A further analysis of the recent plan offered by the Afghanistan Study Group:
3. Keep the Focus on Al Qaeda and Domestic Security. The U.S. should redirect some part of the savings from this troop reduction toward improved counter-terrorism efforts and protecting U.S. citizens from terrorist attacks. Special forces, intelligence assets, and other U.S. capabilities should continue to seek out and target known Al Qaeda cells in the region. They can be ready to go after them should they attempt to relocate elsewhere. The Study Group also believes that more effort should be made to exploit potential cleavages among different radical groups in the region, a goal that would be facilitated as the U.S. military presence declines.
Extra Cash Laying Around
I think keeping the focus on al Qaeda is obviously the proper course to follow. It's just too bad we took it off for so many years because of Iraq. However, the Department of Homeland Security and its satellite agencies already have way too much money. So much in fact, that the national security apparatus has become bloated and inefficient. I think this outstanding investigation by the Washington Post says it all:
Our intelligence apparatus needs better communications and a stream-lined process of information sharing. Had that been in place, the dots might have been connected and 9/11 averted. The dots were there, but pissing contests and jostling for importance and funding prevented critical information sharing.
If we were to scale back troop deployments (and presumably save money), we should either (1) keep the money and use it reduce the national debt or (2) reinvest the money back into the conventional military forces.
Nearly 10 years of unconventional warfare has relegated our nuclear-triad forces (land based ICBMs, submarine-based SLBMs, and bomber aircraft nuclear delivery capabilities) to take a backseat. ICBMs (Minuteman III) and SLBMs (Trident II) need to undergo modernization and warheads need to be tested and upgraded for reliability, B-52 bomber aircraft need to be upgraded for extended service life (coming up on 60 years), B-2 bomber numbers need to be doubled (to 50), and ramp up production of the AGM-129 stealth air launched cruise missile which carries the W-80 150 kT warhead.
Additionally, our air and naval aircraft need modernization. The only major tactical aircraft modernization done in the past 15 years is the F-18F Super Hornet. F-15Es and F-16Fs are great for home defense, but they are aging and, most importantly, not stealth, making their offensive capabilities somewhat limited against technological foes. The F-22 Raptor aircraft, perhaps the most fearsome fighter aircraft ever to be built, should be resurrected, but with a cheaper price tag. The F-35 JSF development needs to be accelerated and adapted for carrier deployment. Finally, additional Aegis Class destroyers need to be built. The latest version of Aegis operates a powerful radar and the SM-3 missile system which, to date, works infinitely better than any land-based defensive missile systems. Aegis also gives operational flexibility of balistic missile defense because it can be deployed anywhere in the world rather than being stuck in just Alaska and Poland.
The reason for this Cold War focused strategy is that (1) we will avoid "fighting the last war" curse that we always seem to be stuck in, and (2) with the emergence of China and resurgence of Russia as military superpowers, we need to be able to deal with either country in a long-range conventional and nuclear way. I don't say this to scare folks, but we can improve our future capabilities while not sacrifcing our current ability to fight the insurgency in South Asia.
No, not that cleavage. Cleavage between militant groups based on goals and politics. I think this is extremely arrogant and naive. The Taliban are masters of this game. If it could be done, Pakistan would have already tried it with the TTP (Tehrik-i-Taliban) who are hell bent on destroying Pakistan. I think it's worth a try, but don't hold your breath. Militant Muslim groups are bound not only by their hatred of the West, but more importantly, by religion. As history has sadly proven, extreme religious beliefs can motivate humans to do some really ugly things, without remorse, and without division. The only thing that defeats such zealotry is time.