this surprisingly editorializing sentence (“The Northern Alliance … has proved far more energetic in complaining about the nature of the American bombing than in planning or executing an offensive.”) pretty well sums up the author’s viewpoint.
Let me add one more detail here. I had a long talk today with a former American intelligence officer with long experience in Central Asia — let’s call him Mr.Y. Based largely on his insights and arguments I think I’d revise some of my very negative appraisal of the conduct of the war in Afghanistan to date. The reasons are fairly straightforward. He thinks the Taliban will crack as their military equipment breaks down and their supplies of money are cut-off. And he thinks the Pakistani regime is probably less wobbly than we imagine. So, all things considered, why sacrifice more young American men and women if we can do most of it from the air? That’s his take at least.
And for what it’s worth, he thinks the Saudis are getting a bum rap and that the Northern Alliance is nothing to write home about.